Today is the long-awaited, much publicized big day -- and I am not referring to my having completed another orbit around the sun. Today Miyazaki Hayao's magnum opus Kaze Tachinu opens nationwide.
How big the hype over Miyazaki's and Studio Ghibli's first biopic? Nippon Television has been showing most of the Ghibli canon for the past two years in preparation for this opening -- broadcast rights which likely cost the network a fortune. The marketing beat has been in a steady crescendo over this time, reminding us that a cinematic event is coming. Just type the word "wind" (kaze) into Google Search and the auto-complete suggests tachinu. If you have your computer configured like mine, the screen, without even hitting the return button, displays the poster for the film and the list of theaters and show times.
Miyazaki has pulled out all the stops. The film is of immense length: 126 minutes of hand-drawn animation. It tackles huge, challenging subjects: the 1923 Great Kanto Eartquake, the Great Depression and the march to global war. In addition to securing for the nth time a score by Hisaishi Jo, Japan's greatest living composer, Miyazaki roped in Matsutoya Yumi (a.k.a. Yuming) to provide the theme song. He coaxed his colorist of 50 years to come out of retirement for this one last film.
And the subject of the first Miyazaki film about a real person: the life of Horikoshi Jiro, the designer of the Mitsubishi A6M, the Zero fighter.
Miyazaki, who responded to the mad glee of the Iraq War with Howl's Moving Castle? Who emptied every tearduct with the traumatic Grave of the Fireflies? Who had his gallant fighter pilot condemned to living life as a pig in Porco Rosso -- is now releasing a film about a weapons platform designer?
Oh no, have the historical revisionists gotten to Miyazaki too?
Of course not. We can be sure that whatever Kaze Tachinu is, it will be damn complex and ambiguous, offering no easy answers -- to anything.
And absolutely great.