Over the decades, Japan has established itself in the animation scene as a contender, creating some of the most mind boggling realistic, detailed animation the world has ever seen. However, Japan had primarily made cartoons involving their traditional, cultural and supernatural themes that the world felt alienated to.
It wasn't until a great artist came along in the mid-1970s that was to make Disney look like a second class citizen in the animation business. Hayao Miyazaki was Japan's inspiration to open their eyes to new horizons and show the world their hand in art. His first motion picture released in the late 70s was Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro, which proved to be a world success. From that point on, he created some of the most memorable, brilliant and detailed masterpieces the western world ever saw - most having something to do with world issues and human's spiritual touch with nature. It wasn't until I saw Porco Rosso that I found my oasis in animation, a film that has no reason to be a cartoon due to its sheer realism and setting.
The premise is simple, subtle and imaginatively compelling. The story follows a humanoid pig known as Porco Rosso ('Crimson Pig' in English Translation), a bush pilot during the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s when Mussolini was a strong ally with Hitler. Whilst war is on the brink of initiation, Bush Pilot 'Pirates' roam the Italian coast, robbing ships, tourists and living the life few people could experience. Among these gambling, thieving, dirty pirates however, Porco Rosso stands as the ace pilot and feared by all. As he threatens the welfare of all the pirates, particularly the Mamma Aiuto Gang, the price on his head sky rockets. The only thing that lies between him and the pirates is a beautiful woman named Madame Gina, the singer and proprietor of an island resort popular with all the pilots that come through. Gina loves Porco since childhood, when he was a real human, and cannot bare to lose yet another close one, like her previous husbands. Both Porco's and Gina's world is turned upside down when an American ace pilot named Curtis intrudes into their lives, insisting on making a name for himself as he plans to fight Porco in an air battle all the while falling in love with Gina.......the American way.
Porco's subsequent adventures lead him to discover something about himself, about those important to him and about letting go of his constant turmoil and guilt of events that have haunted him for years, as he meets new characters that open his eyes and return him to what he once was.........just a human.
Rarily has an adventure movie been so fun, rich and captivating as Porco Rosso in addition to its overwhelmingly brilliant animation. Like I said before, there is no reason for this film to be a cartoon, but because it is and because it was realized in the way that it was, this is what makes it a masterpiece among World Animation.
The story, being very simple, could be taken on many levels with its inner meaning and symbolism. You forget that you are watching a cartoon after 5 minutes. It takes itself mildly seriously and the comic relief is timed to perfection. The characters vividly come to life and drain you of your emotions with each of their stories. The world Hayao Miyazaki creates is so real, that you are inevitably drawn into it. The magnificent romantic and exotic music and attention to authenticity make the film's atmosphere so convincing and breathtaking - the music always suiting at the right moments. I hardly believed this was a Japanese film, considering it felt completely like a European production. But no, only Hayao Miyazaki could accomplish such feats as to utilize your imagination and transport you to another world without any reference to his origins. That is his gift. This was evident ever since his motion picture debut. He has made many brilliant films, but Porco Rosso is the black sheep in the crowd. It is like something he's never done before, as all his films were supernatural in many ways.
This is my favorite cartoon of all time, and one of the great motion pictures you're bound to ever come across in world cinema. Forget about Disney. If you love animation and film, go no further than Hayao Miyazaki, one of the last great directors and story tellers in a world which has forgotten quality. Disney died a long time ago, and Miyazaki is a director in the old tradition - a tradition where plot and characters meant much more than special effects. Porco Rosso is an escape you'll come back to often. Few films have captured the essence of Europe, Flying and Adventure quite like it. It lifts your spirits and inspires you to see the world in a different way. The beautiful mix of music, color, animation, detail and setting make this a most unforgettable experience. 'Porco Rosso' is the definitive work from the legend of modern animation, Hayao Miyazaki.