Simulwatch - The Horrors of World War II: The Pacific Theatre

D1tchd1gger

Claymore
August sees the 75th anniversary of the end of hostilities in the Second World War, although skirmishes continued. This came swiftly after 2 of the most singularly horrific acts of war (as in a one off act as opposed to the many horrific acts perpetrated over longer periods during the war) ever seen in the use of atomic weapons over Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 6th and 9th respectively and thankfully acts that have not been repeated since.

As such it's an opportunity to watch a number of anime films that offer a perspective of the war and the uniqueness of the events that finally ended it from the country at the centre of events in the Pacific Theatre.

I put together a list in a relatively chronicle order and is as follows (legal streaming/digital rent links where available):

1st The Wind Rises (Netflix) - Mostly pre-war

3rd Momotaro: Sacred Sailors (Showcase) - Produced during the war.

6th Barefoot Gen - Based on the events 75 years ago to the day.

9th In This Corner of the World (Netflix) - As Nagasaki isn't represented, this is set near Hiroshima and also touches on the bomb.

12th Grave of the Fireflies (Amazon) - Technically opens post-war, but majority set during in flashback.

15th Giovanni's Island (Showcase) - Actually opens in the September of 1945.

18th Barefoot Gen 2 - Set 3 years after events of the first film.

21st Rail of the Star - As I haven't seen it, I'm not sure how much is during and how much is after. But as it gets to the Korean War which started in 1950, it goes the furtherest past WWII.

These don't have to be hard and fast, for example ITCOTW probably should go before Barefoot Gen, but I set this up a bit too late and the initial idea came from the idea of watching BG on that particular day. I would ask if you watch one of the films before the date, please could you post under a spoiler button (or wait till the day set). Equally if you want to watch after the dates I've set out, as you'll notice, there are 2 "rest" days for each one (bar TWR just to keep it all August).

Also if you wish to watch anything else be it other anime related to the subject (other propaganda, educational pieces and shorts), live action films/shows, or documentaries feel free to post, but again best to post under a spoiler button. Ideas for these include other Momotaro anime and to balance out the propaganda the US made Know Your Enemy: Japan (Netflix). And here's a list of films/shows to look up (Ironically all bar TGOTF from our list is missing!):
I've watched a few down the years with Empire of the Sun, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima being ones I remember most, as well as The Pacific, the TV series from the people behind Band of Brothers.

So there we go, hopefully there's plenty of discussion to be had.
 

Yami

Hunter
Looking forward to this, here's a review I recently wrote of Nobuhiko Obayashi's Hanatagami which is set in the lead up to and on the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor:



Nobuhiko Obayashi left the building or, perhaps more appropriately, the house earlier this year. Diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2016, he outlived his prognosis by four years and managed to direct two of his longest feature films in that time. His final film, Labyrinth of Cinema, premiered at the Tokyo International Film Festival late last year and his penultimate, Hanagatami, was released to acclaim in 2017 but has only now reached our shores thanks to Third Window.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that it took this long and more surprising that it has come to us at all, given the fact that only two of Obayashi’s features are available in the West – his debut, House, available through Masters of Cinema, and Making Of Dreams – a 2 ½ hour documentary on the making of Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams, available as an extra on the Criterion release of that film. This is despite his popularity in his native Japan; in a 2009 poll of Kinema Junpo readers to determine the greatest Japanese films of all time, three of Obayashi’s films made the top 25. Only Akira Kurosawa himself had more. Interestingly, House didn’t make the top 200; those Obayashi films that did were Exchange Students (#16), Lonely Heart (#19), The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (#25), The Rocking Horsemen (#64) and Chizuko’s Younger Sister (#65).

Most viewers will therefore come to Hanagatami with House being their only prior experience with Obayashi’s work, and this is perhaps no bad thing. Obayashi initially intended for Hanatagami, ostensibly an adaptation of Kazuo Dan’s 1937 novel, to be his debut but Toho would only go for House, which they saw as the more commercial option of the two. Hanatagami opens with a quote, and we meet the young Toshihiko on top of a cliff overlooking raging waters. It’s black and white, the frame rate is as choppy as the seas. Obayashi obviously intends to evoke the silent film, Jean Epstein perhaps. Like House, Obayashi then uses every technique in the filmmaker’s arsenal, perhaps coming up with a few new ones along the way, over the rest of Hanagatami’s running time. Whereas House was analog, Hanagatami’s effects are very obviously digital. This might put some people off, as there is an element of Brechtian alienation with the artifice of the digital techniques; that is to say, it all looks obviously fake. Obayashi doesn’t care, and obviously hopes the audience doesn’t care either. I settled in quite quickly; Hanagatami is not a film that requires realism, it’s a film about a time gone by, that may or may not be in the memory bank of the living – or the dead.

