Miyazaki turns to adult theme in new film

Zero's designer, noted novelist form source of inspiration

by Tomomi Sunaga

Kyodo

Award-winning animated film director Hayao Miyazaki will release his first movie in five years Saturday — a work based on the lives of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of Japan’s legendary Zero fighter plane, and mid-20th-century writer Tatsuo Hori.

Horikoshi was one of the “most brilliant” Japanese in the early, turbulent years of the Showa Era (1926-1989), when Japan charged toward war, Miyazaki, 72, said in a recent interview about his new movie, “Kaze Tachinu” (“The Wind Rises”).

The title is the same as one of Hori’s most celebrated novels, his 1937 work about a woman’s struggle with tuberculosis. He said it was a main source of inspiration for the movie.

Miyazaki, winner of such major international prizes as the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and the Oscar for best animated feature film, indicated he decided to make a movie about Horikoshi partly to “reclaim” the engineer from the almost sacred status accorded to him by those who glorify the Zero’s achievements in the war.

“I’ve been producing animated movies for the sake of children, so I wondered if I should make a film about a man who developed weapons,” said Miyazaki.

“But whatever anyone does, nobody can cause no harm for their whole lives. It’s wrong to label people as wrongdoers because they produced weapons.

“It was wrong from the beginning to go to war,” Miyazaki added. “But as the Japanese opted for war, it’s useless to blame Jiro for it. Basically, engineers are neutral. For instance, automobiles can help people, but they can also hit them.”

A Chinese student came to Miyazaki’s studio during the production of the new film to learn about animated movies. “He was forward-looking and motivated and I thought young Japanese used to be like him,” Miyazaki said. “I could by no means link him” to the dispute over the Senkaku Islands.

As border disputes have often been settled by war in the past, conflicts such as those over the Senkakus should be shelved, Miyazaki said. “Japan should make friends with China.”

Looking back on his 1989 work “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” Miyazaki said many of the problems he had foreseen confronting the world have become reality.

“Conflicts and environmental destruction have been occurring in various parts of the globe and as a result, wider areas of the world are lacking elements deemed necessary for a state to function,” he said.

“Populations have been exploding, prompting people to engage in a race to capture more of the Earth’s remaining natural resources. What people are facing now is what follows mass-production society. That is the consequence I predicted while making ‘Nausicaa.’ “

Nevertheless, while each generation faces its own challenges, there is no cause for pessimism, Miyazaki says.

“Various things happened in the era of Jiro’s life, but people continued to live,” he said. “Now earthquakes have occurred and nuclear power generation continues, raising questions about how we should live. But we shouldn’t be disheartened because all we need to do is to love others, eat and live by taking good care of children.”

Japan should spend more on children and ensure they become wise and resourceful, he said.

The new generation, in turn, will need new works to speak to their imaginations based on the difficulties they face, Miyazaki said.

“They must create fantasies from what they actually see.”

For a chance to win one of five “Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises)” wooden rulers, visit http://jtimes.jp/film. The deadline is July 29.

  • iamfred

    One makes weapons to kill people… they have no other use, and that is their purpose. Manufacturing automobiles is for the purpose of providing transportation… not killing people. Comparing the manufacture of weapons and automobiles is absurd… but I guess you have to use arguments like this to sanitize weapons manufacturers you want to portray as heros.

    • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

      That really depends who you are making weapons for.

      The first caveman who fashioned a spear to stab animals was looking to survive and protect his own life.

      Similarly, the rifle did a good job continuing civilization in the face of rampant looters who wanted to live by the sword and pillage the hard work of those who desired to live peacefully. Weapons in such a context are great at keeping primitivism at bay.

      You can make the argument that creating bombs or fighter planes in a culture filled with people who believe (or are shamed into believing) “for the glory of the emperor” is a bad idea, since it’s predictable what kinds of uses those in power intend for them. But you can’t say that someone who manufactures pepper spray (or guns) used to shield off assaults or rape is on the same moral plane, because there can be no presumption about the validity of their use, unless that person directly sold them to someone whom they knew was a criminal (or dictatorship…).

