The latest (and probably last) creation of Miyazaki is about the (fictionalized) life of the plane designer Jiro Horikoshi, the creator of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, which gave nightmare to many US pilots during WWII. It was a huge success in Japan.
I will be honest from the beginning: this is not my favourite Miyazaki: the magics does not work and I do not know exactly why: perhaps the character of the hero is not enough worked out, a bit too dull. Or the tragic love story, the purpose of which is not clear; he wanted perhaps to show that engineers have an heart in addition to a brain.
Yet, it is Miyazaki and the film is still a masterpiece. I have three main elements that attracted my attention and where I thought “yes, this is like that!”.
- first, the dreams as a child: which aerospace engineer did not have dreams of sky or space when he was a child? Which enginerr did not imagine the perfect machine in his daydreams. You dream, you study, you take the low level jobs in an aerospace company and you climb the ladder.
- Second, the relation with the hardware. There are two beautiul scenes (for an engineer): On his first day at Mitsubishi when he asks whether he can see the assembly of the plane in the workshop; the foreman is happy to see that at least one guy from the design office is interested in the hardware. And the second scene where the design team receives a sample of the new ultra-light aluminium alloy (I wonder if it is the 7075 developed Sumitomo Metal). and they are all bewildered by this apparently mundane rod of metal.
- And to finish, the complex relations between the dreams of an engineer and the hard reality of a war. It is of course controversial: we do not know exactly what really happened in the mind of Horikoshi. He is depicted in the film as rather little concerned by the military aspect of his job.
All in all, I would recommend the film if you are engineer, especially to watch the lost art of the slide-rule.