Why Stories Matter – reflections on a masterpiece

Friday nights are movie night. 

Gabriel and I work hard on weekdays and nights. Friday night – the gateway to the weekend – has become our opportunity to sit down with a nice dinner, hang out, and watch a film. Recently we’ve watched Casino Royale, Interstellar, Baby Driver, and, last night The Wind Rises

I consider myself a Studio Ghibli fan. I’ve seen Howls Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Whisper of the Heart. Gabe, on the other hand, hadn’t seen any until last night. 

Together, we discovered The Wind Rises

We thought it would be a good entry point for him into the world of Studio Ghibli – set in the modern world, an engineer as the protagonist (Gabe also works in engineering), less fantastical and whimsical than some of his other films. 

I don’t think we were fully aware of how heartbreakingly beautiful the story would be. 

But first! It’s time for a Seregn update! Well, I’m super excited to say, the proofread is done! 

That’s it… the story is finished. 

So what am I waiting for? Well, really, the only thing left to complete the book is, hopefully, some endorsements. 

Authors are busy people, and I want to give those authors generous enough to read Seregn plenty of time to do so. Meanwhile, I continue to edge closer to a release date, and am starting to think about how I would like to release this book. My first book. A book of my heart. 

Which brings be back to The Wind Rises

Hayao Miyazaki is an incredible filmmaker. 

Lets get this out of the way. The visuals are uniformly stunning. Gorgeous. Beautiful. Whether it’s pistons firing, a paper plane fluttering, or masses of people wandering about a city, you just can’t help but gaze at how wonderful it all is. The sound design and music choices work so well. Visually and auditorily, it’s mesmerising. It makes you realise afresh the beauty in everyday moments. 

As for the story, wow. I’ll put some spoiler-free thoughts below: 

Approaching our first anniversary, some emotions from the film really hit home.

To me, it was a thoughtful ‘slice of life’ – a wander through ten years of one passionate young man’s life. A story of his dream to build planes, made hollow by the threat of war. A tale of an incredible romance, with emotion so thick you could sink into it and feel it flowing all about you. This is one of the biggest things I love about stories. They can create such a sense of emotion, of atmosphere, that clings to you and surrounds you for hours and days and weeks after. The Wind Rises is thick with it. 

I’ve put a section below for spoilers (beneath the email sign up form) so if you’d like my deeper thoughts, you can find them there. However, please, if you have not seen the film, don’t read on. Go, watch the movie, then come back and read what I’ve said if you feel so inclined. We watched it in Japanese with English subtitles, which was fantastic. Honestly, it’s one of my favourite Studio Ghibli films. Give it a watch.

And you know, that same sense of emotion is what I want and intend for Seregn. It’s an utterly different story, but I want it to stick with readers the way The Wind Rises has stuck with me. I don’t claim to be – or that I’ll ever be – a Hayao Miyazaki of writing. But I am and will be myself. And I hope my stories conjure emotion and reflection like I’ve experienced after watching this

If you’d like to read the first three chapters of Seregn for free, you can sign up to my mailing list here, and they’ll be sent to your inbox (don’t forget to check junk/spam). And, if you’ve seen The Wind Rises and would like to read more, you’ll find my spoiler-filled comments below.

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Spoiler Territory 

Good grief. The romance between Jiro and Nahoko is one of incredible sweetness. Their love and affection are only one part of the film, but their romance is handled so well, with delicacy and honesty, you fall utterly for these two characters. I can see (and Gabe reflected on this too), a similarity between them, and us. He’s an engineer; she’s an artist. Thankfully, that’s where the similarities end, but it’s enough. 

One of my biggest fears in life is that Gabe or I would become ill, but not know it until it was too late to do anything about it. Watching Jiro’s beautiful, supportive wife succumb to tuberculosis was so heart-wrenching I was in tears. And yet, this couple do not dwell on the oncoming end. They know their time is precious and soak up each moment together with such tenderness and love… that’s what gets me. How exquisite. 

Putting aside this beautiful romance, the story of a man trying to achieve his dream of creating something beautiful, yet being forced to create weapons of war… how many heartstrings is Miyazaki pulling here!? And through it all, Jiro consistently does it with a positive attitude. What a testament. His dream is commandeered for war, and the love of his life will not be with him for long. Add to that he’s being hunted down and has no idea why… Wow. 

Yet, despite the heftiness of the themes, there’s a lightness of touch to this movie, which gives such a sense of openness and the ability to read deeply into the characters. Miyazaki isn’t afraid to let a shot linger, give you time to reflect on what you are seeing. And it’s all so, so beautiful to see. 

At the end, when asked about his ten years, for Jiro says they were good, but toward the end they ‘fell apart a bit’. 

What a gut punch. That really, really got me. And, when Nahoko visits Jiro in his final dream, all he can say at the end, voice thick
with emotion, is ‘thank you’. 

The whole movie is infused with this sense of sadness – we as the audience know what’s waiting for Jiro and Nahoko – World War II is coming. So is Nahoko’s end. It’s a sombre, beautiful, heartfelt movie. And I loved it. 

I don’t see myself revisiting it for some time. The emotions hit so close to home I just have to sit and soak them up for a while. After that, I think the suffering is enough for it to be a movie I will think about but watch only rarely. But, what an impact it has had. I love it.