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  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 4:16pm

Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki, born 5 January 1941, is a revered Japanese film director, animator, screenwriter and manga artist. The animated films produced through his company, Studio Ghibli, commonly smash box office records in Japan and achieve international acclaim. Miyazaki is particularly well known for imaginative fantasy-themed productions including 1988's My Neighbour Totoro and 2001's Spirited Away.


Animation legend Hayao Miyazaki under attack in Japan for anti-war film

Japanese director's new film is a box office success but its themes, and his outspokenness, have drawn fierce criticism from nationalists

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 1:13pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 September, 2013, 5:53pm

Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki has always loved planes.

They’re featured prominently in the 72-year-old’s impressive catalogue of animated films, which include classics like My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away. Fantasy-themed aircraft were a major element in Miyazaki’s earlier films, including 1984’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and 1986’s Castle in the Sky. And then there’s 1992’s Porco Rosso, a film about a pig “air pirate,” who flies a plane across the Adriatic Sea. 

But Miyazaki’s latest film harnesses the famous director’s adoration of aircraft a little differently. For one, it’s a far cry from his usual fantasy-themed, family-friendly work. And secondly, it’s a film about the man who designed the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, an aircraft widely known for kamikaze missions and the bombing of Pearl Harbour.

Kaze Tachinu, known in English as The Wind Rises, opened on July 20 in Japan. It is the first Miyazaki film based on the life of a historical figure – Horikoshi Jiro, who designed the Zero planes shortly before the onset of World War II. Despite the film’s subject matter, however, Kaze Tachinu carries a quiet anti-war message.

“My wife and staff would ask me, ‘Why make a story about a man who made weapons of war?’” Miyazaki said in a 2011 interview with Japan’s Cut magazine. “And I thought they were right. But one day, I heard that Horikoshi had once murmured, ‘All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful.’ And then I knew I’d found my subject… Horikoshi was the most gifted man of his time in Japan. He wasn’t thinking about weapons… Really all he desired was to make exquisite planes.”

In the words of Concordia University Japanese history professor Matthew Penney, Kaze Tachinu is “a film about war but…not a war film.”

“What Miyazaki offers is a layered look at how Horikoshi’s passion for flight was captured by capital and militarism, and the implications of this for thinking about the history of technology [in Japan],” Penney wrote in a recent article for Asia-Pacific Journal.

But despite the film's intentions, it has still launched in the midst of a Japanese political environment that has taken a hawkish stance on foreign policy. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s denial of Japanese war crimes in World War II and his aggressive policies on the disputed Diaoyu islands have sparked criticism in Asia. Miyazaki himself has expressed disapproval.

"One can only be appalled by the lack of historical sense and fixed convictions on the part of top political leaders," Miyazaki wrote in a July editorial put out by his studio’s magazine. "People who have not thought enough should not be messing around with our constitution."

Miyazaki also wrote that a “proper apology” should be given to Korean comfort women who serviced the Japanese army during World War II, and suggested that the Diaoyu islands be “either split in half” or controlled jointly between China and Japan.

Such remarks have generated ire from right-wing Japanese conservatives, many of whom have taken to the internet to express their approval of Prime Minister Abe’s nationalistic policies. On the Yahoo Japan profile for Kaze Tachinu, over 2,000 comments are visible, and many netizens are lashing out at the film’s pacifist message, calling it overly “left-wing”. Others have labelled Miyazaki “anti-Japanese” and a “traitor.”

Despite internet ire, however, Matthew Penney believes that Kaze Tachinu is still on the road to success.

“Internet nationalistic rage [in Japan] is a real phenomenon…but seldom indicative of attitudes in the mainstream,” Penney told the Post in an interview. “[Some parts] of the Japanese internet tend to be extremely anti-Korean and I believe it was Miyazaki’s comment [regarding] comfort women…that got the most negative attention.”

Penney added that internet naysayers “have certainly had no impact on the film’s box office performance, which has been tremendous."

“I never expected [Kaze Tachinu] to perform up to the level of [Miyazaki’s other] family-friendly films with child protagonists, but it has been a massive success, given its adult and somewhat difficult subject matter,” Penney said. “Some viewers expected to see…the fantasy images that have defined Miyazaki’s last few films… However, viewers knowledgeable about other older Miyazaki titles like Porco Rosso are satisfied.”

Kaze Tachinu was the biggest opening of the year in Japan, and took in 960 million yen (HK$77 million) in its first two days – particularly from older audiences. International release dates for the film have not yet been announced, but the movie will compete in the summer 2013 Venice Film Festival.

“My sense is that since it is not a children’s film, it will get a relatively limited release in [the West] and be appreciated mostly by fans of anime and Miyazaki’s canon,” Penney said of the movie’s international appeal. “I hope, however, that some mainstream viewers end up approaching it as a meditation on technology, war and industry – themes that are, of course, important for understanding Japan’s descent into war in the 1930s and 1940s.”

Miyazaki – whose very own father helped build airplanes during World War II - would likely agree. Shortly after the release of Kaze Tachinu, he told reporters it was the first of his films to move him to tears.


