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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: The Wind Rises

November 17th, 2014

The Wind Rises - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

Hayao Miyazak has retired a number of times in the past and he keeps coming back. That said, this time he swears that The Wind Rises is his last film. If so, did he go out on a high note? And is the Blu-ray worth picking up for his fans here?

The Movie

Young Jiro Horikoshi dreams of flying, literally in the beginning of the movie. Unfortunately, his bad eyesight means he will never live out that dream. Later, after getting a magazine about Giovanni Battista Caproni, he has a dream about the famous Italian aircraft designer. In another dream, he meets Caproni and asks him since he can't become a pilot because of his eyesight, can he at least become an aircraft designer. After Caproni tells Jiro he's never piloted a plane in his life, Jiro knows what he will do with his life.

Years later, while traveling to return to university, Jiro meets a young girl, Nahoko, on the train. Tragedy strike when an earthquake hits nearly derailing the train. Kinu, Nahoko's maid, suffers a broken leg in the disaster, so Jiro carries her to a temple where other survivors were gathering. He then takes Nahoko home, so that someone can come and help Kinu. He doesn't, on the other hand, tell anyone his name. He meets with his friend, Honjo, who is also studying to be an airplane pilot. He's also quite annoyed that the Japanese seem stuck in their ways, while the West is advancing so much faster. After the two graduate, they get jobs with Mitsubishi, first working on a fighter prototype. When that project fails, he is assigned to work on a bomber and will be getting help from Germany, so he and Honjo travel there. Unfortunately, nothing much comes from it, while his next project also fails. It is like his dream will fail.

While relaxing at a hotel recuperating from his latest setback, Jiro again meets Nahoko and there's an instant connection. There is a complication. Nahoko has tuberculosis.

At this point, we begin to run into unacceptable spoilers. The Wind Rises is an odd film, because it is fundamentally an anti-war film, but it is also about the man who designed the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, inarguably one of the best fighter planes of World War II. If you can get past this oddity, you will be rewarded by a simply fantastic film that shows off a lot of Hayao Miyazak's strengths. It goes without saying that the film is gorgeous and Jiro is a very compelling character, even if we learn more about his dreams than we do about his personality. Speaking of dreams, Jiro is a dreamer, literally, and we witness a lot of dreams, which gives the film a little bit of the fantastical to go with the more grounded parts.

I think the big question is whether or not The Wind Rises is Hayao Miyazak's best film. No. No it's not. That said, it is also not his worst film either. It is solid middle of the pack for his career and average for Hayao Miyazak is still better than 90% of the competition.

On a side note, both the original Japanese audio and the English dubbing are great. In many movies like this, the English version is a shadow of the original Japanese, but that is not the case here. Purists will still prefer the Japanese track, but those who watch the film in English won't be losing much.

The Extras

There are not a ton of extras on the DVD or Blu-ray, but that's common for imports. There is an 11-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that features much of the English-language cast. You can watch the entire film in storyboard format. There are also nine minutes of trailers from Japan, as well as the 80-minute press conference announcing the completion of the film. The total running time isn't bad, but I think the storyboard format would have been a great picture-in-picture feature. Then again, I can't remember the last time I've seen a picture-in-picture feature.

The technical presentation is stunning, as you would expect. In fact, I would argue it has a reference level quality video presentation. The level of details never falters while the colors are simply gorgeous. It goes without saying that there are no issues with digital artifacts or compression issues. The audio, on the other hand... Well, it sounds great. The dialogue is always clear and the score is wonderful. However, both the Japanese and English tracks are 1.0 so obviously there is no activity in the surround sound speakers, so it is a very simple audio experience.

The Verdict

The Wind Rises is a must have for any fan of Hayao Miyazak, but you probably didn't need me to tell you that. If you haven't seen much of his work, it is a good introduction, as it is more grounded than much of his more fantastical films. The DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack have enough extras that it is an easy recommendation, perhaps enough to be a Pick of the Week winner.


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Filed under: Video Review, Kaze Tachinu, Hayao Miyazaki, Hideaki Anno, Miori Takimoto, Hidetoshi Nishijima