On the surface, Hanagatami is about a group of young friends in the coastal town of Karatsu in the lead up to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Toshihiko lives with his aunt, whose husband died in Manchuria, and Mina, her younger sister through marriage, who is stricken with tuberculosis. He attends school where we meet Ukai, who likes to swim by moonlight and is seemingly burdened by having to live up to the memory of his older brother, and Kira, paralysed throughout childhood who has somewhat recovered but continues to live in relative hermitude, possessing a dishevelled, slightly sinister appearance and attitude. Kira has an odd relationship with his cousin, Chitose, who is Ukai’s girlfriend. Chitose’s friend, Akine, has a flirtatious attitude towards Toshihiko. This friendship group is challenged and unbalanced by Mina’s illness, the cultural attitudes of the society around them, and the drums of war past, present, and future that make them all acutely aware of their own mortality at even their young age.

Obayashi hasn’t cared about casting actors of the same age as their characters and, while some may be able to pass for teenagers, there’s a poignancy in seeing the characters played by actors of an age that they might not have the chance to reach, cut short by war – a glimpse into a future that they could have had. It’s not like he cares about realism in any other aspect.

War has always loomed large in Obayashi’s filmography; war is the reason that the aunt’s spirit in House is unable to rest, an expansionist demi-god militarises schoolchildren in School in the Crosshairs, children come of age in the lead up to the war in Bound for the Fields, the Mountains, and the Seacoast, and Hanagatami is the third entry in Obayashi’s late-career informal anti-war trilogy, preceded by Casting Blossoms to the Sky and Seven Weeks. While Obayashi had wanted to make Hanagatami some decades before, and in some ways Bound for the Fields, the Mountains, and the Seacoast is a dry run for his passion project, it is probably no coincidence that Obayashi’s anti-war trilogy coincided with the national debate over Shinzo Abe’s reinterpretation of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution. If House was about the death of innocence in the coming of age of seven young girls, Hanagatami is about the death of innocence of a nation. For those who came of age in the interwar years – for Japan, between the invasion of Manchuria and the attack on Pearl Harbor - was there ever a state of innocence? The spectre of death always loomed, corrupting and distorting the frame of Obayashi’s phantasmagorical vision of Japan. Barely was there time to mourn those who had given their lives before more young lives were taken in the name of the old lie: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

Here's a short docudrama training film produced by the United States Army Air Force, Recognition of the Japanese Zero Fighter, which stars future President Ronald Reagan


I would recommend this interview with Hayao Miyazaki, On Patriotism and Constitutional Amendment, alongside a watch of The Wind Rises. I'm looking forward to revisiting it and giving my thoughts tomorrow
 

Yami

Hunter
The Wind Rises was to be, at the time, Hayao Miyazaki's final film (it is still his most recent, but he has one in development) and it would have been a fine note to bow out on, by far the most obviously personal film from one of the world's great filmmakers. It's a fictionalised biography of Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter used by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service during the Second World War - infamously adapted for use in kamikaze operations. From his beginnings with Future Boy Conan, Miyazaki's work has shown a fascination with aircraft and flight, perhaps unsurprisingly as his father produced parts for aircraft during the War. In the previously linked interview-cum-essay, Miyazaki says that his father "was probably thinking that he was not the one fighting the war and considered the factory solely in terms of business. So he regretted nothing. He did not have a broad perspective. [...] He said that Stalin said Japanese people were not guilty. That was it. I often fought with him saying he must have been responsible for the war as well, but he had no intention at all to think about this issue."

The Wind Rises feels like Miyazaki wrestling with these two viewpoints on screen. How responsible is Jiro, who is a likeable man in pretty much all respects, who's main character flaw is a love for his work and art that diverts his time and attention away from his love and wife - hardly a unique or malevolent trait - for the deaths caused by his creations? Jiro knew how they could and likely would be used, even if he did not get in the cockpit himself.

