Porco Rosso

Porco Rosso is a movie about a former fighter pilot Marco who does bounty hunting work in a pre- World War II Adriatics. The sea is lawless and chaotic with bandits and bounty hunters being about indistinguishable; people still remember the WWI and the next war is approaching. It would make a great setting for a dark and heavy story, but the movie doesn’t go there, it tells its story with good humor and positive attitude. And it is not serious about trying to be a period piece. I mean, the pilot Marco is a pig, that kind of throws the realism out of the window from the start.

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That’s Marco

But regardless, just the settings alone would sell the movie for me. Such a specific time and place, and not even something obvious or well known, it was bound to pick my interest. Also it is a Ghibli movie and so far I liked all they have put out. Porco Rosso was made in 1992, directed by Hayao Myazaki. The art and animation look very good, lots of moments worth pausing to have a better look at. I recommend this film to everyone who like anime movies.

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Now come the spoilers, so feel free to stop reading and watch the film instead.

If you kept reading I assume you’ve already seen the movie :P So what that film was about? The only plot line that persists through the whole film is rivalry between Curtis and Marco and maybe slight romantic tension between Marco and Gina. But the story doesn’t really spend most of its time on either of those. Instead it would give you a good look  into the life of an Italian family that builds Marco a new plane. We even get a new main character Fio out of the blue, and she quickly gets the story to rotate around her. It feels strange when she jumps into the movie, you can almost say that Miyazaki just wanted to have an obligatory teenage girl in his film.

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Fio, a 17 years old engineer

But I don’t think it is as simple as that. I think it is one of those stories that want to play a game with you, that give you a chance to guess what is going on without being told. And it is intentionally complicated, as the bits and pieces come in randomly, in no order. So I’ll try to give you my view on it, and you can decide if that makes sense or not.

First is Marco’s “curse”. I don’t think I need to argue that it is weird and out of place for such an otherwise realistic movie. What’s more, no one reacts to the fact that Marco is an anthropomorphic pic, a completely unnatural creature. The way people treat Marco is as if he just has some weird attribute, but nothing more. It is definitely intentional too. So it tells me that this is how I suppose to see that curse, as an attribute, or maybe as some sort of mental state.

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Then let’s look at Marco himself. The key ingredient of his personality is him being self-centered, at least on the surface level. As Marco said to one of his friends: “I only fly for myself”. He lives alone in an isolated place, he works alone, he defies governments and laws. Even for people he cares about, like Gina, he remains distant. And it makes sense, with him being a pig. You can say that it is a what the curse has done to him, since we know he wasn’t a loner his whole life. Later in the movie Marco would say “It seems to me God was telling me I was a pig and maybe I deserve to be all alone”. I quote the dub, the lines are different the subs, but the  meaning is about the same.

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A pirate plane, makes me wish Miyazaki had done more sci-fi movies *_*

We learn that Marco once was a fighter pilot, he fought in the Great War (WWI), and the finale of his career was a horrible fight where his best friend died while Marco was doing his best to save himself. Judging by Marco’s words I can guess the killing during the war and his actions during that last fight that he viewed as cowardly, that created a burden that Marco has carried with him since then. He left the air force and gave up on his former life. When talking to Gina he said “Good guys always die”, implying that he does not see himself as a good person. And it wasn’t a pose, it sounded like something he believed in. What’s more, he was not implying that his morals were twisted, rather that he failed to live up to what a good person is. Seeing himself as that sort of failure, wouldn’t that be a curse.

You can see where I am going with this. The curse was not a magic spell, Witch of the Waste didn’t have to be involved. It was Marco giving up on his own humanity. Unable to live up to his own ideals he turned to follow another road, more suitable for a pig, as he refers to himself every so often. And I can quote Marco yet again, as he says to Fio “Seeing you makes me wish I’ve never given up being human”. That line is pretty different in the subs though, much more neutral. And since I’ve compared the two, let me pull up another quote that I like and I feel it is missing from the subs. After that “I deserve to be all alone” line Fio tells Marco that he is a good person, to which he replies: “No, the good guys were the ones who died. Or maybe I’m dead and life as a pig is the same thing as Hell”.

Now why did we need the Piccolo family and Fio in that movie? Remember that scene when Marco was going to close the deal with his mechanic because he didn’t want his plane to be designed by a woman? And how he had given in the next day, seeing that Fio had what it took to build one? He given in because he wasn’t so stupid to actually be bothered by prejudice and he wasn’t rotten to actually believe that a woman can’t do as good job as a man. All he needed to do was to stop acting as a pig and give the girl a fair chance, and it worked out great for him. And I think that is a big part of Fio’s role in that movie, she makes Marco act decently, thinking of others instead of only about himself. Like that time when Fio was going to fly with him sitting in a tiny compartment on top of a machine gun. Marco couldn’t do that to her, so he got rid of one of his guns instead. Fio’s honesty and enthusiasm did way more for Marco than a company of his old wise friends could.

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I really like that scene. A myriad of planes against the blue sky, it looks amazing.

My friend Shaurya said that the story feels like a fairy tale. I think so too. I am very happy that I got to watch that fairy tale about a middle aged man who once lost his own self. Tell me what you think about it! See you next time.

