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 extraordinary voice talents this is a thrilling ride you'll never forget!
Another of Studio Ghibli's animated movies is now available on Blu-ray. Despite being one of the Japanese company's lesser-known titles, 'Porco Rosso' is just as entertaining and deserving as the rest.
'Porco Rosso' is the 1992 picture written and directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, the man known as the "Walt Disney of Japan." Never released theatrically in the United States, it finally made its domestic debut on DVD in 2005. For those just now experiencing 'Porco Rosso' for the first time, it's never looked better.
Imagine a rough(er)-around-the-edges version of Harrison Ford's iconic character Indiana Jones. That's how I describe our central character, Porco Rosso (voiced by Michael Keaton on this Disney-distributed English dub version). Once an amazing, loved and one-of-a-kind ace pilot, Porco had a "fall from grace" that not only scarred him, but tarnished his persona and physical being. The result has transformed his once-human head into that of a pig. The literal description "pig-headed" fits both his physical appearnace and his personality.
Although Porco is no longer the handsome, beloved and desired man that he once was, he's still a renegade pilot for hire that everyone comes to in times of desperation. His talent exceeds all, so whenever pirates attack, he's paid (in secret) to leave his seaside island hideaway to thwart the thieving and kidnapping pirate plans. Italian officials are constantly on hunt for Porco, but that doesn't stop him from being our perfect anti-hero.
The movie kicks off with an introduction to Porco's greatness. Do you remember the Disney TV series 'Tailspin' that aired in early '90s? The thing I loved about 'Tailspin' was how – despite being a kids show – it featured real-life, intense action elements. The bad guys fired real bullets and planes could be shot out of the sky. Such is the case with 'Porco Rosso.' There's real danger within it. Porco's life is always at risk.
We're initially introduced to Porco when a boat is hijacked by pirates and the young female passengers aboard are kidnapped by a villain who looks like Doctor Eggman (the baddie from video game 'Sonic the Hedgehog'). Porco shows up in his speedy cherry red fighter plane and literally blasts them out of the sky. This defeat is the straw that breaks the henchmen's backs, leading them to hire a famous American plane racer to shoot Porco out of the sky. With this new highly trained professional hunting him down, Porco will have to use his resources and friends to remain as the protector of the skies. In the process, he just might be able to redeem himself.
As we've grown to expect from Miyazaki's films, 'Porco Rosso' is filled with fun and likeable characters. Porco's mechanic is a hoot and the new aviation engineer is as likable as can be. The villains are a bunch of enjoyable boneheads and Porco's ritzy old flame is like something out of a noir movie, which is fitting when considering the movie is set in the 1930s.
Thanks to Disney, we have yet another worthy Studio Ghibli release on Blu-ray.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Disney has given 'Porco Rosso' a combo pack release that includes both a Region A/B/C BD-50 and a DVD copy. A Disney Movie Rewards code is also included in this two-disc Elite keepcase, but it sadly does not give access to a Disney Movies Anywhere digital version of the film. A cardboard slipcover comes with it. A "New on Blu-ray" sticker is slapped on the front and can easily be removed without leaving residue. Upon inserting the disc into your player, following a Disney vanity reel and an unskippable Disney promo reel, skippable trailers for '101 Dalmatians,' 'Inside Out' and 'Big Hero 6' run along with an anti-smoking ad.
Having just reviewed the new 'Pom Poko' Blu-ray, I expected the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer of 'Porco Rosso' to be wonderfully identical. While it's quite good (and world's better than that of the old DVD release), it's not quite as good as that of 'Pom Poko.'
The strongest aspect of 'Porco Rosso' is its colorization. If you've ever been flying above the clouds and looked out toward a distant sunset, you'll appreciate the gorgeous way in which the golden sunset are animated and colored. The palette isn't confined to certain shades or tones. It's all over the spectrum and it's dripping with eye-pleasing vibrancy. The result is an animation style that you don't want to stop watching.
The oddly disappointing element is the movie's overall clarity. A grain-like noise can be see in solidly colored areas of the screen from time to time. It's not constant, but the seemingly dancing pixels will catch your attention each time it happens. Along with it, there are lots of tiny white specs of dirt or debris peppered throughout.
Despite those flaws, the sharpness of the defined animated lines and the colorization make it a stark improvement over the DVD version.
While the video qualities varied between the two, the audio quality of 'Porco Rosso' is identical to that of 'Pom Poko.' Three audio options are present, two of which will keep the Studio Ghibli purists happy: both the Disney-produced English dub version and the original Japanese tracks are available in 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mixes. A French 2.0 Dolby Digital track is also included.
The audio of 'Porco Rosso' is not only absolutely clear, but it's quite a bit louder than most lossless mixes. Within it is a harmonious blending of dialog, music and effects. The dialog, including the 'Sin City'-esque narration by Michael Keaton's fantastic voice, is absolutely clear. The sweeping and dramatic score resembles a combination of what you'd expect in a '50s or '70s movie. Clumped with the vocals and roaring plane engine sounds, it never feels congested nor crowded. The effects mix stacks expected elements of aviation atop one another to achieve full realistic sounds. Wind, engines, spinning propellers and clunking gunfire are combined to make the dogfights sound as you would expect them to in real life. Their sounds even image from side to side throughout.
While a 5.1 track would have been nice, this 2.0 mix gets the job done very well.
Each of the following special features has been brought over from the original DVD release.
If you – like me – are a fan of Studio Ghibli/Miyazaki films, then you've got to love that we're starting to get some of the lesser-known titles on Blu-ray thanks to their partnership with Disney. 'Porco Rosso' features great characters in a fun and surprisingly intense tale. The pig-headed central character is an anti-hero brute that's enjoyable to watch in dangerous – even deadly – scenarios. The Blu-ray features a slightly flawed video quality and a decent lossless 2.0 mix, as well as a small set of mild special features. Luckily, the movie itself is more than enough reason to add 'Porco Rosso' to your collection alongside the rest of the Ghibli discs.