An animated feature film directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Porco Rosso is set in 1920s Italy, and revolves around the adventures of the Red Pig (get it?), an retired Italian Air Force pilot who's become a bounty hunter. He's a pig, too. No, really, his head is a literal pig-head. He tells the story of how he became the Red Pig - it essentially boils down to the moment when he gave up on being happy. (That's my interpretation, and I'm not at all certain I'm right.)

He's got a stereotypically gruff exterior, but is a really kind and gentle man, bending over backwards to save the orphanage kids and make a teenage girl happy. Porco is a really likeable character - a swashbucking ace pilot who thwarts the burgeoning fascist government and wins the day.

But don't let it's innocence fool you - there's another level to the story of Porco Rosso. It's in the Red Pig's relationship with Gina, a beautiful but melacholy singer who was the lover of Porco's late comrade.

Another winner from Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, Porco Rosso debuted in Japan in 1991. Disney owns the rights to distribute it internationally, but has not announced an English version yet.

Miyazaki has suggested that of all his works, this is the most "adult" -- and despite the bright colors of the Adriatic setting and the high-flying action, I feel that his assessment of his own work is right on. He also mentions that it works better dubbed in French than in its original Japanese; thanks to the magic of DVDs, one can watch it this way and retain the English subtitles.

Set in mostly in fascist Italy before WW II, this animated feature by master animator Hayao Miyazaki conjures up a fable of the lost era of water landing planes, where pilots were still free and heroic. The version dubbed in French of the film (the lead spoken by Jean Reno) titled Porco Rosso was also released in France. An english dub also exists (also included on the japanese DVD relesed in late March 2002), but this is to be avoided at all costs (Let's hope that Disney (aka "The Mouse") will re-dub the film when they finally release the film elsewhere.

The plot revolves around a free-lance pilot ace called Porco Rosso, because of his facial features (He looks like a pig. Why will be kind of explained in the film), who usually battles air pirates. When he gets shot down by an american pilot who is out to get famous, he needs to return to "civilization" in order to get his plane repaired and discovers, that the era of spirit and adventure is slowly coming to an end as the government seeks to abolish all free-lance flying.

To go any deeper wouldprobably spoil too much, but there is also love, adventure, fun, and finally, an all-out rematch with the american.

The film is fun to watch, a typical Studio Ghibli film, where no side is turely evil (the fascist are only a side note, and not acutually characterized), and can be watched with the entire family (no Mononoke-style flying heads). Miyazaki gets to display his love for flying and airplanes more than in his other movies, and also his yearning for older, easier times.

The Japanese DVD Set also includes english and french subtitles, as well as the english (poor) and french (good) dub, so even without an official release elsewhere, it can be viewed almost all around the world (if your DVD-player can handle Region Code 2 DVD's).

Wheather you buy the japanese double DVD set (priced at 4700Y before tax), watch it at a convention or wait for the official release by Disney (still in the stars), this is a film to check out. I would give it three thumbs up, but I only have two ;-)

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