In the entire history of my long and reclusive passionate dedication for cinema, there’s one specific sub-genre that has continuously baffled me, to the point of self-doubt and constant opinionated drama. Anime. We’ve all seen at least one form of this intriguing sub-genre of 2D animation, exported fresh from Japan. From the culture which produces the products of television series and movies, to the general wide appeal of the character designs and basic plot structure, Anime has practically dominated the international market. I grew up with few Anime related films, where I still clearly remember having fond memories over Studio Ghibli and films/TV shows such as Wolf Children and Moomin (1990-1992). As of recently, I can’t say I’m the most fond of what’s being delivered in this current day and age.
After the supposed “retirement” of Studio Ghibli, and the somber death of the master himself Isao Takahata, the medium has slowly taken a sharp downturn in terms of it’s plot structure and character development. In some regards, the overly exaggerated mannerisms and figure of speech which comes from the majority of action-focused exports, usually comes from a place of lazy writing and bored office-room executives; which makes these products of tireless nights of animation feel wasted by the thin script and direction. So consider me surprise, when I found out that the closing night film of this year’s Fantasia Film Festival, was none other than Studio Trigger’s feature film debut Promare. I was morbidly intrigued, although extraordinarily cautious before entering into the film. Let’s just say that Studio Trigger hasn’t really delivered anything of much quality, in terms of originality in the past. In-fact, there record has been more than infamous with their unnecessary sexualization of female roles; both supporting and lead.
To put it simply, Promare is special. It’s a bombastic feat of pop art, with a visual aesthetic that will keep your retinas glued to the screen with amazement and bewildered eye-sores. Generally taking a more self-aware approach, with plenty of humor to be shared, the first hour or so is easily the most effective. It’s consistent, offbeat trashy fun that knows what it’s trying to be. From the freeze frames, to the hyperactive title cards, Imaishi easily makes up for the weak characterization and paint by numbers appeal of the film. It’s genuinely fun to watch, especially with a sold-out crowd, where cheers and applauds can be heard at the most satisfying of moments.
And then there’s the social commentary. Tackling on immigration and the current racist side of the Trump administration, the metaphor of the clashing opposing sides between the Burnish and the rest of humanity, is an obvious one at that. To be frank, it works well at the beginning, when Imaishi and Co are just having fun with their absurd, cyberpunk universe. It’s just when the film eventually hit it’s extraordinary bloated action-heavy final act, is when the message and thematic weight of the metaphor just crumbles into bits. The shifting of tones, the juvenile side characters, and the lack of any sort of seriousness and grounded direction just ruins the momentum of the light opening. It’s another