The new movie from animation legend Hayao Miyazaki, his first in five years, is called The Wind Rises, but it seems to represent the director coming down to Earth. After imagining an array of fantastical worlds perhaps only rivaled by those of Walt Disney—the enchanted forests of Princess Mononoke, the underwater kingdom of Ponyo, and the castle in the sky of Castle in the Sky (just to name a few)—Miyazaki’s newest presents a fictionalized version of the life of Jiro Horikoshi, who designed many of the fighter planes used by Japan in World War II.
It’s dark material for an animated film—in addition to the war, the movie will also touch on poverty, disease, and the Great Kanto Earthquake—and the movie, which is already a huge hit in Japan, has attracted its share of controversy. It won’t premiere in North America until the Toronto International Film Festival in September, and it doesn’t yet have its U.S. release date. But for now the mix of that sad story with Miyazaki’s gorgeous imagery and Yumi Arai’s tender pop ballad (“Hikoki Gumo”) is haunting.