Well Ghibli, you've done it again. I have to openly admit that among seeing pictures of a pig flying around in a sea plane, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. Was this gonna be a comedy, or something to be taken a little more seriously. In actuality, it's sort of both, and the whole pig thing is more symbolic than anything else. All we really get is that it's some sort of curse.
The film takes place in the early 1930s, where pirates have taken over the skies. Porco (Shūichirō Moriyama/Michael Keaton) takes up the job of bounty hunter, and becomes a known hero among the general population. We get all of this in a nicely done opening scene that sets up the whole spirit of the film.
We soon also get to know that there's a history between him and a hotel owner named Gina (Tokiko Kato/Susan Egan). However, an American pilot by the name of Donald Curtis (Akio Ōtsuka/Cary Elwes) sees competition in Porco for the affections of Gina, and the two begin a bitter rivalry that leads Porco to crash land. He then finds help in his friend Mr. Piccolo (Sanshi Katsura/David Ogden Stiers), and his granddaughter, Fio (Akemi Okamura/Kimberly Williams-Paisley).
Giving way to the symbolism of Porco's literal pig-head, we learn that he initially has a sexist attitude towards Fio (among a whole group of women) helping to repair his plane. And in case you're wondering, yeah, we kinda find out why he's a pig, but it's actually a pretty sad story. As silly as the whole thing seems, if you dig a little deeper into things here, you can walk away feeling like you've just seen something sort of profound. Only speaking for myself, I managed to see themes of a character feeling like he's accepted the kind of person he is, there's no changing him, and he feels like he deserves what he gets for being a "pig". So yeah. It's not just some pig in a plane.
To lighten things up, however, there's actually plenty of comedy that keeps things flowing lightly. I have to admit there were a few pleasantly surprising laugh out loud lines throughout this movie, and it felt like a near-perfect balance. As a bonus, if you enjoy good flying scenes, this movie is full of them, and the flow of the animation is really quite nice, especially for 1992.
I have to admit, I see this on a lot of favourite Ghibli movie lists, and I don't think my list would be any exception. I'd have to claim this as one of my favourite I've seen so far in the series. A lot of that lies in the contrasting characters as well. I have a tendency to enjoy the loner type of character that is Porco, but Fio is really quite likable as a female character who is often shunned, but proves herself perfectly capable and superbly intelligent at every turn. She's not that strong female character right away, but she manages to blossom into it (early enough, not so much a spoiler), and it's really good development of a character overall.
It sort of reminded me a bit of an old 'Disney Afternoon' show called 'TaleSpin', in which Jungle Book characters flew seaplanes and fought air pirates, first running in 1990. But even if it did come first, this movie was just better overall. Of course, I'm a sucker for the strange and unusual, especially if it can be interpreted symbolically, so this movie was kinda just up my alley. Overall, it was a pleasant surprise.
As anime is an all-around untapped resource for my viewing pleasure, I have decided to explore the Ghibli titles, one-by-one. It seemed good a place to start as any. I'll be focusing on these titles throughout the month of August.