Porco Rosso (impressions)
This page contains links to critical and fan reactions to the film Porco Rosso.
Please visit Rotten Tomatoes for an exhaustive list of US-based reviewers.
Anime News Network
9 February 2015
By Michael Toole
The movie theater needs innovative and challenging storytelling, but it also needs great adventures. Long before he'd turned into something of a tale-spinning avatar for natural and spiritual forces in conflict with the human world, Hayao Miyazaki was really good at depicting great adventures. This knack for high adventure turned up in some of his earliest animation work, like the big tank battle in The Flying Ghost Ship, and it would be writ large on his TV efforts, Future Boy Conan and Sherlock Hound. But by the time 1992 and Porco Rosso rolled around, Miyazaki was becoming better-known for his whimsical family-oriented crowd-pleasers My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service. Porco Rosso, adapted from the 1989 short manga “The Age of the Flying Boat,” which ran in the magazine Model Graphix, would be a suitable return to form.
The majority of Miyazaki's films aren't really about a specific time and place, but Porco Rosso is. It takes place above the pale blue Adriatic Sea sometime in the late 1920s (the manga places the year at 1929, but this isn't explicitly mentioned in the film), just far enough away from the Italian mainland to keep the Carabinieri from taking notice of the area's numerous legally dubious activities, like smuggling, unsanctioned aerial dogfighting, and air piracy. Miyazaki creates a very vivid, compelling world, a world where gentry take seaplanes and ferries to offshore dinner parties and gambling excursions. There's a scene early in the film when the title character pulls up to his friend Gina's hotel, a sort of pension that occupies almost all of a tiny island. As he maneuvers his plane towards the dock, a helper in a white coat arrives to assist him: a valet parker for seaplanes, of course.
What of Porco Rosso the man, the so-called “Crimson Pig?” He's a war veteran named Marco Pagot. (Coincidentally, there's an Italian animation producer with the same name. By pure coincidence, he'd worked with Miyazaki a decade earlier.) Porco flies a lethally fast red seaplane, which is called into service when the Mamma Aiuto gang of air pirates appears to harass freighters and pleasure cruises. We learn this quickly, as Porco closes in on his prey. The pirates, led by a hulking, bearded giant who looks like he just walked out of an E.C. Segar comic strip, have taken a bunch of schoolkids hostage, and it's here we learn that the fierce air pirates aren't quite up to the task of keeping a pack of unruly kindergartners occupied. Joe Hisaishi's musical score takes on a circus-like tone as Porco dauntlessly circles the pirate vessel, demanding the return of the loot and the prisoners. It's here that we also learn that Porco's bounty-hunting operation isn't exactly above-board, either: he offers the pirates a sliver of the loot in exchange for their surrender, so they can bounce back and give him quarry later. Is Porco Rosso running something of a protection racket?
The great unspoken aspect of the ace pilot is that he has, by way of some mysterious curse, the facial features of a pig—the floppy ears, the round face, the protruding snout, it's all there. The pig face seems absurd at first; it looks cartoonishly unreal compared to its meticulously realistic surroundings. But then you start to notice the way others around Porco treat it as a passing curiosity, at best. When pressed into combat or plied with a bottle of wine, the pilot's brow furrows charmingly, a rakish grin emerges, and then you realize that his curse is more of an inward burden than an outward one. Porco goes to see his old friend Gina, the hotel proprietress. Heavy with the news of her third husband's passing, she begs her friend not to die. But with the frustrated air pirates enlisting the services of an American ace to go after Porco, death might be in the cards, or at the very least, a really awesome plane battle.
If you're scratching your head over this film's razor-sharp depiction of amphibious aircraft, it's not strictly down to Miyazaki and his famous love of aviation. Italian seaplanes were among the fastest and most exciting planes in the world during the 1920s and 1930s; the Macchi MC-72 held the overall world speed record for several years, and is still the fastest seaplane on record. When Porco meets his American adversary, Donald Curtis (a great rival by the way -- a gallant, trash-talking caricature of Errol Flynn), he mentions the man's famous victory in the 1925 Schneider Cup. In real life, that trophy was claimed by future WWII hero Jimmy Doolittle — but he flew a Curtiss R3C-2 in the race. Clever man, that Miyazaki. The constant presence of seaplanes seems a bit quaint at times, but it's a perfect fit for an adventure film.
