DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Porco Rosso - Recommended

Discussion in 'DVD' started by DaViD Boulet, Feb 22, 2005.

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  1. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Porco Rosso

    Studio:Disney (Ghibli)Year:1992 RunTime:93 minutes Aspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 1.85:1 OARAudio:2.0 DD Japanese (original sound mix), 2.0 DD English (dub mix), 2.0 DD French Subtitles:English CC, English SubsSpecialFeatures:2-disc set with "Behind the microphone" featurette, Original Japanese Theatrical Trailers, Interview with Studio Ghibli Producer Toshio Suzuki, Complete feature-length storyboard... ReleaseDate:Februrary 22, 2004






    Feature...


    Imagine the story of a WWI ace pilot, who has been mystically transformed from a human into a pig, dueling with a band of sky-pirates over the Adriatic seas in aerial battles that captivate the mind. Ok so I had never seen Porco Rosso and my first thought was "hugh?" but I determined to be courageous to watch it for this review and I'm glad that I did...I was pleasantly surprised. Those of you who haven't seen this film and may be wondering if it's worth the dare, let me encourage you to take the risk. The bizarre plot base proved to feel oddly normal in practice...like "of course" the pilot has been mystically turned into a pig. And somehow Miyazaki intertwines these twilight-zone twists with a story that feels remarkably grounded...and decidedly "real". The comparison to Shrek kept coming back to mind over and over again...a fairytale through one lens that...turn the dial just a fraction to refocus...reveals a tale about real human relationships...the two worlds blended together with a confident dose of satire. The irony of how well these two seemingly incongruous threads tie together only adds to the entertainment Porco Rosso provides.

    English Translation...

    My thoughts here are very similar to my impressions of the English Dub on Nausicaa.

    Disney has preserved in-tact the original 2.0 Dolby Surround Japanese-language mix on this DVD presentation. In addition, they have provided a newly-recorded English dub for American Audiences (sound quality comparisons will appear in the technical area...this discussion is regarding content). While purists, including myself, usually wince at the thought of listening to an alternate/translated audio track when it comes to classic Japanimation, the English dub on this disc (and Nausicaa) is exemplary: Every care was taken by a very talented group to provide a first-class translation with English Dialog carefully worked to match the on-screen action and lip movements of the characters. In this case, I'm comfortable with enjoying the luxury of the English dub for a variety of reasons:

    [*] The performances of the voice-over talent is first-rate and "fits" the spirit of the feature film--it feels respectful to the intent of the original.[*] Reading the subtitles takes the viewer's attention away from the lush visuals, which is not what the director intended.[*] The blocky/yellow subtitles mar the visual aesthetic integrity of the film and are often difficult to read when overlaid against complex background animation. Again, this is not a scenario the director intended for the viewer.[/list]
    One thing I should point out as I know it will be cause for some folks to show disdain for the new English translation: The spoken dialog differs quite a bit from the written subtitled translation (unlike Nausicaa which was often word-for-word identical to the subs), and I'm assuming that the subtitles represent a more literal translation from the Japanese and that the spoken English dialogue has taken a departure. Even so, I enjoy listening to the English mix...in many cases of A/B comparing against the subtitles I think that the alterations for the spoken dialogue improve the palpability for English-speaking audiences...replacing more the more stilted literal translation with more natural sounding idiomatic phrases and expressions. Yes, purists may disagree (as I normally would), but never fear...you have your simple choice of options here...and you can watch the movie more than once and select a different language/subtitle option at different times to see how it affects your experience of the film.

    I did many instances of back/forth English/Japanese switching during the film to compare and I noticed no other change to the soundtrack other than the replaced dialogue. I've heard tales of other Ghibli Studio films where the English dub mixers took liberties and recorded new music or filled in silent periods with musical score etc...I noticed no such instances here though I did not scrutinize every moment of the film.

    Note: Both English closed Captions and True subtitles are provided on this disc. Be sure you don't force yourself to endure 93 minutes of "Loud Crash!" and "[Laughter]" before you realize that real dialogue-only subtitles exist. Purists intending on listening to the Japanese audio and reading the subtitles should take note so you don't needlessly find yourself aggravated.



    Picture...

