Porco Rosso

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.

Porco Rosso
Porco Rosso

(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.

7 thoughts on “Porco Rosso”

  1. My only real problem with Porco is that some bits are slapstick that drag on too long (as was also the case in Laputa).

    If you watch the closing credits (showing the long distance shot of Gina’s island) very carefully (and perhaps at reduced speed — with the freeze frame button handy), you might just see something that gives a hint as to what happens after the officiall close of the story.

  2. Oops, Steven scooped me (and was also less circumspect).


    The plane is actually too small to see clearly (at least on our TV) — but it certainly looks like Marco’s plane.

  3. Well, we know that Porco visits often, though of course usually at night. I will go back and check it out, maybe get a screengrab. I like the open-endedness of it. Presumably Porco has a journey of his own to make, thouhg I guess its obvious that given the tone of the film, he will eventually see the light. Still, I wonder. You could argue that his heroism is driven by his guilt. Lose one, lose the other…. but I doubt we are meant to read this much into it.

    BTW, anyone have screenshots of Hayao Girl? I need to do a comparison post and really need to find the same general front facial shot of each iteration. There’s also Hayao Dad and Hayao Kid, but let us begin with the mahou shojo since that’s what we watch them for anyway.

  4. The point is that the image goes by more or less during Fio’s voice-over where she says something to the effect that whether Gina gets her wish to see Porco again, well, that’s our little secret. The picture hints that the answer is “yes”.

  5. I also liked that the ending was open-ended. And that there wasn’t really a heavy-handed message to the movie, though you could say that there was a message about selflessness, redemption, and all that. There needs to be more fistfights like that in Miyazaki films as well. 😛

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