Looking past the dogfights over the shining Adriatic, what's Porco Rosso about, really? It turns out that there isn't that much under this film's hood. Compared to rich, thematically complex films like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, Porco Rosso feels stripped down, streamlined. But it hits some poignant notes — it's a movie about a haunted war vet who can't find the strength to put himself out of harm's way. It's about lost love, and about yearning — the movie opens with Porco listening to “Le Temps des Cerises” on the radio, a late-1800s chanson of love lost and yet pursued, and later in the film Gina reprises it. When Porco brings his wrecked plane to Milan to be fixed, he's forced to accept his mechanic's brilliant granddaughter Fio as his flight engineer, and so the film is also about an older man finding hope in the next generation.
I barely need to touch on this, but I will say that in 1080p, Porco Rosso shimmers and sparkles. Here is a movie that looked good on DVD, and now looks even better on Blu-Ray. There aren't any new extras for the blu-ray version, but since the original extras — the standard storyboard sequence, plus on-camera chats with the American cast and the film's producer Mr. Suzuki — are included, that's fine. If I have any complaints about this release, it's just that we had to wait so damn long to get it. Actually, I have one other complaint, too—the cover art sucks. Seriously, just look at that logo, and the choice of key art. I suppose it isn't terrible, but it's nowhere near evocative enough of the film contained within. I'm very happy to have this movie in high definition, though.
Disney dub adaptations are always worth mentioning, and Porco Rosso is no exception. Since the film takes place in Europe, it feels natural to watch it in a multitude of languages. I like Shuichiro Moriyama's gruff snappiness as Porco in the Japanese version, so Michael Keaton's performance made for an interesting contrast. He turns in a more subdued delivery that improves as the film goes on and is surprisingly affecting, but not quite so effective as the weary, smoky reading of the great Jean Reno, who anchors my preferred version, the French dub! Thankfully, it's included in this release as well. Broadway veteran Susan Egan is a fine choice for Gina, and rises to the occasion, but she's just not as talented a singer as Tokiko Kato in the original Japanese version. Sitcom aunt Kimberly Williams-Paisley is my preferred Fio, however — she's full of energy and charm.
I haven't mentioned Fio much, because despite being a key character, she's kind of a cipher. She wins over both the reluctant Porco and the vengeful air pirates in record time, and while she does carry the movie into one of its best scenes, a riotous montage of the neighborhood ladies of every age converging on the shop to build the plane (the men are away looking for work, you see), we just never learn much about her. If the film makes one wrong move, it's in not affording Fio a little more time to develop.
Porco Rosso actually hit wide release as an in-flight movie, because it was partially bankrolled by Japan Airlines. It's a fitting connection, isn't it? After all, we all know that Hayao Miyazaki sits at a drafting table, crafting amazing stories and compelling animation, but he dreams of planes. In Porco Rosso, we see the airplane as transportation, and a tool of war, but also as a symbol of Marco's lingering wartime baggage, and ultimately the instrument of his redemption. Marco's seaplane is also the framework for a truly thrilling and heartwarming adventure. Even in the face of The Wind Rises, this is still Miyazaki's most personal film. I believe that Porco Rosso is what his dreams must look like.
The Ghibli Blog
25 February 2005
By Daniel Thomas MacInnes
Whenever I want to show a Hayao Miyazaki movie to someone who has never heard of Studio Ghibli, I'll almost always go for Porco Rosso. Of all their great movies, it's this one that best embodies all the great traits and characteristics of the great film studio. It has adventure, imagination, and great humor; but it's also quiet and often reflective, a nostalgic romanticism.
Porco Rosso is a story set in the Adriatic in 1929, during the early days of the Great Depression and the rise of Italian fascism. The main character is a pilot named Marco, who was a legendary fighter pilot in the Great War and now works as a bounty hunter and lives alone on an island. Marco also happens to be a pig.
By that, I mean he's crude and lazy. He's put on pounds in middle-age. He can be rather blunt and he carries some sexist attitudes towards women. In other words, he's a damned pig.
You can always tell you're dealing with an unimaginative soul when he or she can't figure out, good glavin, why does this guy look like a pig? It's as if they never discovered the novel concept of the metaphor. The icon, as Scott McCloud calls it. As his great polemic Understanding Comics puts it, all visual art is abstract and symbolic. Icons are merely the symbols, the language, that we have commonly agreed upon. This is not an airplane. This is not a pig.
