Anime: Porco Rosso

Porco Rosso (Kurenai no Buta / 紅の豚,1992)

Hayao Miyazaki's homage to the early days of aviation and cinema, Porco Rosso tells the story of renowned Italian fighter pilot, a veteran of the First World War who has been mysteriously transformed into a pig. During The Roaring Twenties, Porco Rosso, the 'Red Pig' makes his living as a mercenary, flying a crimson seaplane and doing battle with pirates. Things really start to get interesting for Porco when the pirates, tired of having their butts handed to them by a pig, hire Donald Curtis, a famed American aviator, to take him down. Pursued by the Fascist military he deserted years ago, Porco gains a teenage sidekick, Fio, and takes the fight to the pirates. What follows is an epic journey of self-discovery and general badassery in the great Ghibli tradition. It's got all the hallmarks of a Miyazaki movie; strong women, flying machines, air-pirates and an undertone of the supernatural.

Like a few of Miyazaki's other works the film is based on an earlier manga he wrote.

Miyazaki has expressed interest in making a sequel. He plans to set it in the Spanish Civil War, and Porco will be older this time around.


Has Examples of

  • Acoustic License: Mostly averted — generally, people communicate plane-to-plane via signal lights using Morse code, as they did in real life, and Piccolo installs a rudimentary voice tube in Porco's rebuilt plane to allow him to communicate with Fio. Porco and Curtis do shout at each other plane-to-plane during their final duel, but as they're linking speech and action they don't necessarily have to hear each other to get the meaning.
  • Affably Evil: Curtis, and even "evil" is debatable; he's more of just The Rival to Porco as a pilot and for Gina's affections.
  • Art Shift: The movie briefly switches over to a 1920s animation style for a couple of seconds.
  • A-Team Firing: Lots of bullets are fired, but no people (or pigs) are ever hit. Invoked for Porco whom Boss says won't shoot a fellow pilot in a dog-fight, but with all of the lead in the air you'd expect someone to get hit if only by accident.
    • Averted in the World War One flashback. You see a lot of planes go down in flames there, with no implication that the pilots survived.
    • Porco actually only loads 5 rounds each into his machine guns because he thinks pirate hunting is not war.
  • Author Appeal: Miyazaki loves Italy and aviation (see Meaningful Name).
    • Also pigs.
  • Badass Mustache: Porco Rosso has one.
  • Betty and Veronica: Fio, the youthful and ambitious mechanic with a crush on Porco, is obviously the Betty, while Gina, Glamorous Wartime Singer and wealthy landowner, is just as plainly the Veronica. Porco is the straightforward Archie, while Curtis is his rival for both.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Porco Rosso means, of course, Red Pig in Italian.
    • Whoever wrote the headlines on the "Giornale del mare" newspaper did not have full knowledge of Italian, but they're clearly understandable by speakers of the language - and few others, as they aren't translated.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Pretty much all of the characters get a happy ending except for Porco himself, who disappears after facing off against the Italian Air Force. However, it's hinted by Fio that Porco is living in hiding.
  • Catch Phrase: "That can't be good" in the English dub; "A pig's gotta fly" in the original.
  • The Chanteuse: Gina.
  • Cool Hat: Porco Rosso has one of these, too.
  • Cool Plane: Porco's Savoia S-21 is one of the most beautiful planes on film and Curtis' Curtis R3C-2 is based on the airplane that Jimmy Doolittle flew to win the 1925 Schneider Cup.
    • Averted by the Sky Pirates motley collection of flying contraptions, though those are all caricatures of genuine aircraft as well.
  • Cool Shades: Porco Rosso wears these as well. You never actually see him (in present time) without them, except once - in a mirror, and he's squinting. When they break, he has such a shiner underneath that it doesn't count. So no, you never see Porco's eyes until Fio kisses him.
  • Completely Missing the Point: Porco tells Fio he's a known womanizer who lives on a small island in a tent. Her response? "That's OK, I like camping."
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Curtis may be an idiot but he's a damn good pilot and he's no slouch when it comes to knock down drag out fist fights (it's established early on that Curtis is a lot stronger than he looks and manages to catch Porco off guard in their climactic fist fight - he even lands more on screen blows on Porco than Porco does on him).
  • Day of the Jackboot: There are underlying hints of this, modeled on Benito Mussolini's forces - the uniforms, parade colors and fascist emblem when Porco goes to the bank to finish reimbursing his loan are more than obvious, though.
  • Double Take: In the ending, Fio gives one looking up at Porco, whose face is hidden. It's strongly hinted the curse was lifted.
  • Eagle Land: Curtis, who shifts from Flavor 1 to Flavor 2 depending upon how high his hormones are running at the moment.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Sky Pirates, despite being pirates, are actually a pretty honorable lot. Even though they take entire class of little girls hostage, they don't do anything to hurt them and even take the entire class because they're concerned about splitting them up. They are also easily shamed out of murdering Porco by Fio, who appeals to their sense of honor.
  • Expy Curtis' appearance, flying skills and Texas origin are a clear homage to aviation pioneer and filmmaker Howard Hughes
  • Funny Animal: Porco Rosso himself, obviously.
