Released in 1992, Porco Rosso (紅の豚) is perhaps what could be defined as the cult favorite amidst Miyazaki films. It narrates the story of an aviator who has been turned into a pig in human form and lives as a bounty hunter who protects airships from the attacks of the dreaded pirates of the Adriatic.
The time is somewhere between the two world wars, somewhere between Croatia and Italy. Fascism is on its way up. Porco Rosso was once a pilot in the Italian air force and was called Marco. Marco had seen his friends die in the war for a meaningless cause and having witnessed the endless stream of dead pilots ascend to the skies (in one of the most beautiful and tragic scenes in the film) he decides to live a reclusive life somewhere in the Adriatic, as a pig-aviator. A band of Adriatic pirates called “Mamma Aiyuto” are fed up with Porco Rosso constantly foiling their dastardly plans. They hence call upon American aviator and soon to be Hollywood idol- Donald Curtis- to defeat Porco Rosso.
The so far masculine world of Porco Rosso then takes a complete turn and becomes the story of several women. Fia who along with a host of women, designs and produces fighter planes, given that most of the men are either fighting at the war-front or are dead, becomes the main protagonist. It is from her eyes that the story of Porco Rosso starts being narrated. And then there is Gina, who owns a hotel and is the muse of all the pilots of the Adriatic. Her love for Marco, unwavering through the years, would determine the story’s enigmatic finale.
Porco Rosso is many things. A story of daring deeds. A tale of nostalgia and sadness. A fairy tale of redemption and rediscovering one’s faith in humanity after having lost it all in the cynicism of the modern age. It is also a denouncement of fascism and male chauvinism. One of Porco Rosso’s famous lines takes a great dig at how the word pig is used to decry both these phenomena. “I would rather be a pig than a fascist!” he proudly tells a couple of fascists.
Blending humor, breath taking dog fights in the air, endearing characters and a subtle but critical look at a dark chapter in human history- Porco Rosso is deservedly the favorite Ghibli film for many. Every viewing of the film unveils a new layer and its textured story line immerses us into a world where the fantastic meshes seamlessly into the sordid reality of the time. You would expect a story with a pig-aviator to be escapist, funny fantasy. But Miyazaki, the master animator and story teller, gives you something unexpected- a story with so much heart that it becomes absolutely unforgettable.