One of the great joys of watching a Miyazaki film is seeing how he brings a painter's instinct to movies. If Porco Rosso were a live-action movie, Marco would be played by some middle-aged actor channeling Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. But animation doesn't deal in reality; it deals in abstraction and symbolism. Marco as a pig is a great touch of caricature.
In a Disney picture, this point would be literalised and drowned in cliches like magic spells and fairy godmothers. Miyazaki wisely prefers to play it straight; the director depends on his emotional honesty. This also has the benefit of setting up the best line in the picture, "I'd rather be a pig than a fascist."
This isn't a movie about Italian airplanes and firefights, but about people and relationships. Its focus on Marco as disillusioned and cynical is a personal self-portrait by Miyazaki. Of all the characters he has created over the years, it's Marco that he most closely identifies with. As My Neighbor Totoro was a personal film about his childhood, Porco Rosso is Miyazaki's self-portrait of midlife.
Those of us in the West, when discovering Miyazaki, draw upon his sweeping romanticism and sense of kindness. But if you invest enough time with his work, particularly his Nausicaä graphic novel, you discover an artist always in conflict. On one side, we have his love of nature, his idealism. On the other side, we see the doubt and cynicism, his world-weariness and realism.
Very often, these traits are embodied in the two female leads, what I'd call Miyazaki's "two sisters." The younger "sister" is the idealist, the older "sister" the realist. There are minor variations from film to film, but the same pattern is always present.
I think this is why girls and women are so strongly developed in his movies, so fully portrayed and emotionally honest. In Porco Rosso, the "older sister" is a woman named Gina who owns a restaurant and has known Marco since childhood. She's a wonderfully self-assured, independent person, but also wise to the ways of the world, and maybe a little sad.
The "younger sister" is a 17-year-old redhead named Fio, the granddaughter of a mechanic Marco turns to when his plane is damaged in an ambush. True to form, she is a firebrand, and also a skilled mechanic who rebuilds the plane while withstanding Marco's wisecracks. Eventually, she leaves with Marco, and the two develop a special bond together.
I think the greatest strength of Porco Rosso lies in how gradually, how casually, the extent of Gina and Marco's relationship is revealed. Most people will say the picture's best scene is Marco's story of what happened to him in the war (revealing, in a sense, why he lost faith in humanity), which is taken from a Roald Dahl short story called They Shall Not Grow Old. It's a great moment, there's a better scene.
In this scene, Gina is sitting in her garden, weathering marriage proposals from Donald Curtis, a bumbling Errol Flynn-ish rival to Marco. She's discreetly cutting him off at the knees, in that way old Hollywood starlets could do. She reveals, in so many words, that she's in love with the fat pig, and is waiting for him to show up and do something about it. At that moment, she hears a sound, and rushes out to see Marco in his familiar red plane. As he performs a series of loops, Gina suddenly recalls an old memory from childhood: the first time she flew in a plane with Marco.
It's all so wonderful, one of the great romantic moments in the movies. If you're not moved to tears, then you should probably go to a doctor. There's something seriously wrong with you.
I don't think Porco Rosso could be made in America. The temptation would be too strong to merely pile on one chase scene after another, at the expense of the characters; we see the wreckage at the multiplexes nearly every week. Miyazaki certainly is a master of action comparable to Eisenstein, Ford, and Kurosawa, but he also has little patience for simple melodrama and often depicts boys' violence as childish and silly. The odd collection of air pirates are more rivals than villains, and their screwball antics are played for comedy.
The reason the climactic air duel between Marco and Curtis is so good is because it's the only major action set-piece in the entire movie. The whole story is building up to this moment, and it's a terrific payoff. Then Miyazaki does something no American director would dare: he takes all the air out of the tires and turns the whole thing into a farce. These two pilots are reduced to hurling wrenches in mid-air and throwing punches.
The movie's final exclamation mark is another touching moment of affection, this time between Marco and Fio. It's a farewell romantic gesture for a passing era, of a world sliding towards fascism and the hell it will unleash. The world as we know it may be ending, but at least we have one another. It's the grand theme of one of cinema's great masters.
The Japan Times
28 July 1992
By Mark Schilling
Japan, as most of us know, has a deep-rooted cartoon culture and legions of devoted cartoon fans of all ages. Not only the kids, but Dad stretched out on the tatami with his Kirin and edamame watch manga on the tube.
According to a recent survey by A.C. Nielson, the highest-rated program for men aged 35 to 49 is "Sazae-san." "Chibi Maruko-chan" follows in seventh place, ahead of "Pro Baseball Sunday Nighter."