  • Gang of Hats: Each pirate crew has a design scheme built in imitation of the gang's boss. Among these, the Mamma Aiuto gang has the most diversity in design.
  • Genius Bruiser: Boss, a mild case. Not exactly a genius, but surprisingly enlightened nonetheless.
  • Ghibli Hills: shown passing under Porco's plane as he and Fio escape Italy.
  • Glamorous Wartime Singer: Gina, who owns the Hotel Adriano.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: What the epic air fight between Porco and Curtiss boils down to after both their guns fail.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Most of the pirate bosses have nasty-looking facial scars.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language:
  • Gratuitous Italian: Not as much as you'd think, though the hero's name means "red pig" in Italian. This is also the meaning of the Japanese title.
  • Goldfish Poop Gang / Harmless Villains: The sky pirates.
  • Homage: Porco's vision of a great procession of dead war pilots ascending to heaven in their planes was inspired by a Roald Dahl short story, incidentally providing a Genius Bonus for those who know Dahl himself was an Adriatic fighter pilot in WWII.
  • Hot-Blooded: Curtis is a young hotshot who sometimes acts like a big kid.
  • I Work Alone: Porco's refusal to join the Italian air force.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: The sky pirates.
  • In Love with Love/Meet Cute: Curtis, who proposes to Gina and Fio upon meeting them at different points of the film. Gina quickly refuses him in favor of Porco, while Fio's hand in marriage is set up as Curtis's prize during a duel between Porco and Curtis. In their fistfight, Porco even points out that Curtis falls in "deep, passionate" love with every pretty girl he meets.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Porco constantly thinks of himself, but also has a sense of honor. He shoots down planes for a living, yet refuses to kill a pilot.
  • Little Stowaway: Fio on Porco's plane. She claims she needs to go with him to ensure it runs properly after the rebuild—and pretending to be his hostage may prevent the secret police from arresting her family.
  • Magical Realism: Porco is magically transformed into a pig, but how and why is never explained, though he has a theory for the 'why' part.
  • Man Child: Curtis is this in a number of scenes, with a little bit of Serial Romeo thrown in for good measure. This is most obvious in his tendency to become hopelessly infatuated with every woman he meets, even, creepily enough, the underage Fio (though to be fair, she's crushing on Porco, who is obviously older than him).
    • The various pirates in the film have a bit of this as well, with their rivalry with Porco bordering on childish. One could even argue that Porco's inability to deal with his survivor's guilt makes him one as well.
  • Meaningful Name: Gina is named after the G-91R aircraft's nickname, manufactured by Italian-Brazilian joint venture AMX. The series it belongs to? "Ghibli", which is where Studio Ghibli's name comes from.
  • My Greatest Failure: A battle in which Porco survived when the rest of his squad didn't. It was only by happenstance and skill that he survived, and he retreated only after all the others had been shot down, but he still calls himself a coward.
  • No Endor Holocaust: The duel ends up bringing both planes above a crowd, and neither Porco nor Curtiss apparently see a problem with maintaining the fight over an area packed with innocent spectators. Tons of property damage ensues, but somehow the stray gunfire only hits inanimate objects.
  • No Place for Me There: Porco seems to feel this way about human society due to his guilt. He does live alone on an island after all.
  • Nominal Importance: The Mamma Aiuto gang is the only pirate gang to be named and also has the most characterization among the pirates.
  • Oblivious to Love: Porco does not appear to be aware of the fact that Gina is in love with him.
  • Olive Garden: Every stereotype you know about pre-WWII Italy is milked, although it's done so well you can't complain.
  • Plucky Girl: Fio.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Inverted, surprisingly enough. While the seaplane pilots all share in a general air of male chauvinism, the Mamma Aiuto gang's boss doesn't participate. When the collected pirates are all stunned by Fio's presence, he keeps his head.
    Boss: So what? Half of the world's population is women, idiot!
  • The Power of Love: What inspires Porco to get up and win the fight, and may be what turns him back into a man, though perhaps Porco simply let go of his cynicism.
  • Precocious Crush: 17-year-old Fio having a crush on the more middle-aged Porco. Porco says that he was 17 in 1910, and the magazine he's reading in the beginning gives the date as 1929, which would make him about 36.
  • Pun-Based Title, Porco Rosso, or the red pig, is a pun on the Red Baron.
  • Reused Character Design: Fio looks very similar to Nausicaa from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, another Ghibli movie; Miyazaki has a tendency to recycle character models.
  • Repeat After Me: A radio announcer relays a message from the pirates to Porco Rosso...as well as the sounds of their bickering after they fall over on top of each other.
    Announcer: Repeat; "we're coming for you, Porco Rosso, ow, ack, argh, get off me!"
  • The Roaring Twenties: Everywhere from Gina's flapper outfits to the plane designs.
