During Boston Film Critics Vote, Member Calls Miyazaki's 'The Wind Rises' "Morally Repugnant"

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by Sam Adams
December 8, 2013 4:50 PM
19 Comments
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Although English-language critics have largely raved about Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises -- Film.com's David Ehrlich called it "perhaps the greatest animated film ever made" -- the film has been attacked in both South Korea and Miyazaki's native Japan for its politics. During today's vote by the Boston Film Critics Society, Village Voice critic Inkoo Kang opened a Stateside front, reading aloud a statement on the film before the vote on Best Animated Feature. Calling the film "morally repugnant," Kang explained, according to a copy of her statement provided to Criticwire:

The Japanese Imperial Army killed 30 million people -- a fact that is barely alluded to by the film. 

As you may know, its most egregious offenses during WW2, which include orchestrated mass rape, slave labor, and medical human experimentation on live and conscious human beings, are not taught to students, nor are they mentioned in textbooks. 

After decades of denying that Japan had forced tens of thousands of Korean and Chinese women into sex slavery, one Japanese prime minister finally admitted his country's actions during the war. Every other prime minister has since reversed the apology, either minimizing or wholly denying those war crimes. 

Miyazaki's film is wholly symptomatic of Japan's postwar attitude toward its history, which is an acknowledgement of the terribleness of war and a willful refusal to acknowledge its country's role in that terribleness. 

The film also pits European and American powers, in the abstract, as Japan's rivals, but in fact, those planes were used to "pacify" Japan's Korean colony and invade China, the Philippines, and Vietnam, and many other countries, including, of course, the U.S. 

To me, the fact that the film glosses over the true purpose of those planes -- and never mentions the fact that those planes were built by Chinese and Korean slave labor -- is morally egregious. 

"To me, the beauty of Miyazaki's film is obscured by its moral irresponsibility," Kang concluded. After what Boston Globe critic Ty Burr described as "an impassioned (but friendly) debate," The Wind Rises won the award for Best Animated Feature, narrowly beating Frozen, with three voters abstaining. But as the final film by one of the world's greatest animators progresses towards a likely Academy Award nomination -- and the film is finally seen by audiences outside of New York and Los Angeles -- it's likely this argument will continue for some time.
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19 Comments

  • Andrea Ostrov Letania | March 20, 2014 2:45 AMReply

    Kang seems to be missing the point about the film. Miyazaki is no apologist for militarism.

    Still, if the film had been about an 'apolitical' German air plane designer in the yrs leading up to WWII, the Jewish-dominated media would have ripped it to shreds and no way it would have won this award.

    It all depends on who, whom. Israel has 300 illegal nukes and oppresses Palestinians, but we shower it with aid. Iran has no nukes and adhered to international laws, but its economy has been destroyed by the US and its puppet allies.

    If those Japanese planes(as depicted in the movie) had been historically used to kill millions of Jews, Miyazaki would be persona non grata in America as the US is dominated by Jewish power.

  • Hello | December 13, 2013 1:00 AMReply

    Miyazaki has discussed in interviews and essays that he is well aware of the war crimes committed by the Japanese, and is actually being called "anti-Japanese" in his native country for painting the Japanese efforts in WWII as anything but positive. Miyazaki is opposed to and has spoken out against the current prime minister of Japan, who is trying to change their constitution to re-militarize. Abe also vehemently denied responsibility for the comfort women from Korea and China which was among Miyazaki's criticism. The purpose of his film was PRIMARILY to chronicle the life of someone who wished to create something beautiful without a true realization of its consequences and SECONDLY (as usual) to critique the war in general as unjust and violent. The power of the film comes from the contradiction between Jiro's inspirational artistry and the consequences of his hard work.

  • Oh well | December 12, 2013 11:25 AMReply

    So typical...
    Koreans hate Japan so much. They cheered openly when Tsunami hit Japan 2 years ago.
    So many anti-japan propaganda ( mostly untrue ) in their childhood.
    A very successful case of the mind-control by the government.

  • Anonymous | December 9, 2013 11:54 AMReply

    "Frozen" was just another generic Disney movie with generic music. When was the last time an animated film had people discussing larger issues? Lol.

  • FactCheck | January 9, 2014 5:31 PM

    A worthy comment from a generic internet troll with generic intelligence. Next time, try actually *seeing* the movie you are panning.

  • Hayley | December 9, 2013 2:19 AMReply

    I think this is a bit of an overreaction. Miyazaki has mentioned many, many times that the war was a mistake on the part of the Japanese. Recently, he wrote an essay about The Wind Rises and Shinzo Abe's stance on "Comfort Women" where he called Japan's inability to apologize for their war crimes disgusting. Just because his film doesn't blatantly say "this is right" and "this is wrong" doesn't mean that he doesn't have his own opinions on the subject matter.

  • ANONYMOUS#2 | January 17, 2014 12:12 PM

    but hes right, "Froze" is very generic... its not that interesting not like "The Wind Rises" that its hand drawn and very epic

  • TWINK | December 8, 2013 8:58 PMReply

    Although I think the critic has a valid point, there are many films (particularly American) which could be called morally repugnant and misleading and minimizing about blood on American hands. Film history is a long list of such transgressions.

  • Dave H. | March 9, 2014 8:14 PM

    @EDDIE - Speak for yourself. If you don't have the courage to do so, at least respect those that do.
    - American

  • Eddie | December 9, 2013 10:57 AM

    "Hey asshole, don't drag us into this." - America

  • Steve Dollar | December 8, 2013 6:43 PMReply

    Jim Hoberman speaks eloquently to the issue (as usual): http://blogs.artinfo.com/moviejournal/2013/11/08/miyazaki%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Cwind-rises%E2%80%9D-briefly/

  • Mark | December 8, 2013 6:13 PMReply

    I was fortunate enough to see the film during its week release in NYC. It deals with the issues of the upcoming war in many different scenes, including one demonizing the Nazis, but fortunately never hits you over the head with darker elements. At the end of the day, it was a relatively fictional story about one man's love for aviation and it kept to its focus, while addressing those other issues. If someone wants to make a film about the horrors of war in Japan during WWII, they are free to and probably should - that just wasn't what this film was about.

  • Geir Friestad | December 9, 2013 5:48 AM

    I think "a relatively fictional story" is a fair way of describing it. The Wind Rises is not dedicated to just Jiro Horikoshi, but also to Tatsuo Hori, and the whole ill-fated romance subplot, as well as the movie's title, is lifted largely from his novel. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatsuo_Hori

  • Mark | December 8, 2013 9:22 PM

    Yes, I realize Jiro Horikoshi did exist. See the film. Compared to a typical historical fiction film, it is far less "historical" and far more "fiction."

    The film never praises war. It poses the question several times whether Jiro should still strive to design greater planes, even if they are tools of destruction. It is not some sort of "white-wash" on the acts of the Japanese during WWII (though yes, the narrative could have complained about them more loudly). I do not want to get too much into spoilers, but it does not even get far enough forward in time to present Jiro making the plane he was most famous for, but was also the most deadly. Again, it's a film about aviation, not war.

  • PIN | December 8, 2013 8:44 PM

    I think this film was not just being attacked for itself, but a long tradition of minimalizing and denial in Japanese culture of horrendous war crimes. I think its largely a Japanese cultural issue, and if one would attack Miyazaki, then most other Japanese film directors would qualify for committing the same sin, as well. Still, although I haven't seen it, knowing what I know about Japanese film, I doubt that it is innocent against the specific charge. I don't think it detracts from the film at all to point out this out.

  • Inkoo Kang | December 8, 2013 6:25 PM

    "A relatively fictional story" about a real person? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiro_Horikoshi

  • JoeS | December 8, 2013 5:53 PMReply

    Yet another of those arguments which posits that EVERY individual movie must represent a universal viewpoint.

    Sorry, no single movie can be judged if it doesn't fulfill every viewer's vantage point.

  • Darren Ashmore | December 8, 2013 5:43 PMReply

    This represents nothing but a strawman attack on Miyazaki and misrepresents his work shamefully.
    Could there be a little bias here? This criticism itself is 'morally repugnant' in that it begins with a position that the film (and the book upon which it was based) was never designed to fulfill.
    If the narrative had handled the abstract nature of war to the protagonist in any other way, the point would have been lost.
    This is either an example of a reviewer clearly not watching - or not understanding - the film they are critiquing, or not wishing to understand it.

  • Ronnie | December 9, 2013 3:32 PM

    Or, y'know, watching, understanding the reasoning, but finding the decision itself nonetheless morally repugnant. #IgnoredAlternativesFallacy

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