So it should come as no surprise that top anime director Hayao Miyazaki ("Tonari no Totoro," "Majo no Takkyubin," "Omoide Poroporo") has made a film aimed, as the director said in a memo to his animators, at "tired, middle-aged men." His film, "Kurenai no Buta (The Crimson Pig)," stars Porco Rosso, an Italian World War I flying ace of the porcine persuasion.
Though approaching middle age, Porco is hardly tired; instead, he flies his snazzy red hydroplane, scouring the skies for air pirates. The year is 1920 and the air space over the Adriatic Sea is infested with gangs of cashiered fliers who prey on cruise-ship passengers. Porco makes his living by saving the pirates' victims and collecting rewards.
Yes, Miyazaki's is a Mickey Mouse world, where history and reality take a partial vacation. But though the hero may be a pig, he is no cousin to Porky.
How many kiddie cartoon characters smoke cigarettes with a Continental insouciance, carry a torch for a thrice-widowed chanteuse, and live alone in a tent on a desert island, in a disillusioned retreat from the world?
And how many start life as a dashingly handsome man, in love with a pretty young girl (the chanteuse), and later decide, by means of unspecified magic, to grow a snout and triangular ears?
This, in other words, is no ordinary anime and Miyazaki is no ordinary anime director. Like that other master of the medium, Walt Disney, Miyazaki is something of a genius and something of a flake - and sometimes it is hard to tell which is which. Was it the genius or the flake who decided to abandon his hugely successful chidren's anime, including "Totoro," for more "adult," "personal" themes?
Commercially, this move was an undoubted stroke of genius. "Omoide Poroporo," his first [sic] anime targeted squarely at adults, was a monster hit last year. Artistically, however, I have to wonder.
Stripped of its wonderfully realized animation, "Kurenai no Buta" is mock-Hemmingway pretentious, with Porco as a mucho macho Papa figure, and '30s B-picture silly, with a story that Barton Fink may have stolen from an "Action Stories" comic book.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around a rivalry between Porco and an Errol Flynnish American pilot who flies with the pirates. Defeated by his rival in a dogfight, Porco takes his battered plane to Milan. When he arrives at the repair hangar, he is greeted by the wizened proprietor and his saucy young grandaughter, Fio.
Fio, as it turns out, is an aircraft designer, and a good one. We know that Porco, the chauvinist pig, will refuse her services and that Fio will win him over at the end.
We don't know, however, that Grandpa will hire local women to rebuild the plane (all the men are away, working in distant cities) -- and that Porco will sit contentedly watching them, while absentmindedly rocking a cradle.
Here we see Miyazaki's knack for bringing a scene to fresh, vibrant life - and for humanizing his cartoon heroes.
Then the plane takes off, with Fio aboard, and we head back to comic-book country. After the pirates ambush them at the island hideaway, Fio spunkily dresses down their leader (How dare he destroy the the plane they worked so hard to build!) and dares the American to fight Porco in an air duel.
This scene is both pulpy and primal; the very stuff of kids' fantasies and cartoons. And the showdown itself, with its clownish carnival atmosphere and its two "prizes" - Fio for the American, a bag of loot for Porco - is straight from TV-manga land.
But we also have the "serious" story of Porco's mysterious past (Why did he become a pig?), his ambiguous relationship with the chanteuse (Can she love him as a pig as much as she did as a man?) and his ongoing argument with the human race (Will he reject it or rejoin it?)
Unfortunately, this story is more atmospherics than substance. We begin to long for Porco to get on with it and take to the air again, for flight sequences are "Kurenai's" glory.
A confirmed aviation nut, Miyazaki has a true love of old planes and he and his team of animators have brought them to exhilarating life. Just as their hero risks everything in the air, they take the art of animation to new limits. The result is a beauty beyond mere realism. This is the way flying *ought* to look and feel. Miyazaki's amazing flying machines are an excellent reason to see this wildly swinging mood fantasy. There is no angst above the clouds.
24 February 2015
By Chris Cabin
Its never entirely clear what turned the titular fighter pilot of Hayao Miyazaki's Porco Rosso into a hog-human bounty hunter (Shūichirō Moriyama), roaming the Adriatic Sea in his cherry-red amphibian plane. As the tale is told in Miyazaki's script, Porco's plane was shot down during World War I, along with many of his brothers in arms, during a bloody dogfight. As his companions ascend to the heavens, he remains and is mutated into his present piggish form. In essence, their deaths give them a sort of eternal afterlife, whereas survival has quite literally cursed our hero, and it's in this view of the military life, and competition in general, that Porco Rosso reveals itself to be one of Miyazaki's most personal works.
