Porco Rosso - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 93
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Porco Rosso

Porco Rosso

By Chris Beveridge     February 19, 2005
Release Date: February 22, 2005

Porco Rosso
© Buena Vista Home Entertainment

What They Say
Take flight with "Porco" Rosso, a valiant World War I flying ace! From tropical Adriatic settings to dazzling aerial maneuvers, this action-adventure from world-renowned animator Hayao Miyazaki is full of humor, courage, and chivalry.

When "Porco" - whose face has been transformed into that of a pig by a mysterious spell - infuriates a band of sky pirates with his aerial heroics, the pirates hire Curtis, a rival pilot, to "get rid" of him. On the ground, the two pilots compete for the affections of the beautiful Gina. But it is in the air where the true battles are waged.

Will our hero be victorious?

Featuring the extraordinary voice talents of Michael Keaton, Cary Elwes, Brad Garrett, Kimberly Williams, Susan Egan, and David Ogden Stiers, this is a thrilling ride you'll never forget!

The Review!
Combing many of Miyazaki's favorite elements together, Porco Rosso becomes one of the more light hearted and spirited movies that Ghibli has worked on.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its new English language adaptation. The new English mix is done up in a surround sound mix which comes across really well and utilizes the full soundstage at certain times to provide some good aural moments. The bulk of the show is very much along the forward channels though and it excels along there with some good zipping back and forth with the planes and dialogue location. The Japanese and French tracks are both in their original stereo format and were problem free from the couple of checks we did on it. With the English language track, we had no problems with dropouts or distortions at all during regular playback.

Originally in theaters back in 1992, the transfer for this film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Much like the Japanese release of the film three years ago, this transfer is just beautiful across the board. With such rich colors in the ocean backgrounds and the vibrant red of Porco's plane, it all comes across beautifully here and without any truly noticeable problems. Cross coloration and aliasing are blissfully non-existent and I'm again hard pressed to really find anything wrong with it. There's the slight level of grain that's normal with most films and gives it the texture it has but beyond that this is just a gem of a transfer and one that'll be used to show off on our main setup.

Released in a single keepcase with a flippy insert to hold the second disc, the cover artwork for this release is one of the weakest that I've seen. While a stoic shot of Porco isn't bad, it doesn't set the tone for this show at all with it's high flying adventure being the central storyline. The Japanese release wasn't that best thing ever either, but it at least had a good illustrated shot of Porco's plain rising above the sea and gave an idea of what some of the key elements were. This one with just Porco in his jacket and hat against a sunset sky just tells you nothing. The back cover uses a really good blue for a background and provides a shot of the plane flying over one of the islands alongside a summary of the premise. The discs features and production information is all clearly visible and the technical bits are mostly easy enough to find between the three areas where they are. The insert for this release uses the back cover artwork and lists the chapters for the film while the reverse side is boxart adverts for other Ghibli titles.

Going with a subdued feeling, the main menu is almost like a watercolor painting that's moving as the clouds from a sunset sky roll by while in the center there's an oval with a headshot of Porco flying along, all set to some of the more relaxing instrumental music from the show. The navigation is below there and is fairly standard in setup; as with a number of Buena Vista releases, I dislike how they continually separate the audio and subtitle setups into separate menus. It is of course only a few extra clicks but it's just poor layout and design to my mind. Access times are nice and fast and the menus load quickly though they do have to suffer from some brief transitional animations that are the same for each selection. The disc correctly read our players language presets and played it accordingly.

Much like the Japanese release, there are few extras here but there are a couple of pieces. An original produced piece is the Behind the Microphone section which takes us on a series of chats with the various performers from the English version talking about their experiences with the show and the process of dubbing. I absolutely love these pieces since with them you can tell who was a fan of anime/Miyazaki beforehand and those who became converts along the way. Another included extra, though a bit shorter, is a piece on the production of Porco Rosso from the Japanese release where Toshio Suzuki talks about it and what Miyazaki was using as influences. This, unlike the feature-length piece on the Nausicaa release, is left in Japanese and just subtitled. And like every other Miyazaki release, the second disc has the entire movie in storyboard fashion, just like the Japanese release as well.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The story of Porco Rosso is one that fits surprisingly well into the Miyazaki style. It takes place in the Mediterranean sometime in what feels like the 1920's. The place is poor, but the people are good hearted and live life to the fullest. But even in beautiful area like this with the sea and the islands, there's something that just shouldn't be there causing trouble. And that's the air pirates, a loose federation of various groups who scour the area for targets to plunder and steal from.

