Headline: Studio Ghibli Review 3
Originally posted October 25, 2014
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Not only was this the highest-grossing Japanese film of 1992, it holds a special place in the heart of its creator, Hayao Miyazaki. You see, as well as being a master filmmaker, Miyazaki has always been a big fan of planes. The word Ghibli even comes from an Italian, WWII fighter craft. Planes would also inspire his final animated feature The Wind Rises (2013) – which follows the life of plane designer, Jiro Horikoshi. Porco Rosso was such a pleasure for Miyazaki to work on that he even considered making a sequel to it – the only one of its kind in Ghibli‘s history. But although this sequel was never made, Porco Rosso still lives on as one of Miyazaki’s greatest works, and, is considered a valuable asset to the Studio Ghibli collection.
The story follows Porco/Marco, an ex-war pilot turned bounty-hunter, who is cursed with having the appearance of a pig. Porco earns a living by foiling the schemes of sea-plane pirates, whilst trying to avoid the Italian government – who are out to get him for abandoning the Air Force. His business comes under threat when American pilot, Donald Curtis, forms an alliance with the pirates. Now Porco has to tune up his plane and face his rival in the ultimate dog fight.
As far as the story goes, it’s quite interesting with its mixture of action, fantasy, romance and comedy. The settings are also really beautiful and give the audience a true sense that they’re watching an Italian-themed movie. Plus, although there are some adult themes (e.g. war and violence) they’re handled very well, making the movie pleasurable for both kids and adults.
If there’s anything I’d have to criticise about the story, however, it’s that some parts do feel a bit weak and incomplete by the movie’s conclusion. In particular, its never explained how or why Porco was turned into a pig – he’s just a pig who used to be human, and that’s what makes the story a fantasy. There are also side-stories which serve almost nothing to the main plot and some characters don’t have enough screen time to develop properly. In fact, the movie’s ending feels a little ambiguous, despite the explanation about what happened after the climax. Nonetheless, the movie is still fun and interesting for the whole family to watch.
For me, what make Porco Rosso special isn’t so much the story, but some of its morals. I find whenever I watch anime – even if the main character is male – I focus more on the female leads, because there’s more to be done with them. When I watch Porco Rosso, I find that my focus is more on Fio. At one point in the movie, Porco is reluctant to allow her to help with his plane because she’s a young woman. But she proves herself to be very skilled and does a fine job of improving it. She even turns out to be a valuable ally when it comes to dangerous situations. She’s one of many strong, female leads in Studio Ghibli films, who seem more valuable than their male counterparts.
There’s also another – more universal – moral. Fio asks Porco what he thinks makes a true professional. He admits it’s not experience that matters, but intuition. What this means is that all you really need to succeed in life, is to have enough passion for what you want to do, and have the skills to do it well. This message was even relayed back to Hayao Miyazaki when he was against his inexperienced son, Goro, directing Tales of Earthsea (2006).
One final thing worth mentioning is some of the voice actors in the English dub. Amongst these are some people who’ve lent their voices to other Studio Ghibli films, such as Cary Elwes (Whisper of the Heart/The Cat Returns), Susan Egan and David Ogden Stiers (Spirited Away). There are others too, like Kevin Michael Richardson and, the legendary, Frank Welker.
I would recommend this movie to anyone who is a fan of Studio Ghibli and wants to see a prime example of their work.
My next Studio Ghibli review will be on Pom Poko. Stay tuned.
I began writing this review around the same time I started my third year at university. Initially, I planned to focus on reviews during my spare time, so I could write the things I wanted to, as well as the things I needed to (for assignments). This proved to be impossible, however.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t concentrate on personal projects knowing I had so much university work to finish. This had a bad effect on my writing.
In this review, you can clearly see where things started to go down hill. The first two paragraphs were written reasonably well, with information surrounding the movie and a good summary of the plot. After that, however, I rambled everything else in poorly written sentences, so I could get to the end as quickly as possible. I didn’t even proofread the content that much, because I was so desperate to get back to my assignments.
As a result, the review comes off as disorganised and amateurish. Which is a shame because, like I tried to say, there’s a lot about Porco Rosso I really like; the character portrayal of Fio, the Italian setting, the universal moral regarding skill and intuition over experience, and the fantasy of Porco being a pig.
Although this review didn’t turn out nearly as good as I’d hoped, it taught me a valuable lesson about writing: knowing when to write something, and being in the right frame of mind, is just as important as knowing what to say and how.