Through the film, Jiro converses with a dreamed up version of Giovanni Batista Caproni, the Italian aeronautical engineer, who encourages his artistry. When I first saw the film, I thought that these fantasy sequences were the weak link but they have grown on me since and I don't really mind them now. They are the most thematically essential scenes of the film, it is Miyazaki in dialogue with his creation, his internal debate externalised.


Caproni: “Which would you choose, a world with pyramids or a world without?”

Horikoshi: “What do you mean?”

Caproni: “Humanity has always dreamt of flying, but the dream is cursed. My aircraft are destined to become tools for slaughter and destruction.”

Horikoshi: “I know.”

Caproni: “But still, I choose a world with pyramids in it. Which world will you choose?”

Horikoshi: “I just want to create beautiful airplanes.”

Caproni chooses a world with pyramids, somehow believing that the creation transcends the means or consequence of its creation. Personally, I'd much rather have had an ancient world without slavery than a contemporary world with pyramids but none of us got to choose. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the 'father of the atomic bomb', famously opined, quoting the Bhagavad Vita, "now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds" - a self-awareness of a certain level of responsibility that he would have for the victims of his creation, which was infamously used upon the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75 years ago this month. But his Manhattan Project gave the world not only nuclear weapons and nuclear power but it also had a substantial legacy in giving us modern day 'big science' as well as sparking the production of radionucleotides for medical use, which no doubt save lives on a daily basis.

The Wind Rises feels morally conflicted, because Miyazaki is morally conflicted. The film is frustrating insomuch that it presents to us an interesting argument and doesn't provide a solution - because, ultimately, there isn't one and there will never be one.
 

WMD

Death Scythe
The Wind Rises

What a great film. It seems so odd that Ghibli would make a biographical film but Miyazaki adds just enough fantasy to it to make it work. The animation in the dream sequences is spectacular and the earthquake sequence is stunning in its horror to watch. The doomed romance with all its perseverance is a great metaphor for the film as a whole. Its beautiful but dark and sad at the same time.

Also Jiros boss might just be my favourite tsundere character ever. Hes angry and a hard ass but he cares and when push comes to shove he always steps up to help Jiro.

Also the English dub is pretty great with a lot of top tier hollywood talent. Oddly one of Hollywood's newest power couples John Krasinski and Emily Blunt are both in this. Krasinski as Honjo especially threw me as I would never have worked out that was his voice. And Stanley Tucci as Caproni is great too.

It's only the second time I've watched it but I'd say I've enjoyed it much more this time round.

(I may initially miss the Barefoot Gen and Grave of the Fireflies days as I've ordered them from United Publications so they'll turn up when they do and then I can catch up.)
 

D1tchd1gger

Claymore
I had previously done a bit of a timeline of the film as there are no timestamps. I noticed a few more bits and pieces that I've marked in orange:

