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Anime / Porco Rosso

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Hayao Miyazaki's homage to the early days of aviation and cinema, Porco Rosso (Kurenai no Buta / 紅の豚,1992) tells the story of a renowned Italian fighter pilot, a veteran of the First World War who has been mysteriously transformed into a pig. During The Roaring '20s, Porco Rosso (Shūichirō Moriyama), 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 (Akio Ōtsuka), a famed American aviator, to take him down. Pursued by the Fascist military he deserted years ago, Porco gains a teenage sidekick, Fio Piccolo (Akemi Okamura), 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 had expressed interest in making a sequel. He planned to set it in the Spanish Civil War, and Porco would have been older. However, nothing has come out of it.

This film provides examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: Porco was called the "Ace of the Adriatic" and Curtis is also known for his prowess in combat flying.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • Alternate History: Seems to be at play here, as the majority of the film appears to be set in a fictional analogue to the short-lived Free State of Fiume (now Rieka, Croatia) shortly before its annexation by Fascist Italy. They appear to give refuge to Porco and seemingly grant huge leeway to air piracy (to the extent that it is viewed as entertaiment), have a blue-yellow-blue tricolour for a civil ensign, their Fascist movement has a love for green and purple, and they have a lizard in a military uniform on their money.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Porco vanishes without a trace during the pursuit from the Air Force, leaving the other characters to wonder what has become of him. It's also never made clear whether he and Gina reconnected to each other (Fio seems to know the answer, but decides to keep it as a secret).
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  • Animorphism: Ace fighter pilot Marco Pagot returns from an air battle with the face of a pig and becomes known as Porco Rosso (the Red Pig).
  • Arms Dealer: Porco purchases ammo from one; both comment that their illegal enterprises (bounty hunting and arms dealing) will be largely unaffected by an upcoming change in government. But there's No Honor Among Thieves as the ammo cartridges are defective (a common problem in that era) and causes his gun to jam at a crucial moment.
  • Art Shift: When Porco and Fierrali are watching a cartoon in the cinema, it's shown in an appropriate 1920s animation style.
  • 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. This is due to Japan Airlines co-producing the film.
    • 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, pigs, strong female characters, and aviation (see Meaningful Name).
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Porco's plane is literally one of a kind. The manufacturers never built more than one because it proved to be too unwieldy for anyone but a true Ace Pilot to handle. It has difficulty with takeoff and landing, but once it hits top speed it's second to none.
  • 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. It means "Sea Newspaper," or "Newspaper of the Sea."
  • 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.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: In this case, bags of money. It is strongly implied that the local currency is hyper-inflated.
  • Cartwright Curse: Gina has married - and been left a widow by - three seaplane pilots.
  • Catchphrase: "That can't be good" in the English dub; "A pig's gotta fly" in the original.
  • The Chanteuse: Gina. She sings a French song to the hotel patrons in her opening scene, wearing the requisite long ball gown, and it's revealed in the next scene with Porco that she's a widow three times over, with all of her husbands being pilots.
  • Combat Breakdown: In Porco and Curtis' rematch, the dogfight eventually peters out because Curtis used up all of his ammo and Porco's gun jammed. Curtis tries to shoot Porco with a pistol and then he and Porco start throwing random things at each other. Eventually the two land and get into a fistfight, which the sky pirates turn into a semi-official boxing match with rounds and a referee. After six rounds of boxing, the two are so exhausted and bruised that they don't even try to dodge each other and just trade blow after blow.
  • Comically 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."
  • Cool Hat: Porco Rosso's out-on-the-town clothes include a natty fedora.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: A man in his mid-thirties being with a seventeen year old may seem weird to modern viewers, especially given that this film does take place in the relatively recent past, but it's accurate for the time period. Before women entered the workforce in World War II out of necessity and stayed working afterwards, it made sense for girls to marry older men. Since they couldn't work, it offered them financial stability they wouldn't find in a man their own age. With the high child mortality rate, the earlier you started having kids, the better you chance you had at having kids who'd make it to adulthood and since your husband is financially stable, you don't have to wait to start having them.
