Porco Rosso (Japan 1992)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 9/30/01
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

This is easily Miyazaki's most lighthearted and whimsical work, even considering the Fascist subtext. The film takes place in the Mediterranean Sea shortly after World War I, and follows the tale of a valiant fighter pilot named Porco Rosso - The Crimson Pig. (and he really is a pig) Porco makes a living as a bounty hunter and is the nemesis of air pirates everywhere. When his plane gets shot down by a cocky American pilot named Donald Curtis, Porco has to get it rebuilt in order to challenge Curtis to a rematch. Luckily, he meets a beautiful and talented young girl named Fio who redesigns and rebuilds his plane. Typical of Miyazaki's female characters, Fio is smart, independent, and caring, and stronger than any of the male characters in the film. It's through Miyazaki's women that we constantly see how pathetic and absurd the lives of men really are. After evading the Italian government (which considers Porco to be a criminal), Porco hooks up with Curtis for a stunning aerial showdown.

The film is a sheer joy to watch. The animation is breathtakingly beautiful, and perfectly reflects Miyazaki's love of planes and flight. The characters are all wonderful and full of life and charm. It's unclear why Porco is a pig in an otherwise human world. He apparently used to be human during the war, but he mysteriously turned into a pig later on. I'm sure there is some sort of socio-political symbolism or statement going on here, but I'm just not clever enough to pick up on it. Perhaps the statement "I'd rather be a pig than a Fascist" says it all. Fascism is a constant underlying theme that gets touched on, but it's never overbearing and thankfully doesn't affect the entertainment value of the film. Highly recommended.

Favorite quote: "When a pig can't fly, he's just an ordinary pig."