    • Jeffrey

      I agree. That was a stretch of an anology. Miyazaki is an aviation nut and he’s just trying to put the best face on the technology, the man responsible for it and not what it was used for.

  • DA

    Nausicaä is from 1984, not 1989. And speaking of time, I hope Miyazaki lives on forever (the man, not just his works).

  • pervertt

    I have utmost respect and affection for the work of Miyazaki. Anyone who has seen his anime movies will be familiar with his anti-war theme (“Grave of the fireflies”) and his commitment to nature (“Totoro”). Miyazaki appears fascinated by flight. “Porco Rosso” is not simply a children’s story about an improbable flying pig. The attention to aerodynamic detail in the movie is absolutely amazing. So it comes as no surprise that Miyazaki has chosen to honour the life and work of Jiro Horikoshi in his latest work. Mr Horikoshi designed the Zero fighter,a beautiful aeroplane and ferocious fighter that out-performed its opponents in the early stages of the Pacific war. He had no say in how and where this fighter would be used. Mr Horikoshi is no more evil than his contemporaries such as Reginald Mitchell (designer of the Supermarine Spitfire) or Kelly Johnson (designer of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning).

    • Nick

      I love no filmmaker more than Miyazaki.

      He, to me, taking the different genres into consideration, is the greatest filmmaker since Kurosawa.

      His admission of the wrongness of the war could be seen as reactionary, clearly almost 70 years have passed, but I have the utmost confidence in what is within his heart.

      He creates our of joy, love and kindness. If only more people, film makers and authors included, were like that then maybe we wouldn’t be continuing to spiral downward.

      • pervertt

        I agree. Mr Miyazaki is much more than an iconic film maker. He is a terrific ambassador for Japan. Through his work, people outside of Japan are reminded that there voices of reason in that country. Let’s hope we see and hear more of Mr Miyazaki, and less of the shrill nationalists that give the country a bad name.

  • Ian Skinner

    iamfred.. wow , what an absurd and juvenile comment: A weapon designer, designing for war does not design to kill, he designs to keep the people fighting to keep safe, alive in return.

    • Jeffrey

      So, you’re under the impression that weapons don’t kill and that winning a war is not a matter of one army killing more of the other army to “win,” often time because one military has superior weapons?

  • tau_neutrino

    The earth is actually greener than when Nausicaä debuted. Population is actually beginning to decline. If Japan’s birth rate continues to fall, Japanese might go extinct in a couple of centuries.

    • Jeffrey

      Greener where? Certainly not in SE or East Asia. Certainly not in Africa, Latin America or Canada. The only parts of the world more heavily forested now than 100 or even 50 years ago are the U.S. and most of Europe.

  • anon

    It’s like saying that you can’t blame soldiers for killing people; that they’re just following orders. It’s their choice to join the military. It’s their choice to pick up the weapon and to kill people with it. Weapons are nothing but lumps of steal if there’s no one to pull the trigger. The same goes to those who make them.

    • Jeffrey

      Most countries still have conscription and all nations did during WWII. Blaming conscripted soldiers, except when they chose to commit atrocities, is ludicrous.

  • Hakimee Azimullah

    I got a lot of lessons from the work of Miyazaki San, especially by anti-war words. my country is still suffering from war and everybody is living with guns, no body knows whom to be blamed for the war. I agree that we should think about a friendly relation with our neighboring countries and think about the children on how they grow up. one important thing is education system in developing countries which needs a tremendous change. childrens should be thaught about honesty, love and affection from the beggining. later it will be difficult to change their mind set. I hope Mr.Miyazaki make animes regarding what is happening in developing world, esepcially people addiction on heroin in Afghanistan, a lot of people including children are addicted to heroin which is very difficult situation.