  • Rule of Symbolism: During one of his visits to Italy, Porco is confronted by an old friend (still serving in the Air Force) while watching a cartoon in a darkened movie theater. The cartoon depicts a Mickey Mouse Expy striving to save his girlfriend from a villainous pig in an airplane. The obvious metaphor is that the cartoon pig represents Porco himself (his noble but simplistic friend obtusely mentions at one point that he thinks "This movie's really great"), but beyond the movie being outright anti-Porco propaganda is the subtle fact that Porco himself has gone to see it, which in the light of his own self-disdain transforms the propaganda into a reflection of how Porco sees himself — an ugly, bloated fiend who doesn't deserve a happy ending.
    Porco: *chuckles*
    Friend: What's so funny?
    Porco: *Leaving the theater* This movie stinks.
    • When Porco's sunglasses get partially broken at the end, the left rim takes on the shape of a heart as Curtis informs him that Gina loves him.
  • Shaming the Mob: Fio delivers an absolutely classic example to the pirate gang by appealing to their sense of honour.
  • Shout-Out: The new engine Piccolo installs in Porco's plane has "GHIBLI" embossed in the valve covers.
    • Also, the main character's real name is Marco Pagot, the Italian original author of the Sherlock Hound anime on which Miyazaki worked before he started his Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki enjoyed this work tremendously and paid homage to Mr. and Mrs. Pagot this way.
    • The vision of the afterlife has been compared to A Matter of Life and Death.
  • Shown Their Work: Even more than usual for Miyazaki.
    • All the planes are absolutely correct (though the Pirates' are exaggerated) down to the fascist axe symbols.
    • The new engine for Porco's plane is a period-appropriate Rolls-Royce Peregrine.
    • Porco's WWI Italian Air Corps uniform is accurate.
    • All named Italian pilots are real people who flew with the Italian Air Force (though some of them were dead by the time the movie is supposed to be set).
    • However, they did misspell a few words in Italian.
  • Sky Pirate: Of the Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain varieties.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Averted; Curtis initially seems to be this kind of character, but he's almost as good as he thinks he is (not quite that good though) and isn't quite the jerk he initially appears to be.
  • Society Marches On: During the film's time period a 20 to 30 something man pursuing a 17 year old girl would not have been seen as strange, but obviously today that wouldn't look too good.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Downplayed. Out of their respect and adoration of Fio, the Mamma Aiuto gang hosts the big fight between Porco and Curtis while putting on the ritz as best they can, which means Boss in a gaudy pinstriped suit. Despite his best efforts, he still struggles with years of bad habit.
    I'm trying to be classy, idiot!
  • Stealth Pun: The film sure does give the old idiom "when pigs fly!" a whole new meaning, huh?
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: "Le Temps des Cerises", sung by Gina and playing on the radio in the beginning.
  • Technical Pacifist: Porco will never purposely kill another pilot, often deliberately aiming to disable their plane nonlethally.
  • Truce Zone: Gina's Cafe Adriano. Both pirates and pigs enter, but neither make any trouble inside; when it looks like the pirate gangs are about to start a fight, all it takes is a bit of gentle chiding from Gina and they're falling over themselves like bashful kids.
  • The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: Piccolo is a mildly wizened midget with a family filled with beautiful women.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Porco goes into the boxing match against Curtis confident that he can smack Curtis around like a rag doll, only to find that Curtis is a lot stronger than he looks. Curtis not only manages to knock Porco down with his second hook, he manages to get in more hits during their fight.
  • Unfortunate Names: When your gang's name (Mamma Aiuto) means "Help me, Mommy!", you're not going to get much respect.
  • The Unreveal: The origin of Porco's curse, though his guilt stemming from the death of his best friend (and Gina's late husband) in the war may be the cause of it. It serves more as a symbol of his disillusionment and cynicism than anything else.
    • We also never see Porco's face when it's strongly hinted the curse was lifted, for a literal unreveal.
  • Wall Crawl: Curtis seems to be surprisingly good at this, scaling the walls of Gina's garden, and descending the cliff into Porco's Island hideout.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: For everyone except Porco.
  • Wife Husbandry: Isn't Fio a little young for Curtis?
    • She is 17, and Curtis can't be much older if he still looks young in the 1940s.
  • Wimp Fight: Porco's and Curtis' post air duel boxing match quickly devolves into this: by the end of six rounds both men are so tired they don't even try to block each other's punches. This is not the case with the preceding air battle, which awes all observers and ends only after Curtis runs out of ammunition and Porco's gun jams.
  • Wrench Wench: Fio and Piccolo Aviation's all-female workforce.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Played with. Fio suggests that if she kisses Porco, his curse might be lifted, even referring to the Frog Prince fairy tale (though it's strongly hinted she knew it wouldn't break the curse and just wanted an excuse to kiss him). At the end of the movie, Porco's curse is broken, but the movie refrains from showing us his face and leaves it ambiguous whether it was due to Fio's kiss, Porco finally letting go of his cynicism and disillusionment, him finally thinking of other people, or maybe just him getting walloped upside the head one last time for good measure.