Courtesy of Disney/ Studio Ghibli
Jiro Horikoshi (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has always dreamt of flying but could not become a pilot due to his poor eyesight. One night, young Jiro dreams of flying a plane and meets Italian airplane engineer Count Giovanni Caproni (Stanley Tucci), whom Jiro had read about earlier. Caproni and Jiro realize they are sharing the same dream about airplanes and form a friendship. It is there in the dream world that Caproni convinces Jiro to design beautiful airplanes and he wakes up with the resolution to do so.
The film cuts to Jiro as a university student studying engineering in 1920s Japan. The world around him is weak, outdated and chaotic but Jiro continues to work hard to achieve his dream of designing planes. One day, he meets a young girl named Naoko (Emily Blunt) on a train and both instantly are drawn to each other.
Suddenly an earthquake occurs, Jiro protects Naoko and her maid, but they are separated after he leaves them at their home. Jiro walks to his university that is on fire and helps save the engineering books with his friend Honjo (John Krasinski). Soon after Jiro is working with Honjo at an airplane manufacture that is tasked to build effective fighter planes.
However, Jiro and Honjo’s hard work results in failure and the manufacture loses the fighter contract to a rival company in Germany. Honjo is upset, claiming that Japan’s industry is 20 years behind but Jiro is lost in his thoughts. Later that night, Jiro meets with Caproni in the dream world where they discuss about living in a world with or without pyramids. Caproni inspires Jiro to continue working on his designs because it is worthy to make something that is wondrous and beautiful.
Years later, Jiro has been promoted to lead the design for naval fighter planes. He is close to achieving his dream of creating a new, effective plane that is lighter and faster. But his designs are failing to gain enough speed and usually combust before landing. Jiro then decides to take a vacation in the mountains to clear his mind.
At the mountain resort, Jiro is reunited with Naoko, who has been searching him all those years ago. Their love grows during this time but Naoko reveals to Jiro that she has tuberculosis and will not marry him until she gets better. She decides to stay at a sanatorium in the mountains and Jiro goes back to work at the manufacture plant with a new commission.
Jiro works harder and longer hours, which worries Naoko and prompts her to leave the sanatorium despite her fragile state. They immediately marry and enjoy everyday together, each lending the other strength to achieve their dreams—such as Jiro’s desire to finish his perfect design and Naoko’s wish to spend her last days with Jiro.
At last Jiro achieves his dream in designing the perfect airplane—Mitsubishi A5M— but Naoko feels she is dying very soon. Jiro heads off to the testing sight where his plane is successfully operates but Naoko has left to the sanatorium. At the testing field, Jiro is engulfed in a gust of wind that transports him into the dream world where Caproni is waiting for him.
As Jiro makes his way to Caproni, he looks sadly at the destroyed airplanes he had perfected. Caproni congratulates Jiro on making these beautiful planes even though Jiro regrets the destruction and deaths they have caused. Though Jiro is happy that he has achieved his dream and made beautiful planes.
Despite the tragic elements and mixed feelings on Jiro’s creations, “The Wind Rises” beautifully captures a man’s fantastical dreams of creating something beautiful to him. The story also focuses on how the characters achieve their dreams through hard work and dedication.
Of course Jiro achieves his life-long dream, his wife Naoko and his friend Honjo achieve their dreams as well. Naoko is not a strong character, as seen in Miyazaki’s previous works, but she is strong in some aspects. Despite her illness, Naoko was determined to be with Jiro. Honjo achieves his dream by helping advance Japanese aero technology. “The Wind Rises” certainly ranks high along with Miyazaki’s other works, such as “Spirited Away” and “My Neighbor Totoro.”
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