When it comes to the films of Studio Ghibli, a common description of the viewing experience is that it’s like watching a painting in motion. Art books of the films are therefore akin to flipping through a museum gallery and The Art of The Wind Rises is no exception to this pattern. The Wind Rises, a loose adaptation of Tatsuo Hori’s novel of the same name, follows the life of airplane designer Jiro Horikoshi, perhaps best known as the creator of the “Zero” fighter used in World War II.
One does not have to see the film to appreciate the story and characters as this book details every scene, from backgrounds to key sequences to the details of its period setting. Commentary from the movie’s directors, artists, colorists, and animators provides insight into every shadow of the production, often highlighting the effort required to give everything a realistic look and feel. This realism is apparent whether one is surveying the damage of the Great Kanto Earthquake or the wood finish of a train compartment. The book’s artwork follows the movie’s narrative from beginning to end, as though the reader is following an elaborately illustrated travelogue, and images are accompanied by captions that describe their place in the film.
The book also includes images of early designs and works in progress. Smooth, glossy, finished art appears alongside the loose, sketchy plans that preceded it, and several animation sequences come with sample storyboards and diagrams that reveal how many elements were combined to create the finished scene. The film’s complete English-language script is included, along with the complete Japanese credits. Viz’s tall hardcover edition of the art book is a pleasure to explore, with clear, vibrant visuals and binding that avoids cutting off art in the center gutters.
Anime enthusiasts, especially those who have seen the film, will find many curiosities between the formative stages of the project and the finished product. The film was the target of some controversy during its release over its depiction of Jiro and the inventive spirit that is suggested to have inspired his many wartime creations. Director, Hayao Miyazaki, seems to put this issue to rest in the original project proposal: “The intention of this film is not to condemn war, nor is it about stirring up young Japanese with the excellence of the Zero fighter. I have no plans to defend our lead character, such as by saying that he actually wanted to make civilian aircraft.” If that statement is not conclusive enough, the wealth of gorgeous resources backs up Miyazaki’s other stated goal: “I want to create something that is realistic, fantastic, at times caricatured, but as a whole, a beautiful film.”