Spectrum Nexus

Anime Info

Creator: Hayao Miyazaki
Genre: Adventure, Comedy
Length: Movie (1:34)
Purchase: Here From Amazon


+ Planes are accurately modeled
– History buffs may nitpick at the fudged historical details
– One scene identical to another in Howl's Moving Castle
+/– The protagonist is an adult
+/– Air-pirates look like characters from Popeye


Porco Rosso is a decent film; neither as deep as Princess Mononoke nor as shallow as Howl's Moving Castle. It is beautifully animated and contains exciting sequences of flight and dogfighting but is somewhat hampered by an underdeveloped story. According to Miyazaki, the intended audience for this film is middle aged men kept from living up to their ideals by their workaday lives.

Younger kids may find the flying scenes exhilarating but they won't get the jokes and older anime geeks may get the jokes but may not identify with the middle-aged hero or the plucky teenage heroine.

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Porco Rosso Anime Movie Review

Written by: Frank B. Chavez III on 11/16/2006


In 1992, master animator Hayao Miyazaki was contracted by Japan Airlines to adapt his manga The Age of the Flying Boat into a short in-flight movie. Although it developed into a feature film, the airline remained a major investor and the film debuted as an in-flight movie before being released theatrically. In an alternate history that exists only in the mind of Hayao Miyazaki, the airspace over Europe between the wars is dominated by air pirates, smugglers, and mercenaries of every description. Among the best of them is Porco Rosso (the Crimson Pig), a WWI flying ace cursed with the face of a pig. The film depicts his adventures battling pirates; pursuing the love of Gina a night club ingénue; and his rivalry with fellow flying ace Donald Curtis.


Porco Rosso is one of the few films by Hayao Miyazaki set in a specific time and place rather than an imaginary world. Taking place in an unspecified Italian city along the Adriatic Sea in the 1920s, it deals with many of the issues of the day including war, nationalism, post war economic crisis, and the rise of the Fascist movement. Somewhat lighthearted and similar in tone to Raiders of the Lost Ark, the film opens with a spectacular dog fight sequence as Porco Rosso rescues gold and kidnapped students from a girls' school from a gang of air pirates. After successfully completing his mission, Porco Rosso takes his leave at a popular night club for pilots. While he eats dinner with Gina, the club's owner, we learn a little of his background – before the war Porco Rosso was a successful and happy and very human pilot named Marco. For reasons not quite specified, Marco was transformed into pig during the war. We learn a little of Gina's story as well; she rebuffs Donald Curtis's marriage proposal because she's been married to and widowed by pilots three times already. The remains of her most recent husband have just been recovered in Bengal, India. Her affection for Porco Rosso seems tempered with melancholy, of all her close friends from before the war, he's the last one left.

While Miyazaki's anti-war stance is present in the film, it is more subdued and almost takes a back seat to depictions of flight and dog-fighting. The most prevalent anti-war symbol being Porco Rosso himself – although it is never specifically stated, it is hinted that Marco's transformation was caused by his disillusionment with war, as in other Miyazaki films war is seen as an anti-human activity that transforms men into monsters. When the apprentice of Porco's favorite gun dealer asks his boss the difference between a soldier and bounty hunter, the gun dealer replies that, "A man who makes money from war is evil; a man who can't make money as a bounty hunter is incompetent."

Show More Porco Rosso is a bit of a male chauvinist (pig). Porco Rosso's relationship with Gina is strained somewhat when Porco disappears after being shot down by Curtis on the way to Milan. Gina feels that pilots disregard the feelings of the women in their lives and the idea that Porco will simply take his plane to the mechanic to be repaired fills Gina with dread – he cavalierly replies that, "A pig who doesn't fly is just an ordinary pig." His passion for flying seems to reflect Miyazaki's own. When he arrives in Milan, his normal mechanic informs him that his granddaughter Fio will be the one doing the repairs on Porco Rosso's plane. Porco doubts that she can do the work. He relents when she turns out to be the same age he was when he flew his first solo flight. The post war economic crisises that would soon engulf the world is hinted at when Porco Rosso needs more than a suit case full of money to pay his mechanic.

