I become a big fan of Japanese animation films ever since I watched 5 CM per Second by Makoto Shinkai. Since then I collected all Studio Ghibli films and grew to love them for their beauty and simplicity.
To me the works of Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Makoto Shinkai are very characteristic - the style of the drawing is easily distinctive as Japanese, as in you know it when you see it. Most of the time, the stories are often laced with fantasy or stories of dreams and youth. Even though some of the films I've watched fall into the fantasy genre or contain absurd themes that might be difficult to relate to or even understand, essentially they fit the genre 'slice of life best'. The Wind Rises is such an example; for me it's a powerful film about courage, dreams, and love.
Some might raise controversy that this is an anti-war film, or even one that is pro-Japanese war because of the theme and the main character, Jiro, who is an airplane engineer. It is loosely based on the life story of a living person by the same name; of how Jiro grew up unable to become a pilot due to his nearsightedness and in the end dreamed of building planes instead. His planes were later used in war against many countries, and created destruction. Because it is highly fictionalized, there is an element of bittersweet romance in it, and a fantasy sequence that involves dreams of meeting Carponi, an Italian plane engineer.
In spite of those, I believe that the film is not simply about war. It shows the power of dreams, that one must live life to the fullest by going after their dreams. It is also about the strength of one's love to overcome adversity, even though it might be a difficult journey to endure. I like the characters - they are layered with depth and are very strong, characteristics of a Ghibli film as I've found this in other Miyazaki films as well. The pace is rather slow and I find myself wishing it's cut shorter and can do without some scenes, but overall the effect is a bittersweet film that renders you silent long after you finish watching it.
The soundtrack is lovely as usual, it has a tinge of melancholy in the lyrics as well as the melody, and it sounds a little old fashioned, aptly fitting the film.
While The Wind Rises is not my favorite Hayao Miyazaki film, I believe it is worth watching and since it's his final film, I'm going to appreciate it even more.