Miyazaki proves that pigs can fly as he turns his hand to sky pirates and seaplanes over the ocean
Porco Rosso Blu-ray ReviewMaster animator Hayao Miyazaki proves that pigs do fly when he turns his artisan hand towards a typically unconventional tale that centres on a former World War I pilot who happens to be a pig. Boasting a showreel of classics that include Princess Mononoke, Howls Moving Castle and Spirited Away, Miyazaki's skill at crafting unusual and thoroughly captivating stories is inarguable, and though not one of his most commercially successful projects, Porco Rosso is undoubtedly one of his hidden gems that will have fans of Spirited Away giddy with excitement upon the discovery of it.
Perhaps a contender for Miyazaki's most personal project, it charts the adventures of Porco Rosso, a hired seaplane pilot who earns his living by protecting cruise ships from unsavoury sky bandits. Feared by the Sky Pirates, they decide to hire a flying ace of their own to take him down. Rosso's skills are put to the test against his dashing American rival, and he finds that despite having been a solo pilot for so long, he now needs the help of a young mechanic to aid him in fixing up his trusty sea plane before an epic and fantastically choreographed finale that see's the two flying aces pit their wits against one another in the clouds above the deep blue sea.
Unmistakably Miyazaki, it bears all the hallmarks we've come to expect from the acclaimed director. It's heartfelt, honest and magical. Though Miyazaki tends to favour the slower form when it comes to story telling, he still manages to pace the action perfectly from start to finish. An often overlooked classic, both young and old will enjoy this relatively lesser known classic from one of the genre's true masterminds.
Porco Rosso Blu-ray Picture QualityThe 1.85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer sees Porco Rosso looking better than it's ever looked before. What the much lauded director can do with just 4 frames is more than many others could ever hope to do, and thankfully this Blu-ray release from Studio Canal remains true to Miyazaki style of animation and feels thoroughly authentic. Nothing whatsoever detracts from the viewing experience.
Lines are sharp, strong and don't look to have been enhanced at all. There's a hint of grain to the image which lends a classic flimic sense to the experience that really takes the video presentation to another level. Colours are probably where the image excels most, with vibrant reds and blues providing a visual treat from start to finish. Shading and reflections in the artwork appear to have not been tampered with by any additional grading, leaving exactly what Miyazaki intended with the original.
Though it's undeniable that this style of material doesn't show off exactly what the format can really do, the fact is that this classic Miyazaki animation looks better on Blu-ray than it ever has before. A transparent transfer from Studio Canal that's in keeping with their heritage of treating the Studio Ghibli material with the utmost respect. The fact that there has been minimal tinkering with the picture and that what you see is clean and precise, I have no options but to score this wonderful video presentation with full marks, despite the fact that it's not exactly demo material for the Blu-ray format.
Porco Rosso Blu-ray Sound QualityWith a choice between English and Japanese language audio tracks, this is the only separating factor with Studio Canal's Porco Rosso 2.0 LPCM audio presentation. There's no escaping the fact that perhaps more could have been done to bring the somewhat lacklustre audio track to life on both counts. Only mildly disappointing though as, once again, the transfer is authentic and true to the original. So what's the big deal then, right?
Well, the truth is that the original audio track seems to have been tarnished with some minor problems that, with just a little bit of TLC could have been rectified easily. Firstly, the dialogue clips at times, and there's no escaping that. It's only ever briefly, but it's something that should probably have been looked at. Not that it detracts from the enjoyment or that it makes things inaudible - this is never the case - but I do feel that this particular issue could have been handled with an hour's work and no more. Secondly, the overall dynamic range is minimal. Again, this is something that's come over from the original audio track and as such it's not something that Studio Canal could bear the blame for, but I do think that the result is a generally "thin" sounding audio presentation, in particular when it comes to dialogue. No biggie though, because with the English Language version, you have old eyebrows himself, Michael Keaton delivering a great performance as the plucky pig, Porco.
The soundtrack is worth a mention all of it's own too. I've owned several of Miyazaki's long time collaborator composer, Joe Hasaishi's scores, and Porco Rosso's melancholic and, at times, noir-esque score is a beauty. Again, sadly let down by a thin and papery sounding audio track.
Despite all this, what's here in terms of audio presentation is, as I've mentioned already, thoroughly authentic. Any detrimental effects or issues are not the fault of this particular Blu-ray release. The issues show that either the audio presentation on this release were left as-is because they didn't want to mess with the original material, in which case you can't fault Studio Canal - or they show that they couldn't be bothered fixing up a couple of minor issues that really wouldn't have taken long, in which case I raise an eyebrow in your general direction, Studio Canal. Either way, what you have here is acceptable, even if it does leave me wishing for slightly more.
Porco Rosso Blu-ray ExtrasThere are a few interesting features on the Blu-ray that are sure to keep enthusiasts more than happy.
Storyboards - These are in-screen story board slates in the bottom right of the image. A remarkable insight into how detailed the storyboards are, and how true to the original concepts that the movie ended up being.
Interview with Producer Toshio Suzuki - A short, yet insightful interview with the producer. Perhaps more interesting are the shots around Studio Ghibli itself though!
Behind the Microphone - You guessed it, it's 7 minutes of the voice actors on the English Language version discussing how they created the performances an made them work as well as they did.
Original Japanese Trailers - Almost 8 minutes of Japanese trailers for the movie.
Is Porco Rosso Blu-ray Worth BuyingIf Miyazaki turned his hand to any story at all, I'd watch it. Here, in perhaps his most personal project to date, he brings to life the tale of a World War One pilot who happens to be a pig. His smooth and lyrical touch with narrative is ever present as we follow Porco Rosso on his sea-plane adventures, scuppering the plights of hapless sky pirates intent on stealing from cruise ships. A brilliantly unique tale that is every bit in keeping with Miyazaki's style - quirky and unusual, yet one that's fitting for the whole family.
Studio Canal's Blu-ray release comes with two discs; one Blu-ray and one DVD. The transfer to Blu-ray is best described as thoroughly authentic, and faithful to the original. No embellishments have been made and as such the transfer is excellent. My only gripes are with the audio track, but as I've mentioned, these are not the fault of Studio Canal. Studio Canal are only guilty of not making any attempts to fix problems with the original, but you could argue whether they should have or not until the cows, or rather the pigs, come home
A wonderful and charming tale that's a must-see for the family.
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