Aviation itself has weighty philosophical and emotional meaning to Miyazaki. His father kept the family safe and sent his children to university, even through numerous bombings of his homeland, through his job as a plane-parts magnate, supplying rudders for the government at times. The work that Porco does, and his lengthy training, is reflective of what funded Miyazaki's education, career, and comfortable lifestyle. And Porco Rosso, which pits its swine-like protagonist against Curtis (Akio Ōtsuka), a snobbish, competitive American ace pilot, works as a strangely sobering tribute to war survivors. Porco is, chiefly, a great cynic, also a world-class misogynist and a prideful grunt, but as Miyazaki writes him, he embodies a familiar, disquieting truth: that humans don't have a great stomach for how ugly war and violence appears, especially in retrospect.
That being said, Porco's outsider attitude is largely self-generated, and as a character, he's equally rooted in Miyazaki's self-skewering vision of himself in battle and at war. More to the point, this vibrant subtext never overtakes the fantastical yet critically restrained narrative and its rather sensational action sequences. The Studio Ghibli team give Miyazaki, who originated this world in a manga series, a variety of big, colorful dog fights, along with comedic exchanges with infantile pirates, and the focus is constantly on composition and design over any overly grim view of an entirely invented yet strangely violent world; each plane is fitted with heavy artillery. Miyazaki's view point has less to do with the total grimness and horror of war than a critique of how societies treat soldiers, specifically those who are alive and on the losing side.
This being Miyazaki, a studied cinephile, the entire narrative also alludes to classical Hollywood conventions; everything from The Tarnished Angels to Only Angels Have Wings to Hell's Angels can be gleaned in the story and the distinctly, almost rebelliously jovial mood. Unlike Grave of the Fireflies, Porco Rosso doesn't seek to ponder harrowing realities through an oft-fantastical medium, but rather successfully seeks to balance familiar elements of Hollywood entertainments and Miyazaki's own contemplative philosophies and imaginative, self-effacing personality, not unlike a Hawks or Ford military melodrama.
Indeed, some of the most visually stirring and resonant scenes involve Porco simply talking with Fio (Akemi Okamura), his young female protégé, or her grandfather, Piccolo (Sanshi Katsura), Porco's trusted mechanic. It's in the haggling, reminiscing, and technical jargon swapped between Porco and Piccolo especially that strikes a note of unfettered sincerity, two technical experts, mythological in their abilities, hashing it out during the overhaul of Porco's plane. It's the intimate timbre of tradesmen talking shop, a quiet humor that underlines every sequence in Porco Rosso, which stems predominately from the writer-director's need to explore the roots of his privilege, and recognize his father as, among many other titles, a fellow craftsman.
IMAGE / SOUND:
The clear-sky blues and Coca-Cola reds pop off the screen, as do the assortment of colors that fill the scenes on land or out at sea. There's also a great deal of attention paid to keeping the texture of the animation, as no digital touch-ups register to the point of distraction upon casual viewing. Both the style and the colors look as good as ever, with nice, inky black levels. The sound is similarly immersive and engagingly well transferred. When Porco is testing out his new engine, you can really hear the chaotic bluster it kicks up. The mix is consistently excellent, with all the talk out front and the roar of the engines, calm of nature, and the spritely score balancing nicely in the back.
The storyboards and the extremely abbreviated interview with producer Toshio Suzuki are the two minor fascinations on this disc's supplemental portion. The behind-the-scenes featurette focuses entirely on the American dubbing process rather than the film, and other than that, there's just a trailer. It's a disappointing showing overall.
The extras are skimpy and pointless, but Buena Vista has given great care to the A/V transfer of Hayao Miyazaki's quietly ponderous, extravagant, and hugely enjoyable tale of the world's surliest pig pilot.
24 July 1995
By Lisa Nesselson
An AMLF release (in France) of a Le Studio Canal Plus/UCORE presentation of a Studio Ghibli/Nippon Television Network/JAL Cultural Development production. Produced by Toshio Suzuki. Co-executive producers, Yasuyoshi Tokuma, Matsuo Toshimitsu, Yoshio Sasaki.
