a.k.a. Kurenai no Buta
During the beginning years of the Great Depression, life in the Mediterranean has become difficult. Aerial pirate raids are gaining in frequency, thus requiring the need for capable “bodyguards”. One of the best is a pig known as Porco Rosso. Once a human and an ace pilot during World War I, he now freelances his services to those in distress. The fascist regime that has taken over the Italian Air Force has grown tiresome of his exploits and places a bounty on his head. On top of that, a hotshot flyer from the United States arrives and not only wants to steal Porco Rosso’s glory, but also the woman he loves so dearly.
summary by Kain
Highs: Genius direction; grade A art and animation; curmudgeon main character; smart dialogue and script
Lows: I wanted more background information
Many anime fans new to Miyazaki Hayao often view his films as vehicles for social commentary, frequently relying on the tried and true philosophical debate of man versus nature. Because of the broad scope such a debate entails, these works tend to be epic in scale, which adds enormously to their complexity and popularity. Where I think Miyazaki really shines is when his stories are more intimate and personal. Few films do this as brilliantly as Porco Rosso.
Feeling like a cross between Laputa: Castle in the Sky and Kiki’s Delivery Service, this anime takes the best elements of both and melds them into one helluva movie. The locales (sometimes Milan, Italy, other times in the middle of the Adriatic) are absolutely lively and breathtaking. Oh, and don’t get me started on the flying sequences! No one does thrilling action quite the way Miyazaki can, and this anime showcases his best work to date in that regard.
However, what really caught my eye was the script and the overall presentation. I could not think of a better way to combine the action, humor and drama, which is probably why I write about anime rather than make them, but I digress. The character of Porco Rosso is symbolic of just about every middleage man out there and is a very interesting study; his miserly, subdued outlook on life helps make him an unpredictable core to this film. Why a pig, though? His mysterious, frustrating past of lost friends and unrequited love disillusioned him about his own humanity, and therefore he became a pig to escape his troubles.
Because of time constraints and the general flow of events, I craved some more insight into his past, but this is a minor quibble. While it has a strong romantic component, Porco Rosso is not about lustful attraction as it is about love based on familiarity. For this reason I recommend this anime more to adults, as they will likely get the most out of it.
Highs: Fun-filled; inspiring; flawless art, animation and music
Lows: More material needed on the historical setting and, to a lesser degree, characters
If you are familiar with most of Miyazaki‘s earlier works, it is easy to realize Porco Rosso is an anime this legendary director has longed to do for a lifetime. His passion for planes was finally given full focus in this instant classic. You can also tell he gave this project based on his own manga everything he had by the breath-taking flight scenes, charming characters and scrupulous plane designs.
The brilliance of detailed artwork sometimes cracks under the strain of movement; as far as Porco Rosso‘s animation is concerned, there is none smoother. Completing the technical hat trick is Hisaishi Jo‘s usual virtuosity; solitude, love and dogfights have their fitting pieces to completely devote another of our senses to this work of art. What’s a greatly animated movie without engaging performers? From the Crimson Pig himself to the most trifling extra, all characters stand out in their own way. They are vibrant. They are alive. They also make it easy for us to switch from mockery to compassion when subject to the capricious mood of this anime.
Where Porco Rosso leaves room for amelioration is in its slightly neglected setting. This anime being historically accurate (perhaps with the exception of a walking and talking pig), I would have appreciated more data on Italy’s political state after the First Great War and the government’s concern with Marco. A pilot’s point of view is moderately depicted but not enough to fully explore the characters’ frames of mind. The typical young, strong-willed Miyazaki heroine Fio also has potential for development, but hers and that of Marco fell slightly short of my expectations.
Such imperfections are only noticed after the movie is over, though. During the movie, I was only preoccupied with not falling off the edge of my seat because of the riveting action, sidesplitting humor and moving drama that succeed themselves with no respite.
Highs: Great characters; gorgeous animation; fantastic soundtrack
Lows: More background information would have been nice
Few directors could make an interesting film about an ace pilot who also happens to be a pig. With Porco Rosso, Miyazaki does just that and makes a compelling, engrossing film that truly shines as one of his best works. This is quite a change from most of his works in that it feels like a far more personal story compared to his more epic anime, such as Laputa or Princess Mononoke. What makes this anime so special is an amazing combination of wonderful characters, a breathtaking setting and amazing flight scenes.
The relationship between Marco and Fio, the film’s main protagonists, is exceptional, and from the very first time the pair appears on screen together, there is instant chemistry. Although Marco is quite different from many of Miyazaki’s other hero characters, he is just as likable, if not even more so, thanks to his older, more skeptical demeanor. The film’s only real problem is that, in the end, it leaves you dying to know more about Marco and his past. Some questions are never fully answered, but this is only a minor complaint and serves as a testament to the quality of Marco’s character. The other secondary characters are all terrific, as well. The wide array of air pirates is hilarious, and each pirate has his own, unique personality. And although they are the “villains” of the film, it’s hard not to like them, too.
Adding to the great cast is an absolutely topnotch presentation. The animation is simply gorgeous; the various settings in Milan and Italy are brought to life with beautiful detail and serve as an amazing backdrop for Marco’s story. The real highlight of the animation is the flight scenes, though. Planes fluidly flying over the ocean and maneuvering gracefully up into the skies are truly a sight to behold. Topping it all off is yet another amazing soundtrack from Hisaishi Jo. To put it simply, this is a fantastic anime to see and hear.
Of all of Miyazaki’s works, Porco Rosso is easily my personal favorite. It combines interesting characters with a fantastic presentation. It’s easy to be skeptical about a movie about a pig pilot, but every anime fan deserves to see this terrific film.
Porco Rosso can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.