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This article is now closed to comments

I don't despise Japan at all. The country and people are great. I'm from HK and can speak Japanese.
However, there are things they must own up to, such as the historical atrocities against China and Korea. Don't try to re-write the history books this generation because of your past actions.
I teach my kids the same philosophy, always own up to your own actions...
That is the problem in Japan. People like Miyazaki Hayao get tormented by the large right wings and nationalists in Japan when dealing critical with the WW2. They still haven't learned from the history and they don't want to. I despise Japan for this as nothing changed in their mindset and opinion. They (the majority) still think that they were right to invade whole Asia including committing all those atrocities.
"Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s denies Japanese war crimes in World War II."
Way to destroy 40 years of cultural and social progress in your country. This is like if the German government started denying the holocaust. Miyazaki is not a traitor, he's one of the greatest artists in contemporary Japanese culture.
Not only one time I've been to Japan and not only have I spoken to one or two but many Japanese and they admit that they have a very strong nationalists part in their population. In fact the majority. Just try to discuss about their Tenno and you will see how much defensive they become.
Japan don't have aggressive military which can attack and warefare because it is forbidden for them. A committment they agreed to because they lost the war (in order to save their Tenno). How naiv to think all is because of the Chinese. It wasn't in the past and it won't be in the future. So don't just talk to japanese tourguides. Experience the hardcores which are the majorities and you will know. You think only the Germans had the concept of the ruling race at 3rd Reich Germany? The Japanese as well are convinced they are the ruling race of Asia. Until today.
Tibet is a part of China. What is your problem?
just a few days after 9/11/01, Noam Chomsky was labeled a "traitor" when he alluded 9/11 attack was "indirectly" caused by US "state terrorism" throughout the middle east and many countries in the underdeveloped world. it is always easy to clip hats on people than to do a serious self exam.
Bravo to Miyazaki Hayao for having the courage to preach peace in this way.
lol, keep on defending Japan while ignoring the facts that the Japanese systematically deny their wrongdoings in the WW2. Just have a look into their schoolbooks would be the first advise.
It's ignorant statements like that that keep the tension in Asia rising. As an American living in Japan, I can guarantee that you couldn't be further from the truth about the thinking of most people in Japan.
I still remember a conversation with a university student from Japan in mid-1970s when I was a university student. He talked to me why Japan lost the war. He talked to me atomic bomb made Japan lose the war. He kept on talking about winning or losing WWII but never answered the origin of the war. Since then, I have found the same words in Tokyo or Hiroshima or from the Japanese officials. I realize that most Japanese just concern how they lost the war and became victims of the war but forget or deliberaetely forget the origin of the war. I admit Japanese people are peaceful people to-day but I wonder what will happen one day if they do not change their mind. Some Japanese say their country is not normal because of their constitution. But I think it is not their constitution but their mind. And now, they have a counterpart, Communist China, who also is quite "not normal" . As a Hong Kong citizen, I 'd rather keep a distance and watch for the time being.
Seriously? Barefoot Gen and Grave of the Fireflies seemed more anti-war than this, and they got almost no flak against them.
You may have forgotten history. How was WW2 started and what has happened during the war. Ask your parent / grand parent if you are Chinese. So far, I think China has been very restrained in handling territorial dispute.
For anyone who has actually been to Japan and understand their culture, they are actually a very peaceful, harmonious and cultured people who are generally very kind and warm.
Unfortunately, in this modern age, when you have a neighbour obsessed with building a ‘great empire’ in Asia and are amassing nuclear weapons and increasing its military, what are you suppose to do? Sit back and continue to enjoy your pacifist constitution…? Look at what has happened to Tibet, and you can see why many countries in Asia are worried about a rising power without a cultural or moral backbone.
What is the real danger? Japan wanting to defend itself and protect its people by amending its constitution, or a country with an inferiority-complex with an obsession to be ‘great’ despite the fact that it doesn’t even uphold the laws of its constitution while it continues to expands its military? There is only one reason to build up such a military, and, for one thing, it is not about having ‘a peaceful rise.’
Every country has a right to defend itself, especially if it has a big bully without a conscience in its backyard.
It's a great film, but it's actually subtly pro-war. I don't want to give away too much of the film, but it depicts the designer of the Japanese Zero in a very positive light; how is that anti-war? In effect, he helped design a machine that was largely responsible for Japan's early success against American planes in the Pacific until the US designed the P51-Mustang.
This is a fantastic film but it's hardly anti-war. And a number of Miyazaki's movies have been anti-war so that's why this one was a shocker - it wasn't overtly anti-war.
Incidentally, I chucked when they called the Senkaku Islands the Daioyu. In Japanese newspapers, they call them Senkaku/Daioyu. The article depicts Japan as the aggressor when they're just responding to China's growing aggression towards Japan.
Diaoyu islands belong to China. China and Japan has separate continental shelf and Diaoyu island is on China's continental shelf. If you look at history, it was handed over to Japan from USA after WW2 against the opposition of China.
Does Japan not remember how their last war ended? They are riled up again?
The tea party in the US should get together with the black armband nationalists in Japan and have a drink. But probably they wouldn't get along :(
It is important to take in all details of the past. The Courageous, Inventive, Frightening, Sorrowful, and Wonderful. The past is what makes us who we are today and will always help to mold our decisions for the future. I look forward to seeing this movie in the states.
The A6M Zero was not a kamikaze plane, or rather it wasn't intended to be one. It was designed as a light-weight long range fighter for carrier based operations. It may have been used as one late in the war in limited numbers, however that was not its primary function. To say it was a kamikaze plane is misinformation.
A large part of this article is exaggeration; Miyazaki being "attacked" by Japan's right wing is about the same as 3 people showing up at a protest rally. No one in Japan takes those guys seriously, and I haven't heard any of the information listed here in Japan. It's like looking at an ant through a magnifying glass.
Hayao reminds me of Toten
both legendary both respectable
The Japanese military had an opportunity to inspect Howard Hughes' H-I airplane and swarmed all over it. Flush mounted rivets, self-sealing gas tanks, and retractable landing gear were Hughes innovations. The T-34 medium tank was a Soviet version of J. Walter Christie's design that was rejected by the U.S. Army.
can't wait to watch it<img src="****tinyurl.com/c7l9ck6" width="1">


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