The Wind Rises is a film directed by Hayao Miyazaki and it is a fictionalized biographical film of an airplane designer named Jiro Horikoshi. Some of the story of this film incorporates elements from Tatsuo Hori’s 1937 semi-autobiographical novel, The Wind Has Risen.

The Wind Rises
English Publisher: GKIDS
Format: Blu-ray/DVD
Release Date: September 22, 2020

The film, which takes place over a number of years and leads up to World War II, focuses on a young man named Jiro Horikoshi. He dreamed of becoming a pilot as a child but realized that his nearsightedness prevented him from achieving his dream. He begins having dreams featuring an Italian aircraft designer named Giovanni Battista Caproni, and Jiro decides to pursue designing planes instead of flying them. Over time, Jiro continues to have the dreams of consulting with Caproni, especially when he’s going through difficult periods.

In 1923, while traveling on a train to Tokyo Imperial University, Jiro meets a girl named Nahoko and her maid. The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 strikes, and Jiro is the one who leads Nahoko and her maid to safety. It’s revealed later in the film that this is the beginning of a mutual attraction between Jiro and Nahoko. After this initial meeting between Jiro and Nahoko, we see Jiro going through his time at college in order to pursue his dream of designing planes.

Admittedly, the early part of the film takes a while to get going, but these early scenes are important for setting up the story that happens later on. Unfortunately, there’s a long stretch of the film where we don’t see Nahoko again, and when she does finally reappear, the storyline of Jiro and Nahoko ends up being rushed.

The story starts moving after Jiro and his friend Kiro Honjo graduate from college and begin working at Mitsubishi to design a fighter plane. Over the next few years, Jiro deals with disappointments and setbacks on the work front. In 1933, he decides to go to a resort to rest, and it’s here that he has a chance encounter with Nahoko. Unfortunately, it turns out that Nahoko’s mother died of tuberculosis and Nahoko contracted the disease from her. Jiro wants to marry Nahoko, and she accepts under the condition that they wait until she’s recovered.

At this point, the film becomes a story of a man who is devoted to both his work and to the woman he loves. However, these two sides of his life intertwine when Nahoko decides to leave the sanatorium she’s staying at to be with Jiro. The emotions Jiro faces with Nahoko’s health and his responsibilities for his job fuel the drama for the remainder of the film.

In the end, The Wind Rises is a decent film, but it’s not quite as strong as Miyazaki’s other films. The film deals with pacing problems, especially with how choppy it feels early on due to the jumps in time that take place. Around the time that the film finally stabilizes its pacing, Jiro has his reunion with Nahoko and the time she spends with him then feels rushed. Even with the pacing issues, the viewer can still tell that Miyazaki put a lot of heart into this film. The characters are also relatable, which helps to offset some of the film’s pacing issues.

Jiro is voiced by Hideaki Anno, who is best known as the creator of the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime. Even though Anno isn’t a voice actor, it turns out that he was a good casting choice for Jiro. Having an amateur with Anno’s kind of voice works for the type of character Jiro is. I don’t think Jiro would have sounded as realistic as he does in the film if they had tried to cast a professional voice actor for the role.

The animation in The Wind Rises is lush and is quite a sight to behold. Miyazaki made some great color choices for this film, especially for the backgrounds. The character designs and the overall feel of the animation make it quite clear that The Wind Rises is a film directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

When it comes to the Blu-ray included in this release, it has 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.85:1) for the video. For audio, it has English DTS-HD 2.0 Dual Mono and Japanese DTS-HD 2.0 Dual Mono. The DVD has Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1) for the video and has English Digital Dolby 2.0 and Japanese Digital Dolby 2.0 for the audio.

For the bonus features, three of them appear on both the DVD and the Blu-ray discs, while two are exclusive to the Blu-ray.

Both discs include “Behind the Microhpone,” which runs for about 11 minutes and includes interviews with the director and the voice actors for the English dub of the film. This is basically the same type of bonus feature that Disney did with all of the Studio Ghibli films it had released in North America. At least GKIDS was able to get the rights to this bonus feature in order to include it.

The original trailers and television spots also appear on both discs. This feature runs for about nine-and-a-half minutes and includes 12 spots in total. The later spots use a lot of the same animation, but the text on the screen is a little different. This was a nice inclusion, even if it feels a little repetitive at times. For whatever reason, when Disney released The Wind Rises on home video, they didn’t bother trying to include these spots as bonus features on their release.

Both discs also include “Film Completion Press Conference.” It runs for almost an hour-and-a-half, and includes Hayao Miyazaki, Hideaki Anno, and Yumi Matsutoya (whose 1973 song, “Vapor Trails,” was used as the theme song for The Wind Rises). There is an emcee who hosts what is primarily a roundtable with Miyazaki, Anno, and Matsutoya. It’s only opened up to questions from the press during the last 10 minutes or so. The emcee helps to keep the press conference interesting, so it’s not as boring of a viewing experience as it could have been, especially for a feature that runs for as long as this one does.

The Blu-ray also includes an episode of the 10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki documentary that has been streaming on NHK World. As expected, the episode included here is the one that focuses on the making of The Wind Rises. This documentary runs for about 50 minutes and it gives the viewer some insight into Miyazaki as he was making the film. It also goes into the fact that the Tohoku Earthquake struck as production was just getting underway for The Wind Rises and how this had an effect on Miyazaki and the crew working on the film. It’s a well done documentary and is worth watching.

The other Blu-ray exclusive bonus feature is the feature-length storyboards. If you couldn’t tell, this is a version of the film using storyboards instead of animation. I just don’t understand the appeal of this, but there must be cinephiles who like this, since they keep appearing on home media releases of Studio Ghibli films.

This release also comes with a booklet that features images, as well as writeups from Toshio Suzuki and Hayao Miyazaki. Suzuki’s writeup focuses on World War II, while Miyazaki’s talks about airplanes and the look of the film.

If you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli or a fan of The Wind Rises, I would suggest adding this release of the film to your anime home video library. This is a much better release of the film in comparison to the original release from Disney. It’s worth getting to have the film on Blu-ray, as well as for most of the bonus features included on it.

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