I enjoyed this one, though unfortunately my daughter (for whom I had intended to order it from Netflix) hasn’t really taken to it. I’ve heard a great deal about the movie but never got around to watching it until now, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Some spoilers follow…
Porco is an intriguing character. He’s an ace seaplane pilot who suffers a curse of being a pig. Literally – snout and flappy ears, the whole bit.
(That’s the Hayao Girl to his right, aka Kiki/Satsuki/Nausicaa/Fio, about whom an entire post will need to be devoted later)
It’s not clearly stated how he got his curse, but it seems in a way to be self-inflicted – perhaps analogous to the circle of sin in Haibane Renmei. Porco relates to Fio the story of losing his best friend and everyone in his unit during the war, and it’s apparent that when he says “all the good ones are dead” that he is suffering from survivor’s guilt as a result (see Steven’s post a few years back for details – scroll down). It’s likely that the pig is a manifestation of that guilt. In fact there are only two times in the movie where Porco’s curse is (temporarily) lifted, once while sorting bullets the night before the big duel, and once after all the spectators are leaving and he decides (with Curtis’ help) to lure the Italian air force away so the others can escape.
These are the only two selfless actions of Porco’s in the movie (though you could argue that for the latter, he also sent Fio off with Gina immediately prior, so that technically could be three things. The last two are just lumped together). Note that after Fio kisses him, he’s knocked into the water by Gina’s plane, and you don’t ever actually see his face again. Curtis, coming up from behind him in a wide angle shot where you see the two from above, says “hey what’s with your face” – implying that Porco had transformed again. As for the sorting bullets scene, the entire reason for the duel is to save Fio from being married off to Curtis, so he literally is trying to save her. His concentration while she’s sleeping, on the task ahead, is what triggers the change. The moment she awakes though his embarrassment (and perhaps, some impure thoughts about the cute girl he’s alone on a deserted island with) reverts him quickly back to pig-mode.
The story ends without ending, in a manner akin to Totoro – there isn’t really any resolution, it just ends with the events depicted. A voiceover by Fio tells about her subsequent life, but there’s absolutely no mention of Porco again. The question of whether Porco met Gina in her garden after all is left unresolved – it all depends on whether Porco can come to terms with his guilt, and see himself for the hero he is. He’s a tragic figure, but unlike genuine tragedy the door is left open for redemption. Until then, his plane’s wings might as well be black.
This movie would probably have been half as good had the ending been resolved for the viewer. I think it’s a masterstroke to leave it undone like this. Highly recommended.