The release for this in theaters was so amazingly limited that I almost didn’t get the opportunity to see this film at all. It would have truly been a shame too, because I found this to be a very beautiful film and the perfect way to follow Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement announcement.
I watched this at an independent theater during a time slot where they played this in its original Japanese with subtitles, which I really appreciated. I’m not sure if this film would have moved me in quite the same way if I had heard it in its English dubbed version, especially because of how the subtitles were written. While usually I find the subtitles to be awkwardly done, I think whoever translated this work did a fantastic job, because the words that were chosen really brought out the emotions that I think were intended by this film.
In general, Studio Ghibli films have always found a way to really move me emotionally, and this film was no exception. There were so many fantastic lines (again, kudos to whoever translated this!) scattered throughout the film that I thought were very powerful. I could give a whole bunch of examples, but I don’t think I could do the lines justice without the context.
Studio Ghibli either makes me really want to laugh a lot or cry. This one was one of those that made me tear up quite a lot, especially at the end. People could harp all day on the flaws, but I thought it was perfect. I’m not sure if I would have thought the same way about the ending without knowing that this was supposed to be Hayao Miyazaki’s last project, but going into it with such knowledge, I couldn’t help but notice all the ways in which this movie seemed to subtly be saying “goodbye,” and it had me wondering how (if at all) intentional all of it was.
This animation is based on the life of Jiro Horikoshi, a chief engineer of many fighter airplane designs during World War II. It focuses a lot on Horikoshi’s relationships with his wife, Naoko Satomi, and best friend, Kiro Honjo. I think the dynamic between Horikoshi and Honjo was my favorite. Whenever I see a character like Honjo’s in any movie, it really makes me think “ah, this is what true friendship would look like.” I wish I could explain it better than that, but the funny thing is even though I don’t have a time limit on publishing these entries (other than those that are self-imposed), sometimes I find it difficult to describe things in written form as opposed to discussing them out loud. All I can say is, whether or not this animation was an accurate portrayal of their friendship, as far as the animation goes, I thought Honjo was the man. In some ways, Horikoshi could come across a bit aloof, like a genius that kind of always seemed to have his head in the clouds, and Honjo was just there, all the time, backing his friend up for all of it, no matter how crazy or outrageous the idea. So when—and here is where a quick spoiler comes in, so skip over this line if you don’t want to be spoiled—someone in a management position finally made the executive decision to separate the two, with the reasoning that it would be a better arrangement to prevent Horikoshi’s “genius” from being tainted, it was definitely a heartbreaking moment.
By the film’s end, I already wanted to watch it again. Sometimes, when watching things for the first time, I find that I’m so focused on wanting to know what the ending is, that I don’t always spend a lot of time enjoying the journey to get there, so to speak. I know that there was definitely a lot of stuff I missed the first time around, and as soon as I have more time to do so, I plan to watch this movie again and really spend time absorbing everything in the second round.
Final Thoughts: If you like thoughtful, foreign animated films, then I think this one is perfect for the permanent collection.