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Film Review: Porco Rosso
In 1992, Hayao Miyazaki released Porco Rosso, based off the watercolor manga Hikotei Jidai, also written by Miyazaki. Starring Shuichiro Moriyama, Akio Otsuka, Tokiko Kato, Tsunehiko Kamijo, Sanshi Katsura, Akemi Okamura, Reizo Nomoto, Osamu Saka, and Yuu Shimaka with Michael Keaton, Cary Elwes, Susan Egan, Brad Garrett, David Ogden Stiers, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Bill Fagerbakke, Kevin Michael Richardson and Frank Welker providing English voices, the film was the #1 film on the Japanese market for 1992, earning 2.8 billion in distribution income. It was selected as the Prix du long metrage at the 1993 Annecy International Animated Film Festival and made Time Out’s list of Top 50 animated films.
Veteran World War I flying ace and freelance bounty hunter Marco Pagot has been transformed into an anthropomorphic pig due to an unusual curse and is now known as Porco Rosso. Though he makes his living flying a crimson seaplane and doing battle with pirates, they hire an American actor named Donald Curtis to take him down. Now, pursued by a fascist military he deserted long ago, he takes the fight to the pirates with a teenaged sidekick named Fio.
Though a bit stranger than other films put out by Studio Ghibli, Porco Rosso managed to continue the studio’s reputation as a fantastic film. It presents a wonderful inner personal conflict within its main character and his turmoil over something he can’t forgive himself for that he did during the war. He sees a battle in which he survived and the rest of his squad didn’t, with him retreating after everyone else had been shot down, as his greatest failure and believes himself a coward because of it. As such, it’s made him into a cynic that thinks he’s nothing but a bloated fiend that doesn’t deserve a happy ending. His feelings about himself can be seen when he’s watching an Italian propaganda film that’s blatantly against him and he ends up calling it a great movie. What’s very interesting is that the film implies he begins to see something in himself during the climax when Gina shows up while Porco and Curtis are having their brawl. While the audience doesn’t see it, Curtis’ face after Gina declares her love for the latter and he ends up winning said fight implies that he has forgiven himself and he realizes he’s more than he thinks he is, causing Porco to become Marco once more.
What’s really interesting is even though Porco hates himself through most of the film, he still sees his desertion from the fascist military as an honorable thing, shown when he says he’d rather be a pig than a fascist. It’s a notable point made by Miyazaki in how a man may believe himself to be the world’s greatest failure and undeserving of any form of happiness but that doesn’t mean that he can’t choose to take the high ground. It’s a great method to show that anyone is capable of making the right choice if they so choose to.
The film’s main women, Gina and Fio, are also very interesting characters. For one, the former is able to run a café where she’s able to keep both the pirates and Porco at bay from each other and have neither party make any trouble. The film also shows how much they both respect and find her attractive as when it looks like a fight is about to start, all she needs to do is gently remind them and they settle down and fall over themselves while doing so. How all the pirates around the fight between Curtis and Porco at the end make way for her as she’s coming through also speaks to how Gina commands respect. As for Fio, she may be a teenager, but she’s very strong-willed and is quite accomplished in her aviation mechanics capabilities. What’s more is she’s seen as being the eternal optimist, shown when she’s thinking of ways to help turn Porco back into a human, which involves thinking that their lives are like the Frog Prince.
The pirates are also quite the characters, seeing as they’ve got a lot of honor and depth to them and they aren’t just the remorseless plunderers seen in other films. This can all be seen in the beginning of the film when they may take an entire class of little girls hostage, but they don’t hurt them and actually take the whole class because they don’t want to split any of them up.
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