Love always remains: a twenty-year-late review of Porco Rosso

It’s been twenty years but love remains as fresh and sweet as I could ever hope for.

The primer: Porco was a talented pilot and was considered by most to be war hero, at least before he left the air force and became the infamous freelance bounty hunter. The film, interestingly, did not depict Porco’s most daring adventure or achievement. Instead, it focus on the aging Porco in his most difficult time as his plane was falling to pieces and he got beaten by an arrogant American pilot, Curtis. He dragged his broken plane to Milan for repair and that’s where the real story began. Basically, the movie was about Porco’s rise back to his old glorious self by coming to terms with his painful past, reinvigorating his passion as a pilot, realizing his dormant love to Gina and possibly returning to human form. Oh right, I forgot to mention that he was turned to a pig by some sort of curse.

Why it is still relevant.

To be honest, when I first watched Porco Rosso back in my school days (read: I was a total nerd), the film was immediately categorized as ‘one of those lesser, forgettable Ghibli films’, right next to Pom Poko and Only Yesterday. World War I theme did not deliver much impact to me, as well as aviation and fist fights, though I would have to admit that having a pig as the leading man was quite interesting. Even after a decade has passed, those things did not change. But watching it today, the personal stories of Porco, Gina and Fio stood out to me. And it struck me; this was a great film! This film was no Laputa or Nausicaa. It’s much smaller in scale and much more personal in nature. It’s about a wounded man looking for redemption, a wounded woman waiting for her long lost love and a girl trying to prove her own worth. At its core, Porco Rosso tackled the most basic storyline and the most universally accessible, for adults.

Who put the curse on him?

It was never clearly revealed how Porco was turned into a pig. Did someone curse him? Or was it God, or was it himself? But that wasn’t the point, of course. Porco’s piggy curse represented his past, his pain and guilt. He was living under the shadows of his dead comrades during the war. The story he told Fio was the testament to that. Despite his love, he could not get close to Gina because she was his dead friend’s husband. He was waiting for redemption and forgiveness only himself could provide. Plus, when I tried to imagine Porco in his human form as the protagonist of the movie, he didn’t look very appealing at all. Not only did the pig persona added more depth to the movie, it also made the movie more fascinating.

The familiar elements.

Two elements were usually found in Miyazaki’s films; strong-willed women and flying. Porco Rosso was no exception. In fact, this film had lots of strong-willed women and was literally filled with flying scenes. Young Fio was very talented and thanks to her devotion, Porco’s plane was repaired. In my opinion, Fio did not really have to be female. It could have been the elder Piccolo himself or some young male apprentice and that would not have affected the overall plot line. Looking from the view of someone who has watched all Ghibli films, Fio’s character seemed a bit unoriginal. I almost felt like her character also served as a signature of Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli.

Less is more.

Wise-looking people usually said that ‘less is more’. Well, it’s true! Porco Rosso ended with only vague hints of what the viewers wanted to know the most; was Porco’s curse lifted and did he confess his love to Gina? The epilogue seemed to suggest that the answer was yes and yes, respectively. Did I want to see Porco and Gina standing together, holding hands on the hotel porch? Of course yes. But I had to admit that the way this movie ended was far classier and left longer lasting impression on my mind. The vague ending also helped separate this rather down-to-earth story from other high fantasy, fairy tale-style conclusion. It meant that Porco and Gina’s lives went on even after the movie ended. This was not the film in which everyone lived happily ever after. Lives continue and everyday is a new adventure.

My impression: It’s been years since the last time I watched Porco Rosso. Watching it now, I was blown away by how romantic this anime was. Porco and Gina’s unrequited love was not new but it was brilliantly told. The music, art works and, believe it or not, the dated-looking animation only made the film even sweeter. Porco Rosso also made good use of both loud and quiet moments. The action and comedic scenes were as noisy and chaotic as you could imagine but the quiet, tranquil moments with great landscape shots and lovely melodies by Joe Hisaishi were the ones that really got to me. In conclusion, Porco Rosso might not be as significant as or regarded as highly as other Ghibli icons like the cuddly Totoro or the flying castle of Laputa. But Porco Rosso remained a great piece of anime and one of those that stood the test of time.

Rating: A


Title: Porco Rosso
Genre: action, fantasy
Released date: July 18, 1992
Running time: 94 minutes
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Animated by: Studio Ghibli

Important announcement: I am having board exam on December 21. And it is a matter of life and death for my future career. So my next update will be after the examination. I actually have many things to write about and it’s killing me not being able to release them right away.

14 responses to “Love always remains: a twenty-year-late review of Porco Rosso

  1. Man, it’s like everywhere I look is PORCO ROSSO. I like really got to get this anime off my plan to watch list. Ghibli films should already be long gone off that list actually :P

  2. My favorite Ghibli film, for the Roald Dahl influence and the sweet flying scenes. I’m not a Ghibli Girls fan but I like Fio a lot, any girl who tinkers with machines is great in my book.

    Good luck with the exam!

    • Thanks! I’ll surely need lots of luck when the time comes. Personally, my favorite Ghibli girl trait is the ability to wield weapons (Mononoke hime comes to mind). ^^

  3. Once I watched about 20 minutes of this movie. Something always gets in the way of me finishing it.

    • The slowest part of the movie was around 20 minutes into it. So that’s the time when we naturally start thinking about something else. That happened to me, too.

  4. Good luck with your board exam, Canne! What’s the exam for, exactly?
    I haven’t seen Porco Rosso, but it looks like a Ghibli film I might be all right with. It seems to have a quieter atmosphere a bit more in line with Kiki and Arietty, which I enjoyed a lot more than the more adventurous types of films Miyazaki has gone for in the past.

  5. I’ve seen a good portion of Ghibli films. The two I want to see a lot though is A Whisper of The Heart and Porco Russo. I hope I’ll like this more than Totoro O.o

  6. This work of art is best desribed as an epic masterpiece, I felt the plot, characthers and music truly captivates and stand the test of time. Porco Rosso sure is more enjoyable to me than Ponyo or Howl Moving Castle ever will be….

    • Thanks.
      I also felt more connected with Porco Rosso, compared to Ponyo and Howl. Despite all three’s fantasy setting, Porco Rosso had real, poignant feeling that I could instantly relate to.

  7. where are you from ? admin

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