Anime master Miyazaki's new film sounds a warning for Japan

Tue Aug 6, 2013 2:50am EDT
 
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) - Hayao Miyazaki's new film is already a box office hit but its themes about the dangers of nationalism and war have set up the Oscar-winning animator for unprecedented criticism.

"The Wind Rises", which debuted at the top of the Japanese box office last month and has a competition slot at the upcoming Venice Film Festival, is based on the man who designed Japan's feared Zero fighter plane used in World War Two.

Commentators see it as a veiled warning that Japan may again be heading in a similar direction. Miyazaki, 72, emphasized that warning in a scathing essay in mid-July about proposals by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to revise Japan's pacifist constitution.

"The time shown in the movie resembles the present," said film commentator Ryusuke Hikawa, referring to the 1923 earthquake that devastated Tokyo and the 1930s Depression - parallels to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and Japan's long-stagnant economy.

"After the quake there was turmoil and Japan began heading towards war. It is possible to feel some similarities ... The economy was bad and psychologically it was a situation of having to do something big, and that's how things got nationalistic."

Abe, whose coalition won parliamentary upper house elections last month, has pledged to revive the economy, bolster Japan's defense posture and revise the constitution. Voters are wary of his constitutional views but welcome his economic policies.

Marked by Miyazaki's vivid colors, the story of engineer Jiro Horikoshi is his first film centered on an historical figure and real events - Japan's march towards war.

Much of the menace is masked by a romantic subplot, while Horikoshi's work on the Zero comes off as a noble effort by a man in love with planes and flight. That is a love shared by Miyazaki, whose father made parts for warplanes.   Continued...

 
Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki of the animated movie "Ponyo" smiles as he poses for a picture in Los Angeles July 28, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni