Studio Ghibli’s classics return to Blu-ray in partnership with GKIDS and Shout! Factory
Fans and newcomers to the magic of Studio Ghibli can celebrate as GKIDS and Shout! Factory close out their re-release of the animated classics this month. We already covered their releases of Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle; next up, Hayao Miyazaki’s stunning aerial adventure Porco Rosso.
Porco Rosso is a world-weary flying ace-turned-bounty hunter, whose face has been transformed into that of a pig by a mysterious spell. When he infuriates a band of sky pirates with his heroics, the pirates hire Curtis, a hotshot American rival, to get rid of him. But with the help of the teenage girl Fio, an aspiring airplane designer, and a sultry lounge singer named Gina, Porco takes to the skies for what may be his final high-flying showdown.
Much of the Studio Ghibli/Hayazo Miyazaki catalogue delves into mystical fare, magical lands and creatures, and mythological tales. Porco Rosso is perhaps the most grounded, despite its lead with his accursed features — a daredevil pilot that has the facial features of a pig. It’s a time just after World War I where pirates have taken to the skies, meaning innocents turn to former wartime pilots for protection.
Despite his impressive abilities in the air, Porco is the subject of ridicule, forced to excel to prove his worth. It’s an often tragic look at how society and individuals can persecute an individual for being different. Miyazaki deftly explores this through Porco’s behavior and responses to craft out sympathy, but more importantly to champion individuality and talent, despite the lead’s appearance. There’s a sweet if tragic aspect of this explored through Porco’s relationship with Madam Gina, a woman who has a strong bond with Porco, so much so she is the only one to call him by his real name, Marco. They have a shared connection, feelings not fully shared, a trust, but an unconsummated affair. Thrown into the mix is Donald Curtis, a fellow pilot who falls in with the pirates to take down Porco, while also harboring jealousy for Gina’s affections. It all sounds very melodramatic, but the film depicts flawed characters on both sides, painted with shades of grey rather than black and white, good vs. bad. It’s a more nuanced affair than you’d expect and all the more interesting for it.
Swirling around this deeply personal tale is a thrilling action adventure. Brilliantly executed action sequences with dog fights in the skies add a sense of fun to proceedings. The film feels like an old serial at times, as it hurtles along, weaving a character study of this pilot with his ongoing adventures. Mildly slapstick comedy and other lighter moments tilt it more into the family/kid friendly fare than some of Studio Ghibli’s darker efforts, but it still has a strong message at its heart, delivered with a lingering sense of melancholy.
Like their previous Studio Ghibli releases, Shout! Factory delivers a fine package. The image quality is impressive, with bold colors, deep blacks, and sharp detail. Dubbed English and French versions of the film are included, as is a Japanese version with English dubtitles, in addition to the original English and French subtitle translations from the original Japanese version. The package contains both Blu-ray and DVD copies of the film. It’s again worth noting the price of these releases is FAR more competitive than past efforts, including the recent Disney releases. Special features include:
• Feature-Length Storyboards: Showcases the beautiful original sketches laying out the film’s story, set to the final soundtrack.
• Original Theatrical Trailers
• Interview with Toshio Suzuki: The film’s producer discusses the broad appeal of the film, the family tone but overall aim at a more grown-up audience.
• Behind the Microphone: A trip to the recording booth. A featurette showing snippets of the American cast assembled to record their dubbed dialogue for the film.
• Textless Open and End Credits: Removes the scrawl from over the open and close to allow full appreciation of the animated sequences.
• 8-page Booklet with Producer’s and Director’s Statements: A nicely produced liner booklet with notes and stills from the film.
The Bottom Line
Porco Rosso is a brilliant and beautiful adventure film that at its core is a moving drama about being different, being strong, and accepting others. Shout! Factory has yet again put together another Studio Ghibli release that showcases the stunning visuals and impressive craft of these filmmakers.
Porco Rosso is available via Shout! Factory from Nov 21st.
GKIDS Is Releasing Acclaimed Studio Ghilbli Films Press Release:
Studio Ghibli and GKIDS, with distribution by Shout! Factory, will release several titles from the famed Studio Ghibli library of films! These movies will have significant upgrades. We can’t wait to watch them all! Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke come out today and Castle In The Sky and Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind will be released on October 31. The Secret World Of Arrietty and Porco Rosso will follow on November 21.