The Wind Rises – sound design analysis / intro


The Wind Rises is the first film being covered on this sound analysis upcoming series. Among the the many many films I’ve watched, TWR, was the one that left on me a significant impression with its exceptional approach to sound design. Now I need to admit here – as a person living in the western culture, film sound with all its brilliancy or commonality can very roughly be put in one box. And don’t get me wrong – there are excellent works being done in the west, but TWR had room and imagination to go further and beyond. If you have also watched it I suppose you understand: those mouth made and vocalisation sounds effects greatly crafted and brilliantly edited.

Surprisingly I haven’t found much discussion about these; a google research can tell you that the director Miyazaki wanted this and even that he wanted to do the sounds himself, but there was just no time, so they have been done by the sound designer Koji Kasamatsu, whose information online in English language is equally scarce. The usual comments I read about the sound are vague, often just mentioning that “they work”, or “are beautiful”. While both affirmations are true, there is something more about the sound, specially on the big Kanto earthquake scene and perhaps the first time we are in Jiro’s dream. I won’t dive into details of how those sound effects were made but we will talk about them about when they are applied, try do dissect them a little bit and once that an overview is done, perhaps we can draw some sort of conclusion. This is what I’m trying to achieve with this sound analysis.

I am in constant wonder if in Japan there is a broader (or rather existent) discussion about this process, and if someone reading this knows about it, please leave a comment below.

As I watched and analysed the film for several hours I also realised that I could write an entire thesis of the use of sound crossed with the scenes, emotions, symbology, etc. Therefore with the purpose of a meaningful but not extensive reading, the articles will be divided in themes, not in film parts, as initially I started to draft. We will start with the oneiric realm of Jiro, and then look at the elements of nature. A final article will have mentioned more uses of sound within a film sound design overview.

The Wind Rises is an anime film by Miyazaki, his latest master piece. One can consider it to be a fantasised biopic of Jiro Horikoshi, an aeronautics engineer who designs airplanes, around the actual events in the first half of the XX century in Japan. It depicts relevant historical events: Japan’s spree into war, the Great Kanto Earthquake and the Great Depression. But we are deeply entranced on Jiro, who is actually not a hero or a villain, that we nonetheless follow with much interest and tenderness. We experience those events mainly through his perception, but we gather information about the state of Japan through the conversations he engages with his best friend and colleague Honzo and about the bubbling War through the intriguing german character Castrop, which appears and disappears in the middle part of the film as mysteriously as he himself seems to be. In all this, Jiro knows the planes are being created for destruction; he has known that since his early dreams but he also comprehends that “they are beautiful dreams”, as Caproni, the Italian aeronautics engineer, enthusiastically emphasises in their shared dreams. One can say that this is a significant duality in the film – destruction vs. living – and the that way sound is used in this duality helps us understand it; and it comes both in the form of nature, in the form of machinery or the human behaviour. As as in many japanase films, a portion of facts are accepted and we are not told the story of a hero who defies evil, but instead we assist some form of personal growth, or as Philip Brophy writes: anime depicts, narrates and projects notions and images of ‘the human’ as a complexly variable set of unpredictable parameters—not as an aspirational drive towards definitive statements of ‘humanism’ [1]

Jiro is the creator of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, usually called the Japanese Zero, and we follow him to his dreams. This film really is about dreams.


[1] The Sound of an Android’s Soul: Music, MIDI and Muzak in Time Of Eve, in The Palgrave Book of Sound Design and Music in Screen Media

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