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Porco Rosso: The Last Sortie – Will the Studio Ghibli Sequel EVER Happen?

At one point Hayao Miyazaki was interested in making a follow-up for Studio Ghibli Movie – Porco Rosso , but don’t expect it to actually happen.

Studio Ghibli is not typically in the sequel business. The legendary anime studio has made exactly one feature spinoff of a previous film (The Cat Returns used characters from Whisper of the Heart) as well as a couple short film spin-offs (the live-action Nausicaa prequel, Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo, and the Ghibli Museum-exclusive Totoro sequel, Mei and the Kittenbus). That’s all the Ghibli sequels that have been produced. However, at one point Hayao Miyazaki was interested in making a Porco Rosso follow-up.

Porco Rosso, Miyazaki’s 1992 film about a 1930s Italian fighter pilot so disillusioned with humanity that he chose to become a pig, is unique in Miyazaki’s filmography. Originally planned as, in Miyazaki’s own words, “a movie which tired businessmen on international flights can enjoy even with their minds dulled due to lack of oxygen,” it’s one of his lightest and funniest films. Yet, it is also set in a serious historical context amidst the rise of fascism. Marco, the cynical pig pilot, is generally thought to be a self-insert character for Miyazaki himself.

Given the fun yet personal nature of the film, you can understand why it’s one of the few that Miyazaki’s been tempted to revisit. In a 2010 interview with Cut magazine, he expressed interest in a Porco Rosso story he called The Last Sortie, which would be set during the Spanish Civil War. However, despite some misunderstandings, he talked about developing the story as a “hobby” rather than as an actual film.

Rumors of a sequel movie continued nonetheless. A 2011 profile of Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the director of the Miyazaki-scripted The Secret World of Arrietty, in The Guardian claimed Yonebayashi was working alongside Miyazaki on it as his next project. This did not turn out to be true. Yonebayashi’s next film was When Marnie Was There, which was also Ghibli’s last regular production.

In 2014, Studio Ghibli laid off its animation staff and temporarily stopped making new movies. Miyazaki and Isao Takahata had both retired (Miyazaki would change his mind later, but Takahata died in 2018), and the studio couldn’t afford to keep going as it had without Miyazaki’s guaranteed blockbusters. Yonebayashi left with many of the laid-off animators to form Studio Ponoc. Studio Ghibli as it exists today mainly maintains the Ghibli Museum and merchandising for its older films, and occasionally produces new projects for Hayao Miyazaki and his son Goro Miyazaki.

Today, Hayao Miyazaki is working his way through production on a new film titled How Do You Live? Given he works more slowly in his old age and doesn’t have a huge staff to assist him, production isn’t moving quickly (as of October 2019, the film was only 15% complete after three years in production), and it’s expected to be his last film if he even lives to finish it. That would seem to kill any chance of him making The Last Sortie as a movie.

The possibility of The Last Sortie being made as a manga are slightly higher. Supposedly in his 2013 “retirement” from filmmaking Miyazaki became focused on drawing manga. The idea for Porco Rosso originated in a short manga he created titled The Age of the Flying Boat, and a manga would be an easier way to return to those characters. However, even this is unlikely, as Miyazaki’s manga efforts post-retirement were primarily focused on a samurai story titled Teppou SamuraiTeppou Samurai still hasn’t been published, even though it received a promotional action figure in 2015, so fans shouldn’t expect any other new Miyazaki manga to be released any time soon.

Porco Rosso works perfectly as a stand-alone movie and ultimately doesn’t need a sequel. However, we still wonder what could have been had Miyazaki gone through with this proposed idea.

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