  • Jiro Horikoshi was born on 22nd June 1903
  • The first scenes of the film takes place in 1918 as seen by the magazine he is given. Making him roughly 15, character model seems a bit short seeing he seems quite tall just 5 years later.
  • Caproni's planes in his dream look like the biplane bombers (Ca. 1 through 3) and the triplane bomber Ca. 4 (the passenger plane being a varient). I noticed the one on the front cover of the magazine is Ca. 30, a varient of the Ca. 1, although Wikipedia has it listed as post-war whereas the magazine is dated Feb 1918! Not sure if the mag itself is real, had a quick Google and couldn't find it. The next plane is the Ca. 60 which crashed on it's second test, shown a little later in the film, and thus never actually took any passengers.
  • The next event is the Great Kantō Earthquake on the 1st of September 1923. We meet Kiro Honjo.
  • So the next scenes at university and with his sisters visit. He tells her he last saw Nahoko "over 2 years" ago so would probably be winter 1925.
  • Next, when he moves to Nagoya, I thought it was the Great Depression (1929-31), but when I found out the date of the plane in the next scenes, I had to go find a different date. Turns out to be the Shōwa Financial Crisis of early 1927.
  • The plane in the next scene is the Mitsubishi 1MF9 which had trial flights in July and September 1927.
  • Next he travels to Germany to visit Junkers. There's a brief shot of a Russian Orthodox Church before they get there, so even there's a lot of planes in the film and passenger planes did exist I guess the best way to get to Germany from Japan must have still been by boat and then railway. I'm guessing it's the Trans-Siberian (I looked it up once to see how viable it was to get to Japan that way, probably a lot more interesting than a plane, but a lot longer). They see the G.38 which first flew in 1929. The scene with the "secret police" (dub version) or men they saw in the hanger (sub) could also be 1929, a mob of antisemitic men chasing a Jew? The Great Depression saw a rise in violence against the Jews, but the law "was fair" until the Nazis got into power in 1933. History of Jews in Germany
  • The next Caproni plane looks like a Ca. 90, but in a passenger carrying configuration.
  • Jiro is asked how long he's been at the company and replies 5 years making it 1932.
  • The aircraft carrier is probably the Hōshō, the first one Japan built and was used for testing. The plane they use to land on it is a Mitsubishi B1M. The plane they watch take off is a Nakajima A1N.
  • The next plane was the Mitsubishi_1MF10 which had its maiden flight in March 1933.
  • Next Jiro visits the Hotel Kusakaru after the plane crashes. There were 2 incidents July '33 and June' 34. It's probably '33 as it would be too short a time before the next test and Castorp (the name comes from the very book he quotes, The Magic Mountain) mentions Junkers being in trouble. He resisted the Nazis taking control of his company at first after they took over in 1933.
  • Kiro shows Jiro the Mitsubishi G3M.
  • However in the scene where Jiro gets a telegram there is a date stamp which looks like 9.7.13. If the 9 is correct (it's cut in half by the bottom of the screen) it would, possibly, be the 9th year of the Shōwa Period with 1926 being year 1. So the date would be 13/7/1934.
  • The next plane, the Mitsubishi_A5M, was commissioned in 1934.
  • They probably marry in winter 1934/35.
  • Kiro talks about how vulnerable the G3Ms are, but he's obviously seeing into the future as the action looks like it could be from the Second Sino-Japanese War when they were first used in 1937! He also has a vivid imagination as the proto-X-Wing looking fighters don't exist, as far as I can tell.
  • The test flight of the Mitsubishi_A5M with its original gull wing design took place on the 5th of February 1935. The design was changed after this to a straighter version.
  • So they were married for no more than 2 months at the most :-(
  • The next scene is 1945, obviously at the end of the war, where we see the Mitsubishi_A6M Zero in his final vision with Caproni.

Blimey that took longer than I thought. But now a little about the lead up to the war, I think what Miyazaki said it that interview best sums it up 40 years of massive growth and then 40 years to eventually destroy it all. After centuries of self isolation Japan opened up in 1868 and ran to catch up on the industrial revolution for the next 30 years before then running to catch up in imperial terms with a number of wars of expansion starting with the First Sino-Japanese War (1894/5) and continuing with the Russo-Japanese War (1904/5, anyone who's seen Golden Kamuy will have seen this depicted in anime form!)
Japan then actually helped the Russians (British and French) in the First World War against Germany. But then went down much the same route as Germany with the financial crisis' and political turmoil turning the country to militarism, nationalism and totalitarianism.
The expansionism also continued including the already mentioned Second Sino-Japanese War until they took it too far by joining the Second World War and then brought the US into it as well.
A more detailed look can be found here:

Right now onto the film. I don't think I can add much to what I said last time, again notes in orange:
A good film about the passion of a man persuing his dream interrupted by a romance based on someone elses life (it would make a good film of its own The Wind Has Risen - Wikipedia). He also didn't have a sister! I think the romance could have stayed, but maybe seeded in better. As beautiful as it was done it just halted the film when he went to the retreat. Wikipedia says he had 5 children, so he must have had a wife! If you're going to do a film on someone's life don't add someone elses into the mix. Or make a completely fictional character doing similar things in a fictional war and avoid being accused of being pro-war!

Although some characters talk about how bad war is/was I would have liked more of Jiros (the real one) thoughts on it from his diary: "We were convinced that surely our government had in mind some diplomatic measures which would bring the conflict to a halt before the situation became catastrophic for Japan. But now, bereft of any strong government move to seek a diplomatic way out, we are being driven to doom. Japan is being destroyed. I cannot do [anything] other but to blame the military hierarchy and the blind politicians in power for dragging Japan into this hellish cauldron of defeat."

