Ross founded the UK Anime Network back in 1995 and works in and around the anime industry.
Porco Rosso is set in the 1920's, in the aftermath of one war and the dawn of the next. This is a tale of the pilots from that first war, some of whom had become air pirates in a bid to find a use for their skills. Others, like Porco Rosso, spend their time combating the pirates - for a price.
What immediately strikes you about the film is the level of care and detail that's been taken to create a fabulously realistic world. The backgrounds and designs are lovingly crafted, with incredible attention to detail. As you would expect from Miyazaki and the Ghibli studio, the details are lovingly crafted and period accurate, with everything from architecture to clocks lavished with such idyllic detail that you'd really sell your Granny just to visit Porco's world.
The characters are also rich and varied, none more so than Porco Rosso himself. The central character manages to inject humour, pathos and honour into the film which, for me, made him by far the most sympathetic lead I've seen in an anime for years. It also serves as a reminder that in this era, heroes were in their 30's and 40's, not teenagers. It's funny, because I had forgotten what it was like to watch a movie where the ideal father figure wasn't there to instil a set of values and then get bumped off as an excuse for the protégé to kick ass. I've always felt that the experienced characters should be more than capable of kicking ass without help, and Porco does a fine job in that regard.
The English voice acting is perfectly enjoyable, even if the air pirates are stereotypically stupid, sounding like overgrown teenagers, but then that's what they are, so no complaints here. Extras include an interview with producer Toshio Suzuki, but other than a few trailers, this is your lot here.
The film is a mixture of fun, innocence and regret, which taken together in a feature this good makes most Disney films seem juvenile. It's far too good to waste on kids - a stunning masterpiece which ought to be in your collection.
Wonderful stuff, and a reminder of how good anime should be!!