'The Wind Rises' topped the Japanese
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Veteran toon-maker courts controversy, but refuses retirement

TOKYO — “The Wind Rises” (Kaze Tachinu), the latest toon by hit-making maestro Hayao Miyazaki, has blown away the competition and opened atop the Japanese BO.

It earned $9.66 million from 747,451 admissions in the first two days following its July 20 bow on 453 screens. It is distributed in Japan by Toho and overseas by Disney.

The B.O. figure is slightly lower than the opening weekend for Miyazaki’s previous toon, the 2008 “Ponyo,” which finished its first run with $155 million. But “The Wind Rises” is likely to easily cross the $100 million line, making it number one at the Japanese BO for the year to date.

In the run up to the release, Miyazaki came in for an unusual degree of criticism. In an interview with Studio Ghibli’s own Neppu publicity organ, he made remarks on the subject of ‘comfort women’ (women mostly from China and Korea who were enslaved by the Japanese army and used as prostitutes) and said that not enough had been done to make reparations. He was criticized as “un-Japanese” in some quarters who think the subject is better left alone.

Set mostly in the interwar years, “The Winds Rises” is an old-fashioned tear-jerker, if with an anti-war slant. It traces the career of famed “Zero” fighter designer Jiro Horikoshi, while mixing in a story of tragic love based on the 1938 novelette “Kaze Tachinu” (The Wind Has Risen) by Tatsuo Hori.

Miyazaki, 72, denies any intention to retire, but his pace is slowing, at least as a helmer. “The Winds Rises” is his first feature toon in five years, though he has been busy as a script writer and supervisor for other pics from Studio Ghibli, the toon house he co-founded, including “The Secret World of Arrietty” (2010) and “From Up on Poppy Hill” (2011).

A box office king in Japan for more than two decades, he directed the highest-ever earning Japanese film, the 2001 “Spirited Away,” which raked in $ 306 million domestically and won a Best Animation Oscar.

“Monsters University,” the previous week’s top BO pic, fell to number two on the national chart.  The only other Hollywood titles in the top ten were “Fast & Furious 6″ and “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D,” with seven of the top ten taken by local Japanese titles.
 

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