Back to the present with more thoughts: After reading the Miyazaki article I can see that the film isn't supposed to be pro-war, I think he's just very enamoured with a genius aircraft designer who just happened to live at a time when war planes were what the government wanted. Miyazaki calls the policies stupid and numerous times the characters say Japan is bit backwards and money could and should be spent elsewhere. This is shown visually by the same Oxen team that pulled out the first failed plane still pulling out Jiro's now ultra modern plane.

Another thought I had was about Miyazaki saying his dad witnessed destruction of Tokyo both in the earthquake and at the end of the war:
My father survived the Great Kanto Earthquake near an arsenal in Sumida Ward where a lot of people died. He was proud of his experience of taking his own sister by the hand and fleeing together when he was only nine years old. The day after the Tokyo Air Raid, he visited Tokyo to see how his relatives were. So he saw the aftermath of disaster twice.
Now Jiro was at Tokyo University at the time of the earthquake so may well have witnessed it, but wasn't there at the end of the war, he was in Matsumoto. So maybe a nod to his father, I assume it was Tokyo at the end. Also grabbing that quote I reread it, maybe the story of his father taking his sister's hand and fleeing was the inspiration for Jiro leading Naoko through the crowd?

Phew done.
 

WMD

Death Scythe
After reading the Miyazaki article I can see that the film isn't supposed to be pro-war,
It's another interesting fact that a lot of Miyazaki's films have this anti war, pro environmentalist message and then to cap his career he chooses to make this story, where although theres a subtext of humanity blindly destroying itself it's not the focus. and the only natural event is an earthquake which is the most destructive thing that happens in the film.
 

zrdb

School Idol
Not anime but as mentioned earlier The Pacific was a quite historically accurate depiction of the Pacific theater in ww2. Has anybody here watched the movie South Pacific? Even though it's based on the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific it presents a fairly accurate representation of ww2 in the Pacific theater.
 
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Neil.T

Chuunibyou
Jiro, who is a likeable man in pretty much all respects, who's main character flaw is a love for his work and art that diverts his time and attention away from his love and wife
I think he is too. I've read comments criticising his supposedly "bland" nature and "colourless politeness", but I actually think he's a really very interesting character. To me he's a bit like an iceberg: there's a lot more going on there than what might be immediately apparent on the surface. I think, at heart, he's as conflicted as the film itself is, as Yami already partly alluded to in his post.

Perhaps he's an easier character to grasp if you feel as a viewer that you share certain character traits with him.

Also Jiros boss might just be my favourite tsundere character ever.
Yes! That's actually a great description of him! 😆
Apparently, the model for Kurokawa was none other than Miyazaki himself.

On a separate note, the character design of Castorp, the man that Jiro meets on the veranda of the Hotel Kusakaru, is based on Steve Alpert, an American producer working at Studio Ghibli's US arm. He also voices Castorp in the original Japanese dialogue track.

Through the film, Jiro converses with a dreamed up version of Giovanni Batista Caproni, the Italian aeronautical engineer, who encourages his artistry. When I first saw the film, I thought that these fantasy sequences were the weak link
I like those parts very much. Addressing the planning stages of the film, the introduction of Viz Media's book The Art of The Wind Rises recounts that "two directions toward a film adaptation were noted. The first followed the flow of the manga, featuring Caproni, leaping through space and time, and exaggerating the portrayal of the airplanes in the style of an animated film. The second was a more serious creation, in which Caproni did not appear, depicting Jiro and Nahoko falling in love, a heavy melodrama colored by Tatsuo Hori."

I'm glad Miyazaki made the choice he did.

I think the romance could have stayed, but maybe seeded in better. As beautiful as it was done it just halted the film when he went to the retreat. Wikipedia says he had 5 children, so he must have had a wife! If you're going to do a film on someone's life don't add someone elses into the mix.
To quote Miyazaki's project proposal translated in The Art of the Wind Rises:
Our film combines Jiro Horikoshi and Tatsuo Hori, two actual people of the same era, into one person as "Jiro", our central character. It will be an unusual work of complete fiction that depicts the youth of the 1930s.
[Emphasis added.]

In other words, this was Miyazaki's actual stated intention from the outset.

As for the romance element, this again comes from Hori. Nahoko is named after the heroine of Hori's novels The Wind Rises and Nahoko.