The movie opens up with one group, the Mama Aiuto's, attacking a tourist boat where they loot it clean and then take fifteen schoolgirls hostage on their own seaplane for a getaway. The local authorities call in for Porco Rosso, a bounty hunter pilot who specializes in dealing with these pirates for a price. He lives in a gorgeous secluded little island with just a tent and his radio (and some booze of course). Porco takes the job and heads off to deal with the pirates.

The visuals of these planes flying and skimming over the water are just gorgeous to watch. They're so beautifully animated that you can't help but just let your jaw drop as it feels so effortlessly done. But it's the attention to detail that really gets you as we see a variety of these kinds of planes from different times and they're all wonderfully detailed. It's these little things that make it feel ever so more realistic. In fact, other than the part about the lead being a pig, this is a very realistically done movie.

Porco's troubles don't end with these particular air pirates though, as the larger federation has brought in an American pilot to deal with him, and the two are definitely more alike than not. Especially in that they both have affection for a lovely singer who entertains most of the pilots and others in the area in her small island locale. It's the fight between the American named Curtiss and Porco that eventually causes him to take his already beleaguered plane back to Milan to be fully restored. And it's along this backdrop that we see the growing tide of fascism taking hold in the country and changing things for the next big movement.

But the movie isn't really about the times so much as the people living in them and how they cope with it. The movie is also just flat out funny. When Porco and Curtiss are finally in an "official" competition in the final third of the movie, both their guns jam and they're reduced to just flinging parts at each other across the sky. Their engagements with their planes are spectacular, but it's the way the two play off of each other, neither being completely serious and having a knowing wink almost ready to go.

Since it had been about three years since I last saw this film, I was definitely looking forward to seeing it again, particularly as my daughter is older now and understands these things more. With the new English adaptation there was also the appeal of hearing how that was done as the old Streamline dub was one of the more laughable ones I've heard. Over the course of the movie, the adaptation does a good job for the most part but there are areas where I don't think it worked well. The subtitles for the Japanese track look to be much more authentic (i.e. kilometers instead of miles, etc) so you can easily tell the differences. Most of the changes are done for lip-flap problems and to maintain something that sounds intelligent and without the pauses but some of the changes are just strange. The most striking one is when Fio informs Porco about the changes she's made to the design of his plane, she says it'll go five times faster now. The subtitles indicate that it'll go five knots faster. Talk about a huge difference, he's probably going subsonic at this rate.

In terms of the performances, most of the roles are well done and enjoyable but I find myself really having to stretch to find Michael Keaton – an actor whose work I've enjoyed considerably over the years and own numerous releases of – as Porco Rosso. He maintains the same kind of low guttural voice of the Japanese actor but it just doesn't come across right in English maybe. I liked Cary Elwes performance but their strange insistence on making him Texan when he's from Alabama sort of messes with his accent and it's not too consistent to begin with. But it's the Boss character in the end that I had the hardest time with since it often seemed Garret was being loud just for louds sake and not the way the character was trying to express himself. Combined with the changes in the script, the English performances overall are good and the heart of Porco Rosso is definitely still there, but it's enough of a variation in my mind and ears that I'm not likely to listen to it again myself, though I hope my kids listen and enjoy the movie many more times in the years to come.

In Summary:
The film is definitely one of Miyazaki's light films with its bright visual flare and almost cheesy humor at times. Porco is an odd lead, but works well as a chain smoking cranky pig. Miyazaki's style of animation fits in perfectly with the look of the Mediterranean as envisioned here and at times almost takes on the look of a painting. While it's not the deepest or most soul shaking film that they've put out, it's definitely one that I love to watch as often as possible, and this disc has finally brought the release to a much wider audience that I hope enjoys it as much as I do. Excellent stuff.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 4.0 Language,French 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Behind the Microphone,Interview with the Producer,Original Japanese Trailers,Storyboards

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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