  • Double Take: In the ending, Curtis 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.
  • Establishing Character Moment
    • Curtis — pointedly known as "The American" — and his well-meaning but ham-handed attempt to curtail some rudeness. When a couple of loudmouth reporters try to interview Porco in the middle of Gina's song, Curtis walks over, hoists them into the air, carries them away, and then slams them down at another table with a parting warning to shut up, inadvertently causing a much larger scene than the one he was trying to prevent.
    • Porco's first scene has him lazing by the beach in his private lagoon, all alone. When he gets a call about the schoolgirls in distress, his primary concern is about how much money he's getting paid.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Sky Pirates, despite being pirates, are actually a pretty honorable lot. Even though they take an entire class of little girls hostage, they don't do anything to hurt them and actually take the entire class because they're concerned about splitting them up; they even keep their language clean while they have them aboard. They are also easily shamed out of murdering Porco by Fio, who appeals to their sense of honor.
  • The Exile: Porco is a wanted man in Italy, which is why he lives on a small island in the Adriatic and only returns to his home country if he needs airplane maintenance he can't get done locally. Given that he was told that his numerous alleged crimes would be forgiven if he re-enlists, his real crime appears to be refusing to support Italy's post-WWI fascist government.
  • Expy: Curtis' appearance, flying skills and Texas origin are a clear homage to aviation pioneer and filmmaker Howard Hughes.
    • It should be mentioned that, in the original Japanese-language version, Curtis says he's from Kentucky rather than Texas. Possibly the change was to make the "Cowboy" moniker make more sense, as Kentucky, while it is known for horses, has never been known for cowboys.
    • The Pirate Boss looks a lot like Bluto from Popeye.
  • 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 Curtis boils down to after both their guns fail.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Most of the pirate bosses have nasty-looking facial scars.
  • 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.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Porco generally refuses to kill the pilots he fights, which is indicated to be a tactic for keeping in business by ensuring there are still pirates left to pirate. During the Final Battle, however, the boss of the Mamma Aiuto gang correctly surmises that Porco refuses to risk a pilot's life and instead plans to win by tiring Curtis out and shooting up the latter's engine, which he takes to be a matter of showing off, but the film implies his refusal to kill Curtis or the pirate's is a shred of honor.
    • The boss of the Mamma Aiuto gang takes the time to officially conclude the proceedings of the duel despite everyone panicking and fleeing the oncoming Italian authorities.
    Boss: I'm trying to be classy, you idiot!
  • Hot-Blooded: Curtis is a young hotshot who sometimes acts like a big kid.
  • I Work Alone: Porco is determined to remain solitary and, if he had a say in the matter, wouldn't have Fio along at all. Shame he doesn't have a say. He ends up foisting her on Gina after his Final Battle with Curtis, much to both Gina's and Fio's displeasure.
  • In a Single Bound: Curtis after revealing himself in Porco's hideout ready for the rematch Fio set up. He jumps off the cliff, does a front flip, and sticks the landing. True, he climbed about halfway down the cliff first, but it's still a good 30 feet.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: The sky pirates, and the Mamma Aiuto gang in particular.
  • Informed Species: Or "Informed Airplane Model", as the case may be. Porco's plane is identified as a Savoia S.21, but looks nothing like one.
  • 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.
  • Just Plane Wrong: Porco's plane is identified as a Savoia S-21. That's a real plane, but it doesn't look like the one in the movie; the real one was a biplane rather than a monoplane. It was also pretty much the flying equivalent of The Alleged Car— difficult and unforgiving to fly, to the point that only one pilot ever had any success with it. Porco's plane has more of a resemblance to the Macchi M.33, which competed against the Curtiss R3C.2 for the 1925 Schneider Trophy.
  • Kavorka Man: Porco, who by his own admission is a "pig" both figuratively and literally who's also a womanizer and self-serving bounty hunter, manages to attract scores of women, notably Gina and Fio who's smitten with him on sight. A combination of being a famous former war hero pilot and his overall noble nature plays into his attractiveness.
  • 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.
