Making the Grades
All his life Jiro (voice of Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has dreamed of flying. His fascination with the newly developed mode of transportation even leads him to fantasize about conversing with the great Italian inventor Caproni (voice of Stanley Tucci). But his hopes of becoming a pilot are dashed by a physical disability—Jiro wears glasses. So instead of setting his sights on being the captain of the craft, the Japanese native pursues a career in airplane design.
One day, while retuning by train to the university in Tokyo where he is studying aerospace engineering, a large earthquake rips up the tracks and devastates the city. Amongst the displaced passengers scrambling for safety Jiro meets and helps Nahoko Satomi (voice of Emily Blunt). Although the two are separated after the event, he never forgets the beautiful young woman, nor she him. Their eventual reunion leads to a tender love story.
In the intervening years, Jiro finds employment with an engineering company despite the ailing economy of the time. His genius is quickly recognized and he is assigned to develop plans for planes commissioned by the navy. To increase his expertise, the promising professional is sent to Germany, Japan’s ally, to observe their superior technology. Upon his return to his homeland, Jiro combines the things he has learned with ideas of his own to produce innovative aircrafts. Although his goal is to make something of beauty, what his employer and country want are machines capable of carrying bombs and guns into the fray of World War II.
Just like the idealistic Jiro, director and screenplay writer Hayao Miyazaki draws a story of hope and creativity that glosses over the actual purpose of the race for military supremacy. The patriotic production celebrates the accomplishments of real life engineer Jiro Horikoshi, who developed the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, one of the most popular planes flown by Japan during the battle in the Pacific. While there are reminders of death and destruction (that include portrayals of fiery crashes, air raids and burning buildings along with test-flight accidents and the effects of disease), the plot chooses to focus on the tenacity of the human spirit.
Despite possible divisions of opinion based on political allegiance, audiences will not be split over the artistic achievement of this film. The meticulous, hand-drawn animation by Studio Ghibli captures everything from the little nuances of everyday life to the grand expanses of nature. Although the mature themes explored in this movie, as well as depictions of smoking and mild profanities, make it best suited for teens and older viewers, The Wind Rises is sure to stir the soul of all who have the opportunity to view it.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Wind Rises.
In North America, most of the stories of WWII are told from the Allies’ side of the conflict. How does a person’s political sympathies affect who they see as heroes, and who they see as villains? Why is it sometimes hard to admire anyone who fights on the side your enemies?
What apologies does the script make for Jiro’s involvement in making killing machines? Why is the money necessary for developing new technologies and inventions usually tied to a country’s military budget?
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