‘The Wind Rises’ is gorgeous, heartfelt

With a career that spans decades and a cornucopia of short and feature-length films  beloved around the world, Hayao Miyazaki belongs on the Mount Rushmore of animation right next to Walt Disney.

His films don’t get the same amount of publicity in this country as those bearing the Disney name, but most of them have been met with enormous amounts of critical acclaim and a devoted cult following, most notably with “Spirited Away,” which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2001.

Miyazaki’s latest work “The Wind Rises” is also apparently his last, as he claims that he is finally retiring at the age of 73. If he keeps his word, he went out on top, delivering a beautiful and touching story about the sometimes troublesome collision of dreams and reality.

The film is a fictionalized biography of Jiro Horikoshi (voiced in English by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a historical figure who designed the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, one of Japan’s most widely-used fighter planes during World War II.

It’s an intriguing premise for Miyazaki, whose films typically feature fantastical elements. Instead, “The Wind Rises” is entirely based in reality, with the exception of a handful of dream sequences.

Dreams are a central theme of the film, as Horikoshi’s childhood dreams of flying airplanes are dashed when he realizes his eyesight is too poor to ever be a pilot.

He chooses instead to devote his life to designing planes, a dream that clashes with the depressing reality of his designs inevitably being used for warfare by Japan’s government.

Intertwined with Horikoshi’s aeronautical ambitions is his romantic relationship with Naoko (voiced in English by Emily Blunt), the terminally-ill love of his life.

If there’s one negative thing to say about “The Wind Rises,” it’s that the film succumbs to the unfortunate trope of using Naoko’s mortality as a driving force for Horikoshi’s goals.

The story of their passionate but short-lived marriage really is incredibly sweet, but she could have been a stronger character.

Even so, everything else about “The Wind Rises” is amazing. The anime style will turn some people away, but they will be missing a gorgeous work of moving art where every frame is dripping with loving detail. Witnessing Horikoshi’s dreams quite literally take flight is a visual delight for the entire runtime. Miyazaki’s team at Studio Ghibli have made a terrific case for the continued existence of hand-drawn animation.

Foreign language films are almost always better in the original dialect, but the English dub of “The Wind Rises” is generally fine. Besides Gordon-Levitt and Blunt, the cast is packed with names like John Krasinski, William H. Macy, Stanley Tucci and Martin Short. Joe Hisaishi’s infectious musical score sets the mood beautifully.

If this is truly Miyazaki’s final film, he chose a great one to go out on. The touching love story intermingled with the theme of following dreams even when reality presents obstacles as well as an anti-war message make “The Wind Rises” one of the best animated films in recent memory.