Last week I went with a friend to see Hayao Miyazaki’s latest–and supposedly final–offering, “The Wind Rises” (review here for those interested). For those of you not familiar, the movie is a highly fictionalised account of the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of Japan’s famous A6M Zero fighter.
The film has received criticism from all directions for refusing to take much of an ideological stance on Horikoshi’s involvement with the war effort and dodging the question of his moral culpability in designing aircraft responsible for thousands of deaths. “Airplanes are beautiful dreams,” says the famous Italian aeronautical engineer Gianni Caproni to young Jiro in a dream, as if somehow the aesthetics of aircraft design can exist independently of their potential real-world applications. Such Platonic realms, however, seem accessible to Miyazaki alone; even Leonardo da Vinci designed his craft with bombs on the brain.
I’ve touched on the theme of problematic history and historical figures before on School of Doubt, but watching “The Wind Rises” got me thinking about those figures who, like Jiro Horikoshi, had more complex and ambiguous relationships with the iniquitous regimes under which they lived. Not everyone, after all, had the foresight or good fortune to leave totalitarian states before those governments consolidated their power, and not everyone had the necessary means, information, courage, or desire to work against those regimes, even once it was plain to everyone that things were headed in the wrong direction.
Continue reading here at School of Doubt.