Love is such a fascinating, complex, powerful emotion. It exists in a wide variety of facets ranging from filial to friendship, from selfless to self-acceptance, and everywhere in between. Everyone is capable of loving to a given capacity, even if said love is misguided and leads to disagreeable actions. Whatever the circumstance, each one is different for each person; not only does everyone has their own story to tell, but they have a story about love that they can tell as well.
I feel as if Hayao Miyazaki was trying to wrestle with telling his own thoughts on love and relationships throughout his filmography, but for me, the films he directed throughout his career were often cast aside by more strongly communicated messages in his films, talking about the environment or other sociopolitical issues relating to Japan at the time of each film’s release. It was one of the reasons why I shied away from him and preferred the emotionally cinematic experiences of other directors such as Satoshi Kon and Mamoru Hosoda. It wasn’t until his swan song, The Wind Rises, that I finally received a heartfelt message related to love.
In the film, the protagonist Jiro Horikoshi and his love interest, Naoko Satomi are brought together by a lyric from Paul Valéry’s poem: “Le vent se lève!… Il faut tenter de vivre!” / “The Wind rises; we must attempt to live!” It is through this lyric that Naoko conveys her final message of love to Jiro before she passes away due to illness; she abandons her own treatment and stays by Jiro’s side as he designs the prototype of the A5M fighter, predecessor to the Zero of World War II fame. When she dies, she reminds Jiro in his dream to keep going on without her, living a complete, fulfilled life.
I often see love portrayed in media as something romantically selfish, or at least something that would cause self-harm; the common sentiment that lies in figurative declarations in which one would walk a thousand miles, cross the ocean, or give up one’s life for a loved one suggests that sacrifice is required in order to simply express love. It’s something that is at once selfish when perceived by the person receiving such declarations. If I were to receive love from someone, I would feel guilty at the thought that one had been put in harm’s way, even if the circumstance was self-inflicted. If you only live once, does that not also suggest that you only love once as well? Why throw life away out of love when one can spend that life being with the one that they love?
Thus, we are brought to a simple question of love. How do we honor those we cherish the most? In The Wind Rises, Jiro honors the memory of his late wife by not only doing what she wants him to do (to keep living), but to live life to the very fullest, with every ounce of enthusiasm and passion that one has for life itself: “A life lost is not forgotten yet / A life wasted brings nothing but regret.”
Okay, so that last verse isn’t actually a famous lyric, I made it up, and it’s kind of dumb and doesn’t roll off the tongue particularly well, but I’ve come to identify with the general idea of this adage, particularly as it relates to present relationships and the way I wish to honor my most cherished. While I can understand why Naoko wanted to make the most of the time she had left by being with Jiro, I can imagine that if she were in better health circumstances, she would have lived quite the life herself. Valéry’s lyric is a two-way street, we must attempt to live.
As such, for as long as my fiancée tries her best at everything that she does, and does everything in her power to be with me, I can’t help but do the same. We love each other too much to live the rest of our lives without the other. We must fight with each breath that we have, as tired and strained as they can and have gotten in this demanding, difficult month of December. Our efforts will not go unwasted, nor will the intentions behind them go uncommunicated.
To love is to live, and vise versa. This message was the finest that has been given to me by Hayao Miyazaki during his illustrious career. It took several tries, but he finally got it right, and I am content to finally have been won over by one of his films. His career will be remembered forever by countless fans and well-wishers; while I certainly won’t mourn his death the way I did for Satoshi Kon’s, I’ll deeply appreciate the life he had lived. It will have been one filled with love for cinema and animation.