Of all the major features by Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away), this 1992 release may be the least concerned with plot. For instance, Miyazaki never really explains why his aviator hero has been transformed into a pig (all the other characters are human), and the perfunctory climax fails to tie up any of the themes Miyazaki has developed. But this is masterful storytelling in every other respect, good-humored and frequently suspenseful, with a vivid setting (a storybook version of 1930s Italy where seaplane pilots are heroes) and detailed characterizations. Like Miyazaki's later film Howl's Moving Castle (2004), it's also fascinating as an outsider's fantasy of European culture.
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