Thoughts On: Porco Rosso - Quintessential Ghibli

13/11/2017

Porco Rosso - Quintessential Ghibli

Quick Thoughts: Porco Rosso (紅の豚, 1992)


A great air-force pilot turned pig-mercenary has numerous run-ins with pirates.


Intensely brilliant, Porco Rosso is way up there as one of my absolute favourite Ghibli films. However, to a degree, Porco Rosso is a somewhat unremarkable Ghibli feature. With the previous Ghibli films, the common tropes of the studio were firmly established; with Castle In The Sky we see the fascination with aviation and European settings; Grave Of The Fireflies emphasises the importance of history in the Ghibli film; My Neighbour Totoro captures strong and rounded female characters; Kiki's Delivery Service contains strong magic/fantasy-realism; and Only Yesterday features much of the above with standard masterful animation.

Porco Rosso has all of these tropes integrated into its narrative beautifully. Aviation is, of course, a particular focus that we see explored with surprising detail. Added to this, we have one of the most obvious and direct references to history and culture through the depiction of the Mediterranean alongside consistent allusions to fascism and WWI. Guiding us through this narrative is also one of the most compelling Ghibli characters, Fio, who sparks an impossibly rich and touching relationship with all of those around her, allowing Miyazaki to depict rounded male and female characters of various generations alongside, and in support of, one another. Overlaying characterisation is also an ambiguous mythos mixing in with realism that will be revived without much modification for Howl's Moving Castle; we are of course referencing the curse and Porco's internal conflicts manifesting themselves through his transformation here. This leaves Porco Rosso - much like Howl's Moving Castle, Grave Of The Fireflies, Only Yesterday, Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service, etc. - as a film about confronting inner-demons, self-doubt and self-critique by constructing a network of friends and family. And holding this entire story together is some of the most stunning animation of action I have ever seen. Projecting movement with weight, dynamism and fluidity, Porco Rosso has an incredible sense of motion and mobility - and this is in contrast to some beautifully subdued character animation that, like Only Yesterday, exudes overwhelming photogénie.

Comparison to other Ghibli films is seemingly inevitable with Poroco Rosso as it is drenched in visible tropes; added to all we've mentioned, there is a brilliant sense of comedy derived from serious subject matter as well as deep melancholy - we even have reoccurring characters in the pirates and working class women. In a way, this is then Studio Ghibli settling into their style and approach to make a film about themselves. Whilst this lessens the amount that we could talk about this film, it is hard to critique Porco Rosso; some dialogue isn't too great (I watched the English dubbed version, so keep that in mind) and sometimes the things move too fast to maintain a smooth-as-silk tone, but this is overshadowed completely by how affecting and enjoyable the narrative is.

The best and worst thing I can then say about Porco Rosso is that it is a quintessential Ghibli film. Whilst this implies that it is predictable and somewhat formulaic, if you love Studio Ghibli, there can be no complaints. To end, what are your thoughts on this film? Is there more to it that I maybe missed? How does this fare in comparison to other Ghibli films?

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