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Ever since he was a young boy in Japan, Jiro dreams of flying and designing beautiful airplanes, inspired by the famous Italian airplane designer Caproni. Growing up with an obsession for engineering, Jiro joins a Japanese aviation company and becomes one of the world’s most radical and accomplished airplane designers. He spends decades attempting to design the fastest and most elegant plane in Japan. However, he is horrified to learn that millions of his planes are sent off as tools of battle in World War 2.
The new Oscar-nominated Miyazaki animation film details much of Jiro’s life, and Japanese historical events, such as the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, the Great Depression, and Japan’s struggle during the 2nd world war. The film describes the struggles of a passionate inventor and his efforts to guide a country stuck in the past into a new technological age. The film also shows his personal life, including helping others during the earthquake, his lasting bond with his friend, and how he fell in love with a girl he met long ago.
“The Wind Rises” is undoubtedly one of the top 3 animated feature films of this year. The clean, 2D feel is refreshing after a whole year of 3D movies. Miyazaki’s last film is the most realistic film he’s ever directed, with every detail believable and true to life, except for Jiro’s magical childhood dreams. As the Italian engineer Caproni once told Jiro, “planes are cursed dreams.” Jiro finally understands what his words mean when he realizes that his planes cause the deaths of millions. Nevertheless, he continues to design beautiful machines because he believes it is his destiny.
I think the film will appeal mostly to teenagers and adults because of the serious, mature nature of the story, although preteens who are into warfare and aviation may also find it intriguing.
I give “The Wind Rises” four starfish. It is not Miyazaki’s best work, but it is still a wonderful film with a powerful message that resonates with me: Beauty can be found even in the darkest of times.
Perry Chen is the youngest award-winning film/ entertainment critic & animator, artist, speaker, and entertainment personality. He started writing movie reviews at 8 using a kid-friendly starfish rating system, under the guidance of his mom Dr. Zhu Shen and his 3rd grade teacher Ms. Harris. Perry’s debut on the CBS Evening News in 2009 made him a national sensation. He has been featured extensively on local, national, and international media, including NPR, Fox, CNN, NBC, The Guardian, The China Press, and many more. He has interviewed prominent filmmakers at film festivals, red carpet premieres, and press junkets. He won a prestigious “Excellence in Journalism Award” at the San Diego Press Club in 2010 as its youngest member. Perry currently writes movie reviews for the Animation World Network, San Diego Union Tribune, Amazing Kids! Magazine, and his own Perry’s Previews website with a combined readership of over 2 million worldwide. Perry and his family live in the community of Carmel Valley San Diego.
Dr. Zhu Shen’s love for the movies started when she was a young girl, growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution where watching movies was the only entertainment available to the masses. Her journey to become a filmmaker took a convoluted path. She studied medicine at Peking Union Medical College before coming to the US and earning a Ph.D. in biochemistry from University of Colorado, and then an MBA from Cornell University’s Johnson School. She is a producer of the upcoming documentary feature “Average Joe on the Raw,” about journey into raw food and health. Dr. Shen is also an award-winning biotech executive, author, speaker, China business expert featured on national and trade media including CBS, Fox, Business Week, Pharmaceutical Executive, and more. She has worked at IBM, Bayer, Chiron, Immusol, and is the CEO of BioForesight, consulting on cross-Pacific life science business. *Photos of Perry Chen and Zhu Shen by Brian Bostrom.