Hayao Miyazaki Anime 'The Wind Rises' Bows in Japan to $9.6 Million

Miyazaki's Oscar-winning "Spirited Away" (2001) is still the biggest grossing film ever at the Japanese box office.

The anime master's first film in five years had the country's biggest opening of 2013 so far, bumping "Monsters University" from the top spot.

TOKYO – Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu), the first film in five years from the anime master, took $9.6 million (960 million yen) in two days over the weekend, the biggest opening of the year in Japan.

Opening on more than 450 screens, The Wind Rises saw nearly 750,000 admissions on Saturday and Sunday, knocking Monsters University off the top of the box office rankings two weeks after the Disney toon set the record for the year’s biggest bow.

PHOTOS: 'Monsters University' Premiere: A Frightening Good Time

The Wind Rises is attracting older audiences more than most productions from Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, with its story based on the lives of the designer of the Zero -- a World War Two fighter plane -- and a novelist of the same period, combined into one character.

While the choice of an engineer who designed one of the most feared wartime machines as a central character sounds like a surprising one for outspoken pacifist Miyazaki, the film focuses on the personal life of the man during a tumultuous time, according to the director.

STORY: 'Monsters University' Tops Japanese Box Office With $20 Million in 9 Days

The main character is named Jiro, after Zero designer Jiro Horikoshi, but also based on the life of Tatsuo Hori, who wrote a book called Kaze Tachinu (The Wind has Risen). Miyazaki created a manga based on the book that was published in 2009. Jiro is voiced by Hideaki Anno, creator of cult anime Evangelion, in his first such role.  

Miyazaki’s last film, Ponyo (Gake no Ue no Ponyo), took more than $150 million in Japan, while his 2001 Oscar-winning Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) remains the highest grossing Japanese film of all time with 30.4 billion yen -- $304 million at today’s exchange rates.

Three of the top five all-time box office earners in Japan are Miyazaki productions.


Twitter: @GavinJBlair