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12 thoughts on “Porco Rosso

  1. I didn’t think Porco Rosso has such a deep meaning :O Probably because like you said, the subs made it sound neutral. That part where he said in the dub “It seems to me God was telling me I was a pig and maybe I deserve to be all alone”, in the subs he was saying “It was like God was telling me to fly all alone forever.” You don’t pay it much attention because after all his friends just died and he was flying all alone. It doesn’t seem to hold any other meaning. Also at the other part all he said was “Good guys die first.” And the part where he told Fio “Seeing you makes me wish I’ve never given up being human”, all he said was “You make me think that all humanity is not a waste.” It just means that she is a good girl. I wonder if the dubbed version actually made the story more meaningful =)

    • I think it is not all that deep, just the character motivations and whatnot are hidden behind the dialogues. Cool, so you have the same subs as me =) Yeah I checked those lines. I think the subs are close to literal translation, though it is just a guess. I know in the dub they were very liberal, there is at least one moment where they added a voice line where there is silence in the Japanese version. And it is sounded good too, so I have no complaints =) I would like to believe that the people who were writing the dialogue for the dub spend some time thinking about the story and then tried to be make the script both truthful to the original story and good for the ear. But I won’t be complaining even if the dub made up things, cause it did sound good =)

      What do you think about Fio? In the dub when Fio’s grandfather tells Marco not to touch her he replies with “Don’t worry. Just looking at her makes me tired”, it sounded funny =)

      • Yup. The sub is close to the literal translation. I am okay with that though. I guess one very good dubbed version is still not enough to tempt me into watching dubbed versions :P

        I think Fio is in the story only because someone has to play the teenage girl’s role -_- Her actions make sense when she built a plane and then decided to go with Marco because it is her first plane and she had no intention of letting him ride it without testing it. But why decide to be a part of the gamble? She didn’t even get to see how good Marco or Curtis is and yet she decided to bet her future for Marco’s sake and it felt a bit unrealistic.

        • Sure. I’ve been watching some older anime lately, and in about half of them the original audio track was better. Like in Tank Police, there they got rid of all the Japanese music >.> In Robot Carnival there was one scene that made more sense in the dub (cause subs were pretty bad for that one part), but the original acting still sounded way better. Its like a gamble, even if you like English dub you never know what version is better for those old shows =)

          That’s true. Though she is impulsive and she didn’t have time to come up with a better plan, so I don’t mind her making that unwise decision. She is 17, that is an age where you can get carried away by the moment, I think. By the way, if Marco lost and Fio actually decided to honor the agreement, it would be a good setup for one of the Agatha Christie stories :D You know, a rich American family, an egoistic guy with an Italian wife who doesn’t necessarily love him, it feels like a household Poirot would visit :3 Though that would probably mean Curtis would be murdered ^^’

          One thing about Fio is, if you met her in real life I imagine you would’ve liked her =) I mean, she is friendly, hard working and talented, and she has that really positive attitude. When Marco showed up at their house she was taking care of everything, from parking his plane to finding him a bed and a towel, besides designing his plane and listening to his not-so-pleasant opinions. That doesn’t necessarily makes her an interesting character, of course.

          • I recommend watching the subbed version of Gintama (when you finally start watching it that is :P). It has several gags and puns that make more sense in the sub and the voice acting is pretty awesome too =)

            Yeah. I thought it would me more interesting if Marco lost that fight, just to see what Fio would do. Too bad she is too nice of a person to kill Curtis :P

            Yup. I probably would’ve liked Fio. But then again, if I met Curtis in real life, I wouldn’t have disliked him either. He isn’t a bad person. He is just a little cocky is all =)

            • I don’t think there is a dub for Gintama, сan’t find any mention of it o.o So won’t have much choice :P

              Yeah? I thought you would be more concerned with her well being xD I agree thought, would be cool to see if she keeps the promise, and if she does – how she would deal with that situation. Her grandfather would have probably thought she turned out to be an airhead and just ran off with a famous pilot =)
              Don’t underestimate Christie, the person with an obvious motive doesn’t have to be the murderer >:P

              That’s true =) Unless you are his enemy, then he gets a bit more obnoxious.

              • Good :P

                I would have been concerned about Fio if Curtis is a bad guy but he isn’t and he wouldn’t hurt her. I would have though ‘She brought it upon herself anyway’ :3 I guess I think being young and hotheaded isn’t much of an excuse to do something stupid :P
                Then that pirate gang will have to be the murderers XD I doubt they would kill a person either. Most of the people in Porco Rosso are good and likable. I doubt any one of them would kill Curtis. If someone did murder him, it would probably be the government XD Isn’t it weird that we’re sitting here and talking about the possible motive for a murder in a movie like Porco Rosso >:3

  2. I see :D

    If we have to restrict ourselves to the characters from the anime, I would have made Gina the murderer ^.^ If Marco lost the fight and Fio’s life became a mess I can imagine him seeking a rematch and trying to do something for Fio, quite possibly acting stupidly in the process. And if Gina thought that Marco will be killed in his attempts, well who knows what she would have done =) She seems capable and getting close to a guy like Curtis would be easy for her.
    I dunno, seems normal to me xP

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