Moreover, by choosing Horikoshi as his protagonist, Miyazaki was able to emphatically separate the roots of Horikoshi’s motivation from nationalist sentiment. Though he cared deeply about Japan – he repeatedly lamented how poor and backward Japan was – Horikoshi was emphatically NOT driven by a desire for the greater glory of imperial Japan. And yet he had to live and work there. He had to compromise. Whether or not Horikoshi’s particular division between private and public life was appropriate is an issue.
Could he really act as though his engineering prowess were his own while he worked for a company that made planes for a war he thought was futile? That’s a reasonable question, a good question. By putting it on the table Miyazaki emphasizes the fact that life often puts us in challenging and uncomfortable circumstances where we have to do things we do not like. How can one live in such circumstances? That’s what’s at stake in this film. (As an exercise, compare Horikoshi’s situation with that of Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now.)