Madman Entertainment/AV Channel .
R4 . COLOR . 93 mins .
PG . PAL
Porco Rosso is known as one of legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s least accessible works. A modern, post-WWI Italian setting replaces the fantasy of so many of his other films, but remains remarkably rich in detail and depth. His three dimensional characters remain, and amazing visual skills are pushed to the furthest extent. Released in 1992, as Miyazaki’s fifth official film, it dawns his era of far more mature films. The concepts, as well as content in this film, in Princess Mononoke and as well as in his latest release Howl’s Moving Castle, are aimed at an older audience who can understand and evaluate the fascinating depth injected into his films. They stand as films with many different levels of meaning, which can be considered both fantastic entertainment and compelling food-for-thought. Producer Toshio Suzuki equates Porco Rosso well, when saying that “All of Miyazaki’s films prior to this were intended for children and adults, to enjoy together. This is really a film for adults.”
This film follows the troublesome journey of a humanoid pig, Porco Rosso, after his days in the Italian air force during WWI. He’s now taken to bounty hunting, rescuing precious hostages and funds from the air pirates that rule the Mediterranean Sea. His character is one of the greatest Miyazaki has ever created. This pig, living in a human world, and feeling human emotions, takes refuge in the solitary scope of the great skies – soaring above, alone and alive, reaching those in need and punishing those who are bent on wreaking havoc. Porco is a character we feel for. Not because Spielberg has worked his way into Ghibli offices and inserted that too-sweet-sentimentality into every frame, it is because he is such a real person. Yet he is a pig, and everyone around him is human. He embodies everything we yearn for – acceptance, adventure and ultimately love. Those who have ever been through a phase of despondence will see eye-to-eye with Porco on every turn. He is far more human than the humans around him.
His one love is Gina, who is unfortunately the love of the rest of the pilots, including the nasty air pirates. She runs a bar that houses the majority of the pilot crew, in which Porco frequents at night. From the first frame of her introduction, it’s clear that she’s very close to Porco, perhaps his one true friend. After having her former three husbands die, she can’t bring herself to love another man of the sky. As the film develops, we watch as their relationship moves through many different stages, until we’re left with a conclusion strangely reminiscent of Tobey Maguire’s in Spider-Man – but this time far more fulfilling. Porco Rosso features one of the best conclusions for this nature of film, satisfying, realistic and poignant. Absolutely outstanding.
"Yeah, how you doing?"
Porco eventually finds his match in an American pilot, Curtiss, who is arrogant, cocky and often incredibly hilarious. Using the aid of a 17-year old design student and about 50 other women, he builds an incredible aircraft capable of fantastic speeds and manoeuvres. One of my favourite acts of the film is in the building process of Porco’s new plane. The fantastic, bubbling atmosphere reminisce of the bathhouses in Spirited Away is a joy to watch. Porco’s typically anti-social traits shine through, often resulting in a number of very humorous scenes.
It’s interesting just how well Porco Rosso stands as a film. It doesn’t feature the same scope of beautiful imagery and metaphor found in Princess Mononoke or even Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, yet it stands as equal in terms of depth and innovation. It is simply very different. The detail of each different character’s seemingly insignificant idiosyncrasies adds infinite depth to the film, which is probably Porco Rosso’s finest quality. The visual beauty of this film is astounding, as Miyazaki sinks more depth into character animation than ever before. Joe Hisaishi, the usual Miyazaki composer, provides a fantastic and diverse score. Adding to the fantastic, romantic atmosphere of the film. Predominately set in Italy and over the Mediterranean, an appropriate continental-inspired theme pulls through at crucial moments.
The English dub featured on this release, the standard Disney job, is expectedly terrible. I’d advise everyone to steer clear from it completely. Of all English dubs of Miyazaki’s films, this is one of the worst. Far too melodramatic in scenes of drama, and all voice actors feel completely uninterested in their roles. As a side comment, I don’t understand why these dubs of Japanese animation are consistently terrible. English speaking people seem to dub their own films perfectly.
Porco soaking up the rays.
This transfer is very good, with fantastic detail and well-balanced colour. The only issue was the minimal aliasing. For reference purposes, it is virtually the same transfer as found on Madman’s release of Kiki’s Delivery Service. As with Madman’s other Ghibli releases, this is an NTSC -> PAL conversion (with the same running time as its NTSC counterpart), which can be taken as either an advantage or disadvantage – if you’re without NTSC compatible equipment its great, but if you prefer a true NTSC image (like most will) than a conversion this isn’t desirable.
Colours in this film, as with all Miyazaki’s, are incredibly rich. Warmer colours feature in this film fairly expansively, mainly the reds, oranges or yellows of the European towns or ‘set’ pieces. Thankfully, all colours are properly presented, never bleeding or appearing over-saturated.
The line detail is excellent, making this a crisp and tight transfer. However, the lines will occasionally appear aliased, which can be distracting. Thankfully, it isn’t as prominent as that of Princess Mononoke’s transfer, but it is still present. Miyazaki’s finely drawn backgrounds appear very detailed, as they should.
There’s a plain English subtitle steam, as well as an English for the Hearing Impaired stream (that’s matched with the deviant English dub). They’re both quite fine. I found that the regular English one could have been a little tighter, as a line would occasionally appear well before (and on other occasions remain well after) a line has been spoken. However this was a minor issue. I unfortunately can’t comment on the accuracy of the subtitles, but it reads very well and coherently, so I can imagine some minor deviation from the spoken Japanese word would have occurred.
We have two Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks, one with the original Japanese dub, another with the newer English dub. Neither soundtrack is surround encoded, using only the two front stereo channels.
They’re both good quality audio soundtracks. Dialogue in each mix is easy to hear and well defined at all times. There are many scenes involving a large number of sound effects (particularly those when dog-fighting), and dialogue always seems to be balanced well with the effects and music.
Hisaishi’s great score is well presented, in a dynamic, clear sound. No problems there at all.
The difference between soundtracks is subtle, but there. The English one is clearer, with less distortion (Japanese track audibly distorts on two brief occasions) and is more defined – sound effects and dialogue seem far more separate than in the Japanese. The original Japanese is clearly a far better dub, but in terms of audio quality the English track is virtually flawless. I personally prefer a warmer sound, so smoother the Japanese track was the obvious choice for me.
This extras set is similar to most others in the Studio Ghibli collection.
Oh noes! It's stuck!
Feature-length animated storyboards are the primary extra feature, selected using the alternate angle button on your DVD remote. These give insight into pre-production drawings and original ideas for scenes and characters. Fans of animation will be delighted, as the detail offered is exceptional. Casual viewers will find a quick 10-minute clip of the storyboards enough, as they’re interesting but often aren’t as diverse as the film itself.
As well as the storyboards is an interview with producer Toshio Suzuki. He comments on the film, and its intentions. As well as giving insight into how Hayao Miyazaki works, describing him as having “enormous attention to detail.” This is an interesting interview, but is only 3 minutes long. Something like the 50 minute production feature on the Spirited Away DVD would have proved a little more worthwhile!
This wave of Ghibli releases from Madman has its own trailer, advertising the three films in something of a triple-trailer. Theatrical trailers and TV spots from Porco Rosso’s original opening are also available.
Madman have done quite a good job with this DVD, at the same high standard found in the releases of Kiki’s Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke. Naturally, more extras would have been well received, and the NTSC conversion (rather than a natural PAL encode) is a minor issue. This is a film that would have suited a nice 5.1 soundtrack, but the original 2.0 is adequate.
Porco Rosso is an excellent film, a part of the Studio Ghibli Collection that is a must-own.