The Wind Rises feels morally conflicted, because Miyazaki is morally conflicted. The film is frustrating insomuch that it presents to us an interesting argument and doesn't provide a solution - because, ultimately, there isn't one and there will never be one.
avoid being accused of being pro-war
After reading the Miyazaki article I can see that the film isn't supposed to be pro-war
I've personally never understood how The Wind Rises could be perceived as being pro-war. For a film that tries to be as neutral on the subject as it can and avoids preaching, it still ends up being unable to avoid taking a critical stance overall, I think.

maybe the story of his father taking his sister's hand and fleeing was the inspiration for Jiro leading Naoko through the crowd?
It really sounds like it, yeah! 😯
That's an interesting nugget I hadn't come across before.

Also the English dub is pretty great
It's absolutely outstanding, in my view. So much so that I would sometimes even choose to watch the dub over the original. The casting is actually perfect, and the voice performances are outstanding across the board. It's got to be the closest a dub has ever gotten to feeling like all that has changed from the original is the language being spoken.

There are some little script and tone variances, but those to me are really clever adjustments that make the film "read" a bit clearer to a Western audience, and I back them wholeheartedly.

Going back to the original audio track to end this post, I just want to say how much I love the idea to have the sound effects for the planes done vocally. It makes the planes sound like they're speaking a language that Jiro can understand in some way, and I think that's really clever.

I did notice that the human voice is also used for the Great Kanto Earthquake sequence. The animation on that part is incredibly clever too. I could go on. And already have done.

TL;DR: The Wind Rises is my favourite Ghibli film. 😛
 
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Yami

Hunter
I've personally never understood how The Wind Rises could be perceived as being pro-war. For a film that tries to be as neutral on the subject as it can and avoids preaching, it still ends up being unable to avoid taking a critical stance overall, I think.

I agree with this, but I don't think the film's moral conflict is over the 'correctness' of war but who should bear responsibility. Jiro isn't pro-war, but he facilitates it. To a lesser extent, so did Miyazaki's father.

I like those parts very much. Addressing the planning stages of the film, the introduction of Viz Media's book The Art of The Wind Rises recounts that "two directions toward a film adaptation were noted. The first followed the flow of the manga, featuring Caproni, leaping through space and time, and exaggerating the portrayal of the airplanes in the style of an animated film. The second was a more serious creation, in which Caproni did not appear, depicting Jiro and Nahoko falling in love, a heavy melodrama colored by Tatsuo Hori."

I'm glad Miyazaki made the choice he did.

I've grown to like it, though I would certainly like to see how the alternative would have worked out; I'm a big fan of melodrama, particularly the films of Mikio Naruse though interestingly I think that Akira Kurosawa's description of Naruse's work could equally apply to The Wind Rises: "like a great river with a calm surface and a raging current in its depths."


To quote Miyazaki's project proposal translated in The Art of the Wind Rises:
Our film combines Jiro Horikoshi and Tatsuo Hori, two actual people of the same era, into one person as "Jiro", our central character. It will be an unusual work of complete fiction that depicts the youth of the 1930s.
[Emphasis added.]

In other words, this was Miyazaki's actual stated intention from the outset.

I do think you're walking on fine line when keeping the name of a real person if you're conflating them with someone else in some sort of a chimeric biography. If it's complete fiction, make it so. But I think that Miyazaki needed to keep the name in order to ground it in the real world, to show that he was making a real comment towards Japanese militarism and the proposed constitutional amendment.
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
I don't think the film's moral conflict is over the 'correctness' of war but who should bear responsibility.
That's a very interesting distinction you make there, Yami. 🤔

I would still hold that the film grapples with both. There's that scene (set up by the part where Jiro fails to offer the hungry kids the slices of sponge cake he's just bought) where Jiro feels some doubt over whether he should be doing what he does, but Honjo unashamedly proclaims that he intends to "make the most of this opportunity" brought about by being commissioned to design aircraft for the state.

There's also the closing scene where Jiro and Caproni watch the Zero Fighters flying overhead as the former laments "Not a single one returned."

"There was nothing to come back to," Caproni offers fatalistically, before concluding "This is what it means to lose a war."

To me, Caproni is partly an avatar for Miyazaki in his film, and not just in that scene. "Artists are only creative for ten years," he cautions Jiro earlier on. "Live your ten years to the fullest."

