Porco Rosso preview - The Rose - February 1992

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Porco Rosso preview - The Rose - February 1992

The following article is from pages 12 and 13 of Anime Hasshin's newsletter, The Rose (Vol. 6, No. 31):

A New Film By Hayao Miyazaki: Kurenai no Buta, or Porco Roso

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.