Porco Rosso is one Ghibli’s oddest but most enjoyable films

Porco Rosso (1992) was Ghibli Fest’s May film. Directed by Miyazaki, the film was originally planned to be a short inflight film for Japan Airlines. Eventually, it was decided that the movie would be a feature film shown in theaters. The airline still invested in the endeavor.

This is the reason why the opening text is in multiple languages.

Porto Rosso is the story of Porco Rosso, an ex-WWI fighter pilot who spends his time a pirate-chasing bounty hunter. He also happens to have the face of a pig that he claims is due to a curse. After defeating the Mama Aiuto gang, the pirates contract American pilot Donald Curtis to help them get rid of Porco.

Porco and Curtis. Guess which is which.

In a fight, Curtis takes down Porco’s plane and assumes him dead. Despite having a warrant out for his arrest, Porco heads to Italy to get his plane fixed by his most trusted mechanic.

Fio, the granddaughter of Porco’s most trusted mechanic, ends up fixing the plane instead. She also ends up accompanying him for his ultimate fight against Curtis. Only this time, there’s more at stake: If Porco wins, Curtis has to pay off Porco’s debt to Fio’s grandfather. If Curtis wins, he gets to marry Fio.

It has a little bit of everything Ghibli is known for: pirates, planes, pigs, action, adventure, a bit of romance and of course, a spunky good-hearted heroine who brings out the best in people. It’s a mixture of everything quintessentially Studio Ghibli, at its Ghibliest.

And at the same time, it’s the one movie that doesn’t really fit Miyazaki’s typical formula.

It’s very lighthearted compared to the other films. I kind of wish more of his films were like this. There is a good helping of humor here isn’t in the former films, and it definitely has the most quotable dialogue out of any of the Ghibli films. A particularly special shout out has to go to the iconic line: “I’d rather be a pig than a fascist.”

It’s also an oddly adult film in many ways; there’s not necessarily a lot of violence or gore but there’s a lot of focus on war presented in a way that’s very different from Miyazaki’s other films, and there’s a lot more innuendo.At least compared to the other movies I’ve seen. It’s not necessarily a film for younger audiences.

The part of the movie that feels most out of place, compared to other Ghibli films, is Fio and Porco’s relationship. Porco is a bit of a womanizer. That isn’t exactly out of place for a Ghibli male protagonist, but considering the age difference, it’s kind of odd.  Porco  doesn’t show much interest in Fio. Or at least he denies it because he knows that a relationship between them would not be possible.

Porco and Fio

And Porco also isn’t the greatest person; he’s kind of a chauvinist and doesn’t trust Fio or her female relatives to fix the plane. He does get called out for it; but it’s such a different behavior than what we normally see in Ghibli protagonists.

But he manages to remain likable and is probably one of the most complex and human of Ghibli’s protagonists. He’s cynical, snarky and depressed. He has issues with his  self-esteem due to his guilt from  watching his friends die.

Porco on his island

Despite all of this he still tries to do the right thing.

It’s Fio who has an immature view of romance, and who struggles with her feelings, even though it isn’t as obvious in the film. It’s painted as more innocent and almost as though she doesn’t quite understand the full implications of her behavior. It’s further implied in the film as all of her male relatives are off fighting, so it’s likely many of the boys her age are as well and she’s never had the chance to develop a relationship/

She also has this view that most of the world is pure and good hearted like her (to a point) and seems to bring out the best in people because of this attitude.  And it really shows. 

Fio and the pirates


The other characters are fascinating as well: Donald Curtis is definitely one of the most fascinating men in the Ghibli canon and the only American that comes to mind.

In a lot of ways, he seems similar to Porco: an egoistic womanizer. The difference is Curtis falls in love with every woman he meets, and he has no humility whatsoever. He also doesn’t have the same experience in war that Porco does.

But he’s entertaining. And has dreams of becoming an actor…then President. The irony that his first name is Donald was not lost on anyone in the audience.

I watched the film once before, in high school but it haw been so long that I didn’t really remember it. I enjoyed it a lot and it was like watching the film for the first time.

It was a great experience and a great movie.

The animation, as usual, is absolutely stunning. Especially the flying scenes. You can tell Miyazaki really let himself go buckwild; flying is one of his signature tropes. This film, if anything shows the power of flying: both the good and bad.

There’s been some rumors that Miyazaki has wanted to make a sequel to the film and I think that could be really interesting. The film leaves a lot of room for certain points to be expanded on and there’s always room for more character development, so it could work. It’s one of the few sequels I wouldn’t mind seeing.

Anyway, that’s the scoop.


Score:  9/10

Available: DVD


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