LOS ANGELES, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Hayao Miyazaki's final film, The Wind Rises, will make its US debut tomorrow in select theaters.
Miyazaki is an animated film legend often compared to Walt Disney, and is arguably Japan's greatest living filmmaker.
The 73-year-old director began his career in 1963 at Toei Animation, and co-founded Studio Ghibli in 1985. Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli are best known for My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away, which won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003. Miyazaki's high level of involvement in the production process, including meticulous hand drawing and excessively long work days are some of the factors which led Miyazaki to say The Wind Rises will be his last film.
The Wind Rises departs from Miyazaki's typical imaginary worlds, and is instead a fictionalized biography of Jiro Horikoshi, an engineer who designed the Zero planes used by the Japanese in WWII bombing raids, including the attack on Pearl Harbor. The film's subject matter caused instant controversy in Japan, with Miyazaki drawing criticism from both the pacifist left and the nationalist right.
Rolling Stone reports that the tension between Horikoshi's peaceful nature and desire to create beauty versus the purpose his machines were used for is part of the reason Miyazaki was drawn to the story in the first place. The result is a largely character-driven piece that addresses both Horikoshi's artistic ambitions and uneasy conscience. TIME calls the film a "challenging end to a major artist's career" that is "vigorous, subtle, thematically daring" and "visually gorgeous."
The English-dubbed version features the voices of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, and Stanley Tucci. The Wind Rises is nominated for Best Animated Picture in this year's Academy Awards.