    Update: Feb 24, modified after comparing against Japanese R2 NTSC version…

    Very similar to Nausica, but also noticeably improved by comparison on my viewing system (106" front-projection screen). The image looks surprisingly clean from print damage such as scratches and dust. Fine film-grain is evident but is clearly film source related and doesn’t appear to challenge the MPEG codec and looks natural. Colors are rich and feel remarkably faithful to the "look" of the source animation and appear consistent with the color palette seen on other Miyazaki films. You’ll notice that colors tend toward pastels…not a heavy use of deep primaries unless called for (like the red of the plane); this is very different from most modern American animation which tends push more heavily towards saturated hues to “wow” the viewer, so don’t confuse Miyazaki’s more subdued tones with a poorer transfer…it’s his animation style and it’s beautiful. Colors have a warm look to them, and are vivid and lush when called for without ever appearing oversaturated. The image is also free from the dreaded "red push" that garnered such controversy a few years back on Spirited Away. Black level is solid and shadow detail is also excellent although most images are brightly lit...this film is not as darkly rendered as the animation in Nausicaa, for instance. I was very impressed with the shadow detail and purity of the image during the few “dark” scenes in Milan.

    To my eyes the image appears more detailed than that of Nausicaa…crisper. After having watched Porco Rosso right after Nausicaa, my first impression of EE was that it was minimal (because it appears less obvious than in Nausicaa by comparison). However, it is somewhat evident to my eyes even at 1.6 screen widths though not so excessive that it causes too much distraction. HTF member Jason did some screening with me and while he “saw” the EE that I saw, he found it pretty innocuous when “watching the movie” and not trying to focus on the PQ in a critical manner. The picture has a bit more "snap" than that of Nausciaa (I keep mentioning that title as this was another Miyazaki film just released on DVD also reviewed here at HTF) which I suspect owes to its somewhat later 1992 production date. The black level/contrast seems to have more dynamic range and there is much less residual film-grain in the image. It also lacks the dreaded "crawlie" effect in backgrounds during "camera" pans (something that I'm assuming is a DNR artifact that plagues some instances during pans in Nausicaa) and MPEG compression seems admirable--no obvious MEPG noise to pull me out of a movie moment on my wide-angle viewing system.

    I could imagine the image containing more inherent detail if presented with a pristine source 35mm projected print of the same, but the DVD communicates a satisfying level of detail and rather than constantly feeling cheated by the lack of fine-resolution in the picture I found myself constantly marveling at the gorgeous detail captured in many of the scenes...so while there may be room for more detail, it doesn't seem that the HF filtering dials have been pushed to the max for this one (whew!).


    COMPARISON to the Japanese R2 NTSC DVD (added Feb 25):

    Jason (from HTF) was generous enough to work with my insane schedule and wait 20 minutes outside my apartment building for me to get home so we could compare his Japanese R2 NTSC DVD against the new R1 disc. Big thanks to Jason on my behalf and that of all the readers of this thread.

    My prediction was that the Japanese DVD would surpass the R1 disc in most or all picture quality aspects. I was surprised to find that it was quite the reverse with the R1 disc winning out easily to my eyes. The details are as follows:

    We cued up the Japanese disc and suffered through it’s non-defeatable warnings and logos. When the feature film went into play, I was shocked to find a significant amount of windowboxing on all four sides of the image. Jason explained that this is typical for many Japanese animation DVDs…presumably done in the interest of avoiding image content lost to overscan. Well, that might be fine for improperly adjusted Plasma or CRT rear-projection viewers…but any properly calibrated digital display and virtually all front-projection viewers this is unacceptable. I would estimate that 10% of the potential resolution of the image was being sacrificed to the masked area. Jason runs his DVDs through a HTPC (home-theater PC) and so he can adjust scaling/zooming digitally on the PC to remove the windowboxing, but this is not a solution practical for most viewers and it doesn’t solve the compromise of the wasted resolution. Even had the image of the disc been perfect in every other regard, this would have been the clincher for me…I don’t think I could have enjoyed the film seeing it letterboxed on all *four* sided of the image knowing that this mastering decision was entirely unnecessary.

    Colors were surprisingly identical…both in hue and saturation. Black level and contrast also seemed identical. So much so that I was amazed…I don’t thing that putting the images side-by-side in split-screen mode would have revealed any discernable difference in terms of color and contrast.