Directed, written by Hayao Miyazaki. Camera (color), Atsushi Okui; editor, Takeshi Seyama; music, Joe Hisaishi, Toshiba EMI; production design, Katsu Hisamura; sound (Dolby), Naoko Asari, Makoto Sumiya; special effects, Kaoru Tanifuji, Tomoji Hasizume, Tokiko Tamai. Reviewed at UGC Odeon Cinema, Paris, June 24, 1995. Running time: 90 min.
Top-notch animation in the service of a dapper aviator hero - who happens to be a pig - and his mechanic - who happens to be an appealingly self-assured teen heroine - makes "Porco Rosso" a winning, ultimately bittersweet viewing experience for all ages. A major B.O. [boxoffice] hit in its native Japan, the pic took top honors at the 1993 edition of the biannual Annecy animation fest and was scooped up by Gallic powerhouse Le Studio Canal Plus, which hired the revered Jean Reno ("The Professional") to voice the title character for the French version.
Not unlike a milder version of Art Spiegelman's "Maus," pic uses a "naive" form to tell a sophisticated story, which opens in Italy between world wars, in 1929. It is never explained how, exactly, Marco - founder of the Italian Aviators Club - was transformed into a giant pig, known as Porco Rosso. He reveals only that he prefers "being a pig to being a fascist."
With his bright red open-cockpit hydroplane parked on the beach, the renegade flying ace lives in secret on a deserted island in the Adriatic, from which he takes flight to rescue victims from a band of air pirates. When his plane needs repairs, he entrusts it to longtime pal Piccolo, whose tomboyish granddaughter Fio is a gifted engineer-cum-mechanic.
She's cute, hardy and industrious, and also proves to be headstrong and fearless. Pic is brimming with positive female role models for young viewers, although story's melancholy tilt will have its greatest resonance for adults.
Sultry Gina, who sings at the classy hotel she owns while carrying a torch for Marco, adds a deep streak of sentimental longing to the tale. Mix in a vain and ambitious villain of an American pilot, the fascist secret police, and a band of air pirates with a code of honor - and the ingredients are in place for a daring duel in the sky.
Animation, from the famed Studio Ghibli, has an impressive sweep and grandeur - smoke, shadows, clouds and every aspect of soaring through the air in an open cockpit plane is lovingly detailed. Whether it's the bobbing Adriatic or the open sky, there's a full-bodied feel for movement and the same attention to "focal lengths," framing and editing as in the boldest live-action features.
Asahi Evening News
24 July 1992
(This article is from Asahi Evening News, July 24, 1992. It is a slightly abbreviated translation of an article which appeared on Asahi Shimbun evening edition, July 23, 1992. Enjoy!)
Stirred by the huge success enjoyed by Japan Airlines in screening the popular animated cartoon "Kurenai no Buta" (Crimson Pig), on its international flights, All Nippon Airways is to feature the just-released "Hashire Merosu" (Run, Meros), also a work of animation, on its international flights from Aug 1.
The competition in animated films is an extension of the fierce competition between the two airlines over improving business performance, recruiting new employees and expanding international flights.
ANA decided in the beginning of this month to screen "Hashire Merosu" on its international flights, instigated by the fact that JAL's "Kurenai no Buta" has proved very popular before and after release.
It decided on "Hashire Merosu," which was made by the Asahi Shimbun and other companies, for in-flight viewing during summer vacation. Whereas JAL participated in the production of "Kurenai no Buta" and screened it on its international flights prior to its release in theaters - a first, ANA will show "Hashire Merosu" one week after it hits the theaters.
Director Hayao Miyazaki wrote the original story and script for "Kurenai no Buta," which is an action romance about a middle-aged air force pilot who turns into a pig and fights air pirates while flying a crimson plane.
According to distributor Toho Co., the theaters showing "Kurenai no Buta" from July 18 have been full, with about 220,000 people seeing it in the first three days.
Director Masaaki Ohsumi wrote the script for "Hashire Merosu" on the basis of an original story by Osamu Dazai. As music director, Kazumasa Oda wrote the theme song. Singer Akina Nakamori recorded the voice of the heroine.
According to JAL and ANA, this is the first time that a movie has been available for viewing on flights prior to theater release and also the first time that a movie playing in theaters will be concurrently screened aboard airliners.
JAL estimates that 360,000 passengers will see "Kurenai no Buta" by the end of August, while ANA calculates that 120,000 passengers will enjoy "Hashire Merosu" up to the end of September.