It feels like advice from Miyazaki himself.

I do think you're walking on fine line when keeping the name of a real person if you're conflating them with someone else in some sort of a chimeric biography.
That's undoubtedly true, yes. One might even accuse Miyazaki of wanting to have his cake and eat it, but, well, when the cake turned out as good as it did...! 😋

The Wind Rises: "like a great river with a calm surface and a raging current in its depths."
That would make an excellent description of the film, definitely. And of its protagonist, too, I think, to hark back to an earlier point of mine.

Looking Naruse up on good old Wikipedia, I realise that I saw his film Floating Clouds some years back on Film4. I'm unfortunately unable to recall it in any kind of detail to be able to comment on Kurosawa's words.
 

D1tchd1gger

Claymore
As for the romance element, this again comes from Hori. Nahoko is named after the heroine of Hori's novels The Wind Rises and Nahoko.
Based on his own wife dying of TB, according to the Wikipedia page I linked. Thus mashing up of two real peoples lives into one rather than taking one person and fictionalising parts of their life. Just the historian in me that finds it odd.
If it's complete fiction, make it so.
Exactly. If the aim was to make a fictional story from the start, there should have been the old "based on true events" statement at the start.

I love the idea to have the sound effects for the planes done vocally
language that Jiro can understand in some way
Actually I found this a little odd too! If you've done all that research to make the planes look exactly like their real life counter parts, why not make them sound true to life as well.
Also he was an aeronautical engineer, not a mechanical one. He got lumbed with underpowered engines and thus the obsession with losing weight and making the planes as aerodynamic as possible. If the engines were saying anything they would be laughing at him or wheezing like an old man 😄
Great Kanto Earthquake. The animation on that part is incredibly clever too.
Some of felt a little exaggerated to me when the train flew up and crashed down. That much force maybe a good representation of how violent the quake was, but no way people get to walk away from that if that happened in real life. The train would be a crushed mess instead of landing perfectly on the tracks again. Looked a bit too cartoonish, weird to say about an animation I know, but apart from that and the dream sequences everything else was quite realistic.

What I did like about the animation was how naturalistic the characters were with loads of subtle gestures.

To me, Caproni is partly an avatar for Miyazaki in his film, and not just in that scene. "Artists are only creative for ten years," he cautions Jiro earlier on. "Live your ten years to the fullest."

It feels like advice from Miyazaki himself.
I agree with this though.
I was wondering which 10 year period he would choose as his best. I think most would say the 10 years that include Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. Start '95 so you can include Whisper of the Heart (script) and Howl's ('04), although some might say '79 to '89 - Cagliostro, Nausicaa, Laputa, Totoro and Kiki (although Cagliostro was probably in production for at least a year making it technically longer than 10 years).
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
The case for the defence:

If the aim was to make a fictional story from the start, there should have been the old "based on true events" statement at the start.
There's really no obligation on any director's part to preface their film with a disclaimer, I don't think. It really depends on what the filmmaker is trying to make, and I think that Miyazaki made a conscious decision that there would be no on-screen captions used, hence also the absence of date stamps.

If you've done all that research to make the planes look exactly like their real life counter parts, why not make them sound true to life as well.
To humanise the machines and make them into characters in their own right, I think is the answer to that. It's like Porco talking to his sputtering engine in Porco Rosso.

If the engines were saying anything they would be laughing at him or wheezing like an old man 😄
Again, to me, this is something that never would've entered my mind because: when do you ever hear Jiro complain about the lack of power from the engines? Never, because it's not his way. Kurokawa, yes. Honjo, maybe. But Jiro? No. He loves planes.

The sounds we hear are the sounds as Jiro perceives them, and I think he sees (and hears) a plane as one complete entity and doesn't discriminate between chassis and engine.

Some of felt a little exaggerated to me
And this is coming from the guy who likes that anime where a bunch of high-school girls travel to the Antarctic for an expedition! 😛

The defence rests, Your Honour!
 

D1tchd1gger

Claymore
The defence rests, Your Honour!


On a case by case basis a mainly serious realistic film should stick to being a realistic film and a mainly lighthearted show about friendship can treat its story in a more lighthearted manner. And if you had watched it 😜, they come up with a completely plausible reason how they get to go.
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
a mainly serious realistic film should stick to being a realistic film and a mainly lighthearted show about friendship can treat its story in a more lighthearted manner.
But dude! Who says?? 😆
That's entirely for the director to decide!

