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On Hayao Miyazaki’s “Disgraceful” ‘The Wind Rises’

On Hayao Miyazaki's "Disgraceful" 'The Wind Rises'

On Sunday, critic Inkoo Kang caused a stir at the Boston Society of Film Critics’ annual meeting by reading aloud a statement calling Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises “morally repugnant” before voting on Best Animated Feature. (It won anyway, narrowly beating Frozen.) Now, Kang has expanded on that statement with an article in the Village Voice that goes into specifics. It’s a more nuanced argument, taking in the way Miyazaki portrays his hero, a Japanese aircraft designer modeled on Mitsubishi engineer Jiro Horikoshi, to represent “the moral myopia of the imperial Japanese citizenry and of the aesthete.” But she’s hardly pulling her punches, ending by calling the final film by the director of the universally beloved My Neighbor Totoro “repellent” and “disgraceful.”

The Wind Rises is custom-made for postwar Japan, a nation that has yet to acknowledge, let alone apologize for, the brutality of its imperial past…. Japan scholar Hanna McGaughey, a personal friend, has stated in private conversations that “pussyfooting” around war crimes is the only strategy Miyazaki had at his disposal to avoid being dismissed by his domestic audience as “silly” or “inappropriate….” But there’s no reason why critics and audiences outside of Japan should be morally complacent in the animator’s concessions to his countrymen/s egos. The Wind Rises perpetuates Japanese society’s deliberate misremembering and rewriting of history, which cast the former Empire of the Rising Sun as a victim of World War II, while glossing over — or in some cases completely ignoring — the mass death and suffering its military perpetrated. Critics who fail to observe or protest Miyazaki’s “pussyfooting” around a regime that caused more deaths than the Holocaust aid and abet Japan’s continued whitewashing of its war crimes.

After Criticwire posted an excerpt from Kang’s statement, many critics bristled at the idea that Miyazaki bears the responsibility to represent the full extend of Japan’s wartime atrocities. But if The Wind Rises is a great film, it can only be because of how it negotiates that history, and its semi-fictionalized protagonist’s place within it. That’s what’s David Ehrlich does when he writes:

While initially jarring, Miyazaki’s unapologetic deviations from fact help The Wind Rises to transcend the linearity of its expected structure, the film eventually revealing itself to be less of a biopic than it is a devastatingly honest lament for the corruption of beauty, and how invariably pathetic the human response to that loss must be. 

Kang’s strongly worded attacks obvious put those who already love The Wind Rises on the defensive. But the questions she raises deserves to be responded to and not ignored.

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Alice Carter

I haven't seen the film yet but judging from Miyazaka's entire works I seriously question the argument that it is morally repugnant, repellent or disgraceful. We could, however, model what we demand the Japanese nation to do. An open acknowledgement and a sincere apology by the Government of the United States accompanied by sincere efforts to compensate those who suffered from the crimes committed against Native Americans, and African nationals who were enslaved by us. In addition, the many Iraqi people who were killed, wounded and impoverished in a war whose purpose I have yet to understand, might be included. And yes, this may be off topic.

Cameron Koller

My issue with Kang's argument is that it demands one film represent the entirety of the WWII experience of the time, something no work of art is capable of. Miyazaki foreshadows the war throughout the film, and under no circumstances seeks to wash Japan's hands of the event. I thought the line "Japan is going to explode" like Germany made that abundantly clear, did it not? But this is not a film about the war but about a man whose passions overtake any other concern and who fails to recognize the oncoming war as anything other than an opportunity to pursue his dream of creating the greatest airplane possible.

Like any great film, it's made up of ambiguities and contradictions, instead of spoon feeding us what it all means. I think much of the problem stems from people's interpretation of the lead as positive and watered down. I think it's almost quite the opposite, but I also think Jiro is largely a vehicle for Miyazaki's own criticisms of himself. I also have to question when Kang says Jiro's marriage is sexless whether he was actually watching the film with an open mind, as sex is quite heavily and unambiguously implied in one scene.

I think her concerns should be addressed, but I simply don't agree with any of them.


Thank god for all those Western countries such as Britain and America who spend so much effort apologising for their wartime atrocities! Phew.

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