THE WIND RISES
KAZE TACHINU
2013, Disney, 126 min, Japan, Dir: Hayao Miyazaki

Director Hayao Miyazaki’s final film is a typically glorious animated affair, a celebration of art, science, and the impulse to create. Based on Miyazaki’s own manga, it tells the true story of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of two famous aircraft used by Japan during World War II. The film has already won dozens of critics’ and film festival awards, and is a fitting finale to a triumphant career. In Japanese with English subtitles.


FROM UP ON POPPY HILL
2012, GKIDS, 92 min, Japan, Dir: Goro Miyazaki

Richly evocative of time and place (and the optimism in Japan in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics), this gem from Studio Ghibli was written by legendary studio founder Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Goro Miyazaki, the first feature film collaboration between father and son. In Yokohama in 1963, high school kids Umi and Shun work together to save a dilapidated Meiji-era clubhouse from demolition. But as their tentative romance begins to blossom, a buried secret from their past emerges to pull them apart.


WHISPER OF THE HEART
MIMI WO SUMASEBA
1995, Studio Ghibli, 111 min, Japan, Dir: Yoshifumi Kondo

In the mid-1990s, the great Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki (SPIRITED AWAY) wanted to begin mentoring a new generation of animation artists in Japan. The result was WHISPER OF THE HEART, a gentle coming-of-age drama scripted, produced and storyboarded by Miyazaki and then directed by Yoshifumi Kondo (later animation director on PRINCESS MONONOKE), whom Miyazaki hoped would introduce new blood into his Studio Ghibli. Adapted from the manga by Aoi Hiragi, the film tells the story of Shizuku, a shy student with high school entrance exam worries and inchoate aspirations, who meets a magical cat on a commuter bus and follows it to a boutique where significant objects abound, each with a story of its own. Notable for its celebration of the mysteries of daily living, in WHISPER OF THE HEART "Miyazaki's script suggests that a sense of magic can exist, even in everyday Tokyo," according to animation historian Charles Solomon. The story of a young girl finding her voice both literally and figuratively, WHISPER OF THE HEART is a film tinged by tragedy: Yoshifumi Kondo died of a brain aneurysm in 1998. His only feature attests to his talent, and Miyazaki has yet to find an equally gifted protégé.


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