Legendary animation director Hayao Miyazaki held a press conference for South Korean reporters in Tokyo on July 26, responding to recent criticism from local media that his latest film, “The Wind Rises,” glorifies acts of war — a particularly sensitive subject in the country once occupied by imperial Japan.
Miyazaki drew the ire of press for the film (the director’s first in five years) for a plot centered on Jiro Horikoshi, an engineer and the inventor of the Zero fighter aircraft used by Japanese forces in WWII.
“I wondered whether Horikoshi should be condemned for the sin of having a plane he made used in the Pacific War,” said Miyazaki about his softened portrayal of the character in the movie, according to local news wire Yonhap. He added that he had wanted to create a film about the engineer not as a man who created fighter jets in warfare, but as a man who dreamt of creating “beautiful planes.”
However, the director’s intentions do not always seem to result in the desired reaction, even in the past. “I made ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ with the idea of children running outside and playing, but in the end it turned out children stayed inside watching TV instead,” he said. “I think that just because one works hard, it doesn’t necessarily mean a good outcome will follow.”
Helping Miyazaki court favor with the local public, however, is his critical stance on war-time aggressions made by Japan. The director was recently targeted by Japanese conservatives online for an essay penned in the July issue of Studio Ghibli’s monthly Nepp?, in which he called out Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to reform the constitution to suit his conservative agenda.
“The issue of the ‘comfort women’ should have been settled a long time ago,” Miyazaki told reporters, referring to Korean women forced into sexual slavery during the war. The controversial issue has been a sore spot in diplomatic relations between the two countries, as some feel the Japanese government have done little to compensate and sincerely acknowledge the suffering of the victims — as evidenced by activist groups in support of the victims who continue to demand an official apology decades after the war.
Most recently in May, Osaka mayor T?ru Hashimoto came under fire from the Korean government for disparaging remarks regarding comfort women. Miyazaki called the incident “humiliating,” as he encouraged seeking peaceful relations among East Asian countries.
“The Wind Rises,” which made its world premiere in Japan on July 20, will be released in Korea this September.