It depends on what it is s/he wants to make. If we were to apply such hard-and-fast rules then everything would end up the same, and there would be no surprises.

And if you had watched it 😜
Well, yep. I gave the show a go, but... that was just one mountain I was never gonna climb.

¯\(ツ)/¯


EDIT: Good catch with the Phoenix Wright "Objection!" by the way. I heartily approve. 😉
 
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Yami

Hunter
I thought that the stylised animation of the Great Kanto Earthquake was very effective in emphasising the fragility of the foundations upon which Japan had been built (literally and metaphorically) and in foreshadowing the destruction that would be wrought in the war to come.
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
I thought that the stylised animation of the Great Kanto Earthquake was very effective in emphasising the fragility of the foundations upon which Japan had been built
I thought so too. The quake was portrayed in a manner of The destruction was so terrible that it was as if someone had gone... [the land itself ripples as if whipping away a tablecloth or some such]
 

Yami

Hunter
It is undoubtedly Miyazaki's most visually abstract production - the earthquake, the shots of planes flying through Jiro's transparent place, Nahoko's red blood on her blue-green canvas. It's by no means as radical as Takahata's contemporaneous The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, but it's fascinating to see them become so bold in their late period, rather than play it safe.
 

WMD

Death Scythe
I realise the debate is still going on Wind Rises so please continue in that front but as it's the 3rd we're now technically onto Momotaro: Sacred Sailors.

Obviously this film cannot be detached from its time and purpose which was an actual WWII propaganda film to teach children Japan is right to want to rule other nations (and said nations should want to be ruled by Japan) and that they'd be winning the war any day now. Neither of which were true.

I never thought I'd be watching this a second time to be honest. It is what it is. Today it's a curiosity worth preserving as a part of history. It weirdly feels like it owes a lot to the early 20s and 30s animations of the west with the personified animals and the constant motion and bobbing of the characters. Also the fact it's a musical though I will say the alphabet song goes on far too long! Given how nicey nice most of it is the brutality at the end is pretty shocking to watch.

It's also an oddity of the writing that the titular Momotaro doesnt appear for the first 26 mins and then barely does anything until the final 5 mins where he somehow ends the war through being stubborn.
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
It's by no means as radical as Takahata's contemporaneous The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
You know what? I've said many times over that The Wind Rises is my favourite Ghibli film, but isn't its visual style so utterly conventional compared to Isao Takahata's subsequent offering? So I've found myself thinking largely the same. There's a real contrast in objectives there, which really does interest me.

it's fascinating to see them become so bold in their late period, rather than play it safe.
Absolutely so. Neither man had stagnated by that point in their careers at all, and I find it very telling that these two films are my outright favourites by each director. Both features are so ambitious, but in entirely different ways.


Some thoughts on today's film coming next.
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
It weirdly feels like it owes a lot to the early 20s and 30s animations of the west
I think that's true of Japan's animation industry in general, yeah. Even the large eyes which are the central tenet of modern anime character design are attributed to Fleischer Brothers creations such as Betty Boop.

I will say the alphabet song goes on far too long!
It really does. 😅
If memory serves, I think the film wasn't originally planned to be feature-length and so had to be padded quite a bit.


As for my own thoughts on it, I think that the only particularly interesting bit of the film is that five-minute shadow animation section 50 minutes in. That's actually really rather interesting to watch and is very well executed.

Beyond that it's really just a mix of filler (that padding) involving a bunch of anthropomorphised animals frolicking around, and depictions of preparation for war (sometimes cartoony and fantastical, sometimes procedural and realistic) while its characters look around constantly (as @WMD already pointed out), gawping in endless wonderment at how marvellous it all is.

I'm not looking to get into the politics side of things during this simulwatch, because it's my intent to comment on the actual films themselves, but should I worry about where our filmmakers sourced the English dialogue spoken by the hapless, bumbling Brits?

Lastly, as an observation, I couldn't help but notice that, in an interesting twist of copyrighting fate, Popeye (a Fleischer original) and his nemesis Bluto's previously unauthorised cameo is now officially credited before the start of the film. I'm sure I noticed Laurel and Hardy in there, too, but there's no mention of them.
 
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