    The last issue is where the new R1 DVD really took the lead. To my eyes, the new disc had more apparent image detail and looks less “digital” and more natural to my eyes than the Japanese disc. That’s reassuring for us R1 folks…maybe some of those Disney DVD folks are learning to keep their hands away from that filter dial… Additionally, the new R1 version has less ringing from EE. Jason told me that he’s not hyper-sensitive to EE ringing and yet he easily saw…without trying…the pretty egregious ringing on the Japanese disc. The scene where Porco Rosso is in Milan after spending his first night at the hanger and he’d in the bathroom by the sink…the towel hanging on the towel bar on the Japanese DVD looked almost carved out of the image the edge-haloing was so strong. And in almost every scene where there was some strong contouring (not just water-colored backgrounds with soft-focus edges) I found the ringing on the Japanese disc too distracting to allow me to “forget” and enjoy the movie. When we switched back to the new R1 disc…the edge haloing almost seemed to vanish…it was still there on some hard-edges if you consciously thought “let me look to see if there’s any ringing I can find” but the effect was subtle enough that as a viewer one was still able to relax and enjoy the show. I’m quite amazed, and I’ll go so far as to say that after this comparison I’m impressed with what Disney has done with this R1 disc.

    Those of you with revealing displays who’ve had a chance to compare other DVD versions of this feature please share your impressions. But at the very least, I feel I’ve gotten a shot of confidence in skills of the mastering folks who handled the R1 disc after realizing how much better care they took in comparison to the Japanese folks.

    Thanks again to Jason for making this very educational comparison possible!!!


    Summing up…

    For a perfect score it would have been nice to have seen no discernable ringing at any time and perhaps have had a tad more image sharpness...but as my preceding comments should indicate, the image of Porco Rosso looks beautiful, and should satisfy most videophiles...even those with wide-angle viewing systems...until our Miyazaki collection emerges on BluRay...




    Picture Quality: 3.5 / 5

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Rating Rationale...

    In the past I think I've been too ambiguous with my scoring or at least haven't applied it consistently from title to title, so I've endeavored to define my rating system more clearly to help make the scoring more meaningful (for all titles reviewed December 2004 and later):

    Rating Key:

    SCORE Description 1-2 An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch. Think "Outland" (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl)-- truly horrid. 2-3 Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Cold Mountain. 3-4 Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring...decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos. 4-5 A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW". Think The Empire Strikes Back or the Fifth Element Superbit (full “5” would be sans EE).





    Sound...


    While not remixed for 5.1, the original 2.0 mix is very satisfying. Perhaps not quite as directional as modern mixes and lacking in the discrete surround activity we've grown accustomed to in modern movie soundtrack fare, but the 2.0 mix holds up remarkably well over ten years after being fashioned and improves fidelity over what we hear in Nausicaa to quite a degree. Comparing to Nausicaa for a moment, the audio of Porco Rosso sounds fuller, lusher, and less compressed. Gone is the "flat" sound of the midrange that characterized Nausicaa's signature, though effects and dialogue still have a somewhat "canned" character in that they do not alter their timbre to respond to on-screen change in environments the way many modern animation soundtracks take such care to do. Nevertheless, this is the mix that the folks at Ghibli Studios fashioned for their film and it sounds just fine...no complaints. The musical score is also rendered with a nice sense of three-dimensional space and naturalness of size (very unlike Nausicaa which had a flat/compressed sounding musical score) and is pleasingly dynamic. I found myself thinking “nice…” and not once hearing anything that caused me to wince.


    Surround activity was also surprisingly active for an older 2.0 soundtrack. There are quite a few “woosh” factors going on when planes zoom overhead and you hear them start from behind and fly right over. Don’t expect the Maxell-tape-commercial wind-blowing metaphor you’re used to with reference-setting 5.1 discrete mixes…but I think most of you will agree that the channel separation and use of surround activity is commendable.

    Japanese vs. English?

    I'm happy to say that despite the swap of Japanese dialogue with English, that the sonic character of the new English soundtrack is identical to the Japanese to my ears. If you've read my Nausicaa review...you may remember that the anti-hiss police at Disney managed to muffle all the top-end out of the new English mix in Nausicaa in their never-ending quest to rid the world of the evils of hiss...which apparently must be stopped at all costs (the 5.1 travesty on the DEHT mix for Mary Poppins being the saddest victim thus far). However, probably because there wasn't any real "hiss" in Porco Rosso's 2.0 mix to begin with, it's been spared...and the English 2.0 mix has the same subtle high-end which adds depth and realism to music and effects regardless of which language you choose to hear (note, please see my English vs. Japanese comments in feature review section).


    Japanese/English Sound Quality: 4 / 5

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    Special Features...