The next day Fio impresses Porco Rosso with her plans for his plane. He agrees to let her continue with the job as long as she promises not to stay up all night working anymore. Porco wonders if Fio will be working on the plane by herself. We get the answer when Fio's grandfather introduces his workforce. He seems to have employed all the women in his family in his airplane factory—explaining that the Depression has forced the men to take jobs far from home. Fio's grandfather and Porco approve Fio's designs for Porco's plane but Fio's Grandfather warns that it will cost a fortune.

A few days later, Porco Rosso is visited by Fieralli a former friend from the military. Porco is a wanted man – the government has brought a host of ridiculous charges against him. His former friend urges Porco to return to the military. Porco wittily replies that he'd rather be a pig than a Fascist. Fieralli replies telling him, "The age of dare-devil pilots is over. Today we can only fly for worthless causes such as 'country' or 'nation.'" The very individualistic Porco insists that he can only fly for himself. He leaves the theater and when he meets up with Fio, the Fascist secret police are hot on their tails. The next morning as Porco prepares to leave in a scene we've seen hundreds of times in other action movies such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Fio convinces Porco to take her with him. He reluctantly agrees when he realizes she won't take no for an answer and besides, in a moment of high comedy, she refits the plane for a passenger before he can stop her.

Show More
In a sequence that would be prohibitively expensive in live action, Porco and Fio make their departure from Milan using the city canal as a runway. Outside the city they are greeted by Porco's old friend Fieralli who warns them about the Italian Air Force lying in wait. The beautiful green country side drifts past as Porco and Fio make their escape. For all her work on airplanes, Fio doesn't seem to have spent any time in the air; she is amazed by the view which is second nature to Porco.

The scene transitions to Curtis sneaking in to Gina's garden (no symbolism there). He's been in negotiations with a movie studio and wants Gina to come with him to Hollywood. A swashbuckler similar to Douglas Fairbanks or Errol Flynn, Curtis has unlimited ambitions but no brains and Gina rebuffs him. She only wants one man – she's been in love with Marco since he took her up in an early sea-plane when they were teenagers. Porco seems to love Gina as well but won't admit it. He eats dinner with her and greets her with stunts when he flies past her house but he won't otherwise visit her. Perhaps she reminds him too much of his human past or perhaps the war has hardened his heart against becoming too close to anyone. This romantic subplot seems tacked on and is never fully developed or even properly resolved. It is a shame that the movie isn't just a few minutes longer, the handful of scenes between Porco Rosso and Gina seem realistic and natural – like actual middle aged adults who regret past actions. Perhaps, development of the romantic subplot was a casualty of the films origins as a short for an airline or perhaps it was cut to make more room for airplanes and dogfights. Either way it feels like both crucial character development and back-story were left on the cutting room floor.

When Porco and Fio arrive at Porco's hideout they find the air pirates waiting for them spoiling for vengeance for their lost honor at Porco's hands. When they threaten to smash up Porco's plane; Fio shames them with her grandfather's tales of the honorable sea-plane pilots and they relent. Curtis arrives and challenges Porco to a duel. If Porco wins Curtis will pay off Porco's debts to Fio's grandfather and if Curtis wins Fio will marry Curtis. The last thirty minutes of the movie detail their battle.


Porco Rosso is an unusual film, at least for Hayao Miyazaki. It's not a fantasy, the only element of the fantastic in it, is Marco's transformation into Porco Rosso; which is more of a delusion than anything magical. In one scene, late at night before his final battle, Porco Rosso Fio even sees him for what he really is, a middle aged man who's given up on his ideals. It is one of the few Miyazaki films to feature an adult protagonist and unlike his more idealistic young heroes, Porco Rosso is a disillusioned cynic rather burned out on the world. It is also not nearly as concerned with social issues as his other films. Although it touches on some of the problems in Europe prior to World War II, it doesn't dwell on them. The post war economic depression, nationalism, and the Fascists serve more as colorful backdrop than central thematic points. In fact, even though Mussolini is on the rise in Italy during the period the movie is set, he is never even mentioned and his Fascist party is more of a shadowy boogeyman rather than an actual villain. Miyazaki's main concern seems to be telling a good, fun exciting story in the Indiana Jones vain but more scaled back– Porco Rosso emphasizes Porco's personal foibles rather than the grand adventure of Miyazaki's other films.

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