  • Love Triangle: Porco's relationships with both Gina and Fio have romantic elements in them, but the film pointedly refuses to answer how it resolves.
  • 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.
  • The Mafia: The pirates are all gun-toting Italians. They're reluctant to hire Curtis, an American, as it would be "embarrassing" until one of them reveals that Curtis has an Italian ancestor.
  • Manchild:
    • 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 FIAT. 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 Curtis 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 survivors guilt and his curse. 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. It takes Curtis painfully beating it into him—followed by a comment from Gina herself—for it to stick. Sort of.
  • Pig Man: Porco, obviously, as a result of his curse.
  • Plucky Girl: Fio, despite being told to stay out of things because she's a young woman, still manages to help out Porco and stand up to all of the pirates who ambushed them on Porco's island.
  • Politically Correct Villain: 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 it could also perhaps be Porco just letting 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. Made even more humorous when you realize Fio doesn't kill an insect but peacefully convinces it to fly away in one scene.
    • The pirate with an eyepatch closely resembles Count Cagliostro.
  • Repeat After Me: A radio announcer relays a message from the pirates to Porco well as the sounds of their bickering after they fall over on top of each other.note 
    Announcer: Repeat; "we're coming for you, Porco Rosso, ow, ack, argh, get off me!"
  • Riddle for the Ages: Did Porco eventually come to Gina's garden and confess his love for her? Fio seems to know the answer, but she says it's not up to her to reveal it.
  • The Roaring '20s: 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.
    • Downplayed with Gina, whose mere presence is enough to cow and restrain the air pirates' grumbling about "the pig".
  • Shout-Out:
    • The new engine Piccolo installs in Porco's plane has "GHIBLI" embossed in the valve covers.
    • 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 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).
    • Porco pulls what can be best described as a stall turn to get behind Curtis in their air duel.
    • The night before the big dogfight, Porco is seen manually inspecting and polishing the machine gun rounds he bought. This was something some WWI fighter pilots actually did - tolerances on the machines that made the bullets weren't very good back then, so they had to make sure that the rounds they loaded into their guns would fire cleanly and not jam.
    • However, they did misspell a few words in Italian.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Fio and Gina see past Porco's rough traits and love him as a good person.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • Spaghetti and Gondolas: Every stereotype you know about pre-WWII Italy is milked, although it's done so well you can't complain.
  • Stay in the Kitchen:
    • With all of the men in Piccolo's family gone from the city to find work, Piccolo has his female relatives work on the plain. Porco complains about it, claiming women can't handle the job, but Piccolo insists that they do good work.
    • Despite Fio (a) rebuilding and improving a one-of-a-kind plane (b) under the noses of the secret police (c) standing up to every armed pirate in the Adriatic (d) going on to be a major industrialist, Curtis thinks of her as just a Standard Hero Reward.
  • The Stinger: At the end of the film, Porco Rosso's plane can be seen flying through the clouds before the words "The End" show up.
  • 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 non-lethally.
  • Translation Convention: The characters can be presumed to be speaking mostly Italian with some English here and there but the film’s native language is Japanese.
  • 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.
  • Underwear Swimsuit: Fio takes a swim in her undies to relieve stress after the encounter with the pirates in Porco's cove.
  • 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.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: No one seems to react much to the sight of a pig man walking around, although people certainly recognize Porco on sight.
  • 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.
  • Widowed at the Wedding: Just barely averted. A friend of Porco's during the war had only been married for two days when he was recalled to duty, flew a sortie, and got shot down. The resultant widow was Gina.
  • 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.
  • Women Are Wiser: A general theme of Miyazaki's feminism, but especially notable since Gina's grace and Fio's idealism are up against Porco, Curtis, and the air pirates, who are all various flavors of Manchild.
  • Worf Had the Flu: A major factor in Curtis being able to shoot down Porco in their first dogfight was the fact that the engine of Porco's fighter was badly in need of an overhaul and Porco was more concerned with limping his way to his mechanic than fighting at the time. The second time around, when Porco's plane is back in flying trim, they're much more equally matched.
  • 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.