According to those connected with movies, the two animated cartoons have big differences in style, but on the basis of their directors and staffs, they are both masterpieces dividing the animation world in two. It is hard to tell which will emerge victorious in the battle of the summer skies.
By John Ott
News of a new Hayao Miyazaki animated feature is enough to excite most anime fans, but sometimes spreading the rumors can be just as entertaining. It was only a few months after the release of the Miyazaki-produced Omoide Poroporo ("Remembering Tears" aka Only Yesterday - "questionable" Miyazaki film, since it was directed by Isao Takahata) when rumors of a new film started again. One correspondent in Canada said it was going to be a "Nausicaä" sequel. Another in Tennessee had a perfect argument for it being another "Kiki" story. Another speculation was that Miyazaki would remain in the background from now on, producing "serious" anime like Omoide Poroporo. After all, how many hit films can one man make? Somebody else opted for pigs, as in Miyazaki's old 1970's feature Animal Treasure Island. That story got a laugh. Then came news of Porco Rosso...
The movie is Kurenai no Buta ("The Crimson Pig", aka Porco Rosso), and from the advance press, it looks be to be a lighthearted comedy-action-adventure more like "Cagliostro's Castle" than any other recent Miyazaki film. It's got lots of flying, hot racing planes, a period setting, typical Miyazaki heroines and villains (of the human sort)... and a pig - yeah, a pig - for a hero.
Here's the setting: Italy in the Roaring 20's went more air-crazy than any other country in Europe. Italian engineers designed and built the hottest aircraft anywhere. While the rest of the world went puttering around in flimsy biplanes, Italian companies like Macchi-Castoldi, Savoia-Marchetti, Caproni, Reggiane, and Cantieri Riuniti dell'Adriatico were turning out sleek-looking monoplanes and seaplanes built for speed and *machismo*. It was the era of the annual Schneider Trophy seaplane races, won, often as not, by bright-red Italian planes piloted by flamboyant gentleman-aviators like Air Marshal Italo Balbo. It was also an age of political turmoil - Mussolini and the Fascists were taking over, and across the sunny Adriatic Sea, the Serbo-Croatian-Slovenian-Albanian coast of the Balkans fumed with revolutions, assassinations, terrorism, piracy, and wars scheduled every Thursday. (Some things never change.) There was no shortage of bad guys. Some up-to-date miscreants even took to the skies, becoming history's first air pirates. And into this flying-happy scene steps... Porco Rosso! The Crimson Pig! A perfect caricature of those swashbuckling, scarf-waving Italian pilots.
So, we've got all the elements for a successful Miyazaki movie in place. Red-haired heroine who flies? Check. Her name's Fio, age 17. Chief bad guy who flies? Check. He's Curtis, the rival air ace, piloting (appropriately) an American-built Curtiss RC3-2 Schneider Trophy Racer. Team of awful air pirates? Check. The Manmaiutto Gang flies a scroungy Dornier-Wal flying boat and raids passenger ships on the Adriatic Sea. Picture-postcard-pretty setting? Check. Can't beat Venice and the white cliffs of the Dalmatian seacoast. Flying machine that upstages everybody? Check - that's gotta be Porco Rosso's crimson Savoia S.21 seaplane. Slickest thing on wings.
A Miyazaki film will always have a few "trademark" themes - attention to period costume and detail, a love for illustrating machines at work, a delight in living things and nature - but the theme closest to his heart is the one most important here in Kurenai no Buta: the fantasy of free flight. Characters in Miyazaki's films take to the air effortlessly and often, in all variety of aircraft, auto gyros, hang-gliders, balloons, dirigibles, flapters, flying castles, cat-busses, and broomsticks. Nausicaä's jet-glider Meve was the next best thing to angel's wings. The giant dirigibles and tiny two-man flapters in "Laputa" look so well engineered that it was hard to believe that they had no reality outside of the film. The clouds in any of Miyazaki's movies are drawn as finely detailed and realistically as any earth-bound landscape. Nobody in the history of all films has so eloquently communicated his own sense of wonder at the notion of flight. It must be the desk-bound animator's vision of paradise.
But... a pig? A PIG? A pig pilot? Of all the off-the-wall ideas... It bothered me for days, until I thought of the old saying used to express something absolutely improbable - If pigs could fly! Suddenly, it all made sense. Pigs can fly in Miyazaki movies... and so can everything and everyone else. Makes me wonder if that old saying is current in Japanese, too.