    Extras are almost identical to what you get with Nausicaa, the primary distinction being that the "history of Ghibli Studios" feature on Nausicaa has been replaced with a feature "Interview with Studio Ghibli Producer Toshio Suzuki" here:

    Disc 1:

    [*]Behind the Microphone: A cool featurette about the making of the English audio dub (no mention of noise-reduction...hehe). I had already decided that I preferred listening to English mix based on my preference for compromising the audio aspect of the film in favor of preserving the visuals (see thoughts in feature review). However, seeing the care that went into the performances and writing for this English mix just made me more resolved...input by folks like Michael Keaton, Brad Garret, Kimberly Williams and others. Lots of interviews with the various voice-actors. Recommended...don't skip this bonus feature. (a similar feature exists on the Nausicaa DVD)

    [*]Original Japanese theatrical Trailer: I forgot to keep count, but just like with Nausicaa you get a nice helping of original movie trailers (produced for the Japanese market) that were likely intended produced for television. They are 4x3 encoded 1.85:1 letterboxed, presented with original Japanese audio with user-defeatable English subtitles. Praise to Disney for including feature trailers!!!

    [​IMG]

    [*]Interview with Studio Ghibli Producer Toshio Suzuki: A fun made-for-Japanese-audiences featurette with English Subtitles. Much footage is shared with this feature and the "history of Ghibli Studio" featurette on Nausicaa, but the editing is different and there is new content here so don't dismiss it if you're a fan or interesting in exploring more about the history of these films and those who are responsible for making them. A nice feature and I enjoy the authenticity of including a made-for-Japan feature on the R1 DVD. [/list]
    Disc 2:

    [*]Feature Storyboard: This is rather interesting. The entire movie...replete with your choice of Japanese/English 2.0 audio and optional English subtitles is duplicated on disc 2 in storyboard form. Fascinating for fans, but probably not something most viewers will take 93 minutes to discover. I found it remarkable how similar the storyboard sketches were to the finished animation...I guess since it's all drawing anyway that's not so hard to do. [​IMG] Coolest thing...this feature is presented in 16x9 encoding just slightly windowboxed on all four sides to avoid overscanning. (a similar feature exists on the Nausicaa DVD) I am VERY impressed that the Disney folks presented these storyboards in 1.85:1 16x9 and I give them two thumbs up.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    [/list]

    All Together...

    If you haven't seen Porco Rosso then I'm sure that the cover art and concept of a man turned Pig flying around barn-storming style during the WWI period in the Mediterranean may seem strange at best...but trust me...the film is intelligently put togeher, worth watching, and definitely has the edginess of a animated feature made by adults for adults (though it is kid-safe). Though I can't articulate an exact reason for correlation, I kept finding myself making parallels with Shrek in my mind, and I'll risk to say that if you enjoyed the satire, humor, and at times heart-warming relationships in Shrek you'll probably enjoy Porco Rosso. Fans of the film and Japanimation or Miyazaki in general will be well pleased...the R1 disc of Porco Rosso doesn't seem to do anything "wrong"...at least not that I detected. Image quality is very good--on par with Spirited Away I'd venture to say, and the 2.0 audio provides you with original Japanese or newly (well) recorded English...both of which provide surprisingly good audio quality despite the lack of 5.1 encoding. Special features at first glance may not seem as abundant as what one would usually expect from a 2-disc set, but keep in mind that the entire disc-2 is utilized for the feature-length storyboard concept and you get actual *trailers* for the actual movie. I'm not complaining...in fact I'm recommending...



    RECOMMENDED
     
  2. Keith I

    Keith I FoS

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    Another great movie, DVD, and review. This one doesn't get as much attention as Nausicaa but it stands on its own. Miyazaki is a great storyteller, no matter how his films are welcomed or not.

    I'm wondering why all the extras aren't on Disc 2 so that we can get the best quality on the movie itself. But according to all the reviews, it doesn't seem to be a problem. I'm just glad they're out on DVD. Now on to the next Miyazaki "Wave" which hopefully include Totoro.
    -
     
  3. Jay Pennington

    Jay Pennington Screenwriter

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    Thanks for another great review!

    BTW, "of the valley of wind" remains in the title header. [​IMG]
     
  4. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    still working on my cut/paste skills... [​IMG]
     
  5. RafaelB

    RafaelB Second Unit

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    A bit of trivia about Porco- this is Miyazaki's favorite film out of his ouvre. He sure does have a thing for pigs. [​IMG]

    Great review DaViD!

    Looking forward to the Cat Returns review next.

    Rafael.

    P.S. I've got the R2 Porco & Cat DVDs as well, if you want to compare...
     
  6. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    I'm actually going over to his place tonight with my R2 of Porco, so hopefully, we will have more thoughts about this. Sounds like it was better than the Nausicaa release...

    Jason
     
  7. Joe Cortez

    Joe Cortez Stunt Coordinator

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    That explains so much. [​IMG]
     
  8. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    Surprised David hasn't been on yet.. (Well, it was a late night.)

    Well, I brought my R2 copy to his place last night to compare with the R1 release, and the R1 is clearly better. Ignoring the fact that the R2 is windowboxed (since I knew that was going to be different. Don't know why the Japanese seem to like windowboxing.), the R1 has less edge enhancement and the colors are a bit better. The R1 does have edge enhancement, but you do need to be looking for it to notice it. The R2 does stand out quite a bit.

    I don't remember the verdict for the R3s. I know it was the choice because it was cheaper than the R2s, but I don't remember if the transfer was different.

    Jason
     
  9. Jeff>K>B

    Jeff>K>B Stunt Coordinator

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    By the way, there's a coupon in the box to get one of the previous "wave" DVDs for free if you buy all three of this current wave. But anyone who's enough of a fan to get these three undoubtedly has all the previous releases already. I'll probably send it in anyway to get a freebee to give away and start someone else's addiction [​IMG]
     
  10. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Hey Jason,

    just been *crazy* at work today and haven't had my usual lunch-hour to catch up at HTF...I'll post my updates this evening and will also take time to update the Hero review if I can (to everyone, Jason brought the R0 version of Hero over as well as we A/B'd against the R1 US DVD...) I have to say that these comparisons were most enlightening...and I can't wait to really gussy up the review with the results (Jason gives a good breakdown).

    THANKS Jason for stopping by and for putting up with my crazy last minute schedule changes...and for staying up so late!

    dave [​IMG]
     
  11. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    No, the R0 Guangdong Face verson. (non-extended version)

    Basically, it was a push, with perhaps a slight edge to the R0 because of color saturation. I have a feeling the R0 isn't the best version either...

    Jason
     
  12. Keith I

    Keith I FoS

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    Although it was fixed on this thread, it's also still incorrect on the HTF home page (links to reviews in the right-hand column).

    Guess hardly anyone uses those links... [​IMG]
     
  13. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Updated PQ section to include comparison to the Japanese NTSC DVD (thanks to Jason!). Be sure to check it out!
     
  14. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    I got this via Netflix and watched the "Behind the Microphone" featurette. One of the voice actors is Susan Egan, who I recognized from somewhere...took me a minute, then I realized I saw her perform in the Lord of the Rings Symphony at the Hollywood Bowl last summer during the HTF National Meet. Checked my program to confirm...I guess I never forget a pretty face [​IMG]
     
  15. RafaelB

    RafaelB Second Unit

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    yes, Susan Egan, she with the golden voice who was "Meg" in Disney's HERCULES and also the first Belle in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway... [​IMG]

    Rafael.
     
  16. Richard Kim

    Richard Kim Producer

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    If you listen to the French dub of the DVD, take note that Jean Reno (Leon the Professional) does the voice of Porco.
     
  17. LaurenceGarvey

    LaurenceGarvey Second Unit

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    If a non-fan of Anime can check in here, let me do so. I bought this film on a whim and LOVED it. Highly recommended, and if you think you don't like this kinda stuff, give it a try. You might be impressed.
     
  18. Jon Smith

    Jon Smith Stunt Coordinator

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    I read somewhere Miyazaki is a big fan of the French dub, and may even be his preferred dub.
     
  19. James Lee

    James Lee Stunt Coordinator

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    I usually hate english dubbing of anime, but I do have to say that the english dub of Porco Rosso is one of the finest I've ever heard. Michael Keaton takes some getting used to, but the rest of the voice cast were perfect. Susan Egan was wonderful, Cary Elwes as Curtis the American pilot was great, but to me David Ogden Stiers, who was the voice of Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast, stole every scene he did as Piccolo the old mechanic. Great voice acting and he had some great lines.

    It's amazing what a good, competent cast of Hollywood actors can do for an anime film. I can't wait to see who Disney will get to do the voices for one of Miyazaki's other beloved movies, Totoro.
     

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