Classic Studio Ghibli Anime ‘Porco Rosso’ is a Hilarious, High-Flying Delight

Julien Neaves, Editor

Plot: An Italian ex-World War I fighting ace who was turned into an anthropomorphic pig by a curse hunts pirates as a bounty hunter with his red seaplane. When a cocky American pilot is hired by a pirate gang to take him out the two engage in a dogfight to the death.

Review: On the Red Mango Reviews Facebook page we celebrate “Anime Mondays” every Monday. One of the joys of Anime Mondays is discovering or rediscovering classic anime films. And for my viewing pleasure (and your reading pleasure) today we have 1992 animated adventure comedy Porco Rosso.

You’re a strange looking fellow…

This is another gem from legendary studio Studio Ghibli and iconic director Hayao Miyazaki, so I was not surprised by the beautiful and smooth animation with vibrant colours that framed an enchanting tale. I was, however, surprised by how relatively grounded the story is in Porco Rosso. The last time I saw people who had turned into pigs in a Studio Ghibli film was the wonderfully fantastical Spirited Away. But the titular character (whose name translates to “Red Pork” in Italian) is the only fantastical aspect here, and, despite his appearance, he walks, talks and acts like your average man. You could actually make him a regular man with some type of natural scar or deformity and still have the same basic story. But I would miss his memorable look, his frequent pig-related self-loathing, and all the pig jokes his rivals and enemies make.

I watched the film with the English dub (I know, I’m a filthy philistine) and I was treated to the best Batman/Beetlejuice himself Michael Keaton in the title role. And he does such a great job as the smooth, laconic, sardonic and slightly roguish but kindhearted pilot. When he says, “I’m a pig. I only care about a paycheck” this is how he wants the world to see him, but not how he truly is. We also had The Princess Bride and Robin Hood: Men in Tights star Cary Elwes as vain and foppish American pilot Donald Curtis, and Kimberly Williams-Paisley (Father of the Bride Parts I and II, Nashville) as brilliant young engineer Fio Piccolo. Like Keaton, both Elwes and Williams-Paisley do a commendable job in bringing their entertaining characters to life. Voice actress Susan Egan (Hercules, Steven Universe, Spirited Away) rounds off the strong main cast as the beautiful hotel owner and Porco love interest Gina.

They look like a friendly sort. Except those two guys on the far right. They look like Hitler’s cousins

Outside of the main cast my favourite characters were the pirates. These guys are inept, dumb and prone to random acts of violence, but they are also kind of sweet. And their over-the-top antics are a riot and they made me laugh out loud multiple times. The film opens with the pirates attacking a ship, stealing their gold and kidnapping a group of young schoolgirls. And it goes terribly and hilarious wrong for them, especially when Porco flies in to save the day. The film is not an action-heavy one, but the seaplane fights were all fun and entertaining.

If I had one complaint about the film it would be the curse aspect. It’s never fully explained and a flashback with pre-pig Porco only added to my confusion. But as I mentioned above it is not a major aspect of the story and it is not a generic fairy tale where the “beast” finds love and regains his human form. Instead it is a tale of a man who hides behind his appearance but is a honourable man at heart and only requires an opportunity to let that shine.

Hey! Not in front of the bullets!

While the film may not be as popular as My Neighbor Totoro or Princess Mononoke it is one of the best films from Studio Ghibli. And if you want a gorgeously animated anime film with a likeable hero and a super cool mix of comedy and wacky adventure then you need to give old Porco Rosso a call.

Editor Jules’s Score: 9 out of 10

So are you a fan of Porco Rosso? What’s your favourite part? And you can check out more great Studio Ghibli content below:


Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”.