Taking a giant step away from anything that Gjibli would usually put out there, here is something of a biographical pic, covering the life of Jiro Horikoshi; the chief engineer of several Japanese fighter plan designs during World War II, most notably, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter.
The film opens, showing him as a kid, dreaming about another Italian aircraft designer named Giovanni Battista Caproni (Nomura Mansai/Stanley Tucci), who seems to be a sort of spirit guide for Jiro (Hideaki Anno/Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Due to Jiro's eyesight, he knows he may never be able to pilot a plane, but he does wish to design them.
The problem is, Jiro finds himself designing these fighter planes throughout World War II, while his real dream is just to create something beautiful. A lot of the story has to do with the struggling conrtast between his talents and what the government needs from him.
Meanwhile, mush as the movie poster dictates, there's also a fictional love story going on here, involving a woman named Nahoko Satomi (Miori Takimoto/Emily Blunt). Knowing my more recent reviews, you're probably already rolling your eyes at me going "and what's wrong with this one?" The only real answer I can give as to there being anything "wrong" with it, is that it appears to be entirely fictional when the film otherwise tells of Jiro's career in aircraft design quite well (at least according to what my homework on the film suggests).
However, with a film's subject-matter as heavy as it is, the love story - or at least A love story of sorts seems to be in order. I think in many ways it was mainly thrown in to create more of a humanistic character, and to illustrate how much he cared about life, rather than just profile him as a creator of war planes.
This was the third Ghibli film to be nominated for an Oscar, respectively following 'Spirited Away' and 'Howl's Moving Castle'. Sadly, this was also the year that 'Frozen' got its icy clutches on that award, and we've been hearing 'Let it Go' ever since. I daresay, if that film wasn't out that year, this could have easily claimed that award - if only for the original idea of doing a semi-biographical picture which, much like with 'Grave of the Fireflies', shows up a Japanese perspective during war times; something we must admit that we tend to turn our backs to as North Americans.
Once again, I would urge people to at least give this one a look, if only to gain another perspective on things. However, I wouldn't say it's more important than 'Fireflies'. This may lean more toward true story territory, but 'Fireflies' really bluntly illustrated the devastation left behind by the Americans that we tend to turn a blind eye to. This one, while it does have a sadness to it, that sadness wears off when you find out that our female lead was most likely fictitious. I've looked for the name, but only this animated character ever shows up. As far as Jiro's love life in reality, I have nothing really showing me what's what about it.
Anyway, the fictitious aspects of this film set aside, it still remains an interesting movie on the whole. Again, if nothing else, it shows us a new perspective on things, and the fact that its pretty much Ghibli's one and only real biopic sets it aside from everything else the studio has put out, making it far more unique. It's worth checking out, but I'm not sure it'll top my list. Of the more or less straight up love stories thus far, however, I'd have to say this was the more enjoyable of them, even if it is fictitious. Most of the positive rating here comes from the other, more real parts of the story.
As anime is an all-around untapped resource for my viewing pleasure, I have decided to explore the Ghibli titles, one-by-one. It seemed good a place to start as any. I'll be focusing on these titles throughout the month of August.