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.