It is of my opinion that Porco Rosso is one of Studio Ghibli’s most under-appreciated films. The majority of the film is a masterpiece of atmosphere, drama, steady pacing, and character execution. We are treated to a subtle but beautiful celebration of women, which is what gave this film the extra boost into my personal favorites. The aviation animation is stunning and the story is an engaging romp!
Kurenai no buta
Historical | Drama | Romance | Fantasy | Adventure
1992 | 94 minutes | PG
Mysteriously cursed with the face of a pig, an Italian WWI fighter ace now known as Porco Rosso (meaning Red Pig) flies solo in the skies in his beautiful red sea plane, a bounty hunter who chases sea plane pirates. However, when a particular batch of angry bandits hires a Texan to take Porco down, his beloved plane is damaged. Going back to Italy for help, Porco meets Fio, the engineer who will push him back into honor and heroism.
This movie is drenched in playful romanticism of yesteryear, with sea planes, air bandits, big Italian families, hidden coves, and lost love. While this story is grounded in reality (a departure from Ghibli’s usual fantasy settings) make no mistake that this film isn’t any fun! It’s terribly fun to say the least!
While the film has plenty of good, playful humor, the story is also easy to take seriously, as most of the characters are adults. The pacing is also more steady, following character driven actions, which allows the film to pick up speed properly. Yet the more mature elements are balanced by some fun humor and characters reminiscent of the pirates from Castle in the Sky–all combined, Porco Rosso has an advantage of being a balanced, incredibly fun film for kids and adults alike.
Porco was an a serious yet endearing character–he’s actually a rather mature character, starting off as a womanizer and playing around the law as a bounty hunter and part pig. Still, I found myself drawn into his story and really enjoyed watching him handle pirates, tell his backstory, and eventually fight for honor. He was a grey character–and he knew it too–and that’s always an intriguing type to follow.
The rest of the characters were all enjoyable. The villain was an funny American, which I really enjoyed seeing for a change. Porco’s old friend Gina was elegant and classy. The sea pirates were all silly fun with some good lines. My favorite character, though, is Fio, who remains one my favorite Ghibli women hands down
Smart and optimistic, Fio is the young engineer whose family aids Porco with his plane troubles. Porco responded to her working on his plane with a strong air of sexism, but Fio sweetly changed his mind by her smarts, cheer, and hard work. She doesn’t attack him for his sexism, she simply plays the player and snags his business: That’s what I especially love about her. She was an absolute joy to watch and she ended up playing an important part of the film’s ending and resolution, too!
The sound for this film is wonderful! I really love the English dub for this film, as English fits the European setting nicely. Michael Keaton is stellar as Marco the Red Pig–yep, another Batman plays a Ghibli character and it works wonderfully! The memorable voice of Susan Egon (Meg from Disney’s Hercules and Rin from Spirited Away) was beautiful as Gina. The voice actress for Fio was also perfect.
The soundtrack for this film is full of magic! From the romanticized melodies of the European 1920’s, the playful comedy tunes, and the fanfare pieces that play with the aerial fighting, the music really gives the film that extra dimension! It’s also that special element that builds the film’s nostalgic atmosphere.
The animation in this film is so gorgeous–with wonderful voice acting befitting each character, and music that swelled with the sweep of the planes, the animation got to really shine! While the character designs are standard Ghibli fare, the animation for the planes is the special element here. All the motion is fluid and clean, and the planes are never hard to follow!
My one and only complaint for this entire film is that the final ten minutes of the plot is not satisfactory. While it didn’t ruin the film for me, it does weaken the film’s amazing buildup. I got over it on the rewatch though, as the film is amazing even with a disappointing last few minutes.
I was definitely surprised by this film and instantly fell in love on the first watch–I’ve replayed it at least four times and it gets better each time! The film starts slowly but you’re sucked into the story before you know it and become invested with the characters. The playful air of the film is engaging and the longing for past times so nostalgic, so all in all, this is one of Ghibli’s best adventure films!
Star Rating: 4.5/5 | Rewatchability: High | Definition: “I’d Rather Be A Pig Than A Facsit”