Animated works have a magical potential to let our imaginations unfurl in far greater ways than live-action. This was proven with irrefutable force when, in 2013, two of the founders of Studio Ghibli took their final bows with two films that were extraordinary even by Ghibli’s standards.
The Wind Rises follows the tale of Jiro Horikoshi, who is driven by his desire to build beautiful airplanes. But his dreams are cursed by the prevailing war where his creations are used to slaughter countless humans. This personal conflict is tackled with care in the movie by the masterful hands of Miyazaki.
The story keeps oscillating effortlessly between dreams and reality while also exploring a beautiful lovestory between Jiro and Naoko. It is a well-executed attempt to provide a glimpse into the life of the man behind the infamous Japanese Zero fighters which created havoc during World War II. Although some aspects are fictional, this is probably the only animated documentary till date.
In looking at Hayao Miyazaki’s filmography, we find works that have ranged from the whimsical to the fantastic, but all touch deeply upon humanity’s capacity to soar to great heights as well as the frailties that lay them low. The Wind Rises is a culmination of all these elements. It leaves us with a profound sense of loss as we keenly feel the tragedy that Jiro bears. But it also instills a sense of sorrow as we bid farewell to a master of his craft.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya is based on the Japanese folktale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, and is a timeless story of a girl’s effort to overcome parental and societal expectations while figuring out what she really wants in life.
The film was drawn over eight years, with a unique art-style that immediately captures the wonder and attention of the viewer. Colors bleed over lines as if in a child’s painting, and at moments of heightened emotion, scenes dissolve into a frenzy of color and charcoal. Accompanied by Joe Hishashi’s music, it is nothing short of a masterpiece.
It’s a world of charcoal lines and water-coloured hues; you can almost feel the brushstrokes upon fibrous paper as the proudly hand-drawn action unfolds.
The void left by the retirements of these two legendary animators will never be filled. Their films made us laugh and shed tears, and taught us that beauty perseveres happiness and sorrow alike. The Ghibli movies shine as rays of hope, providing deep and meaningful insights into life rather than resorting to forced happy endings and casual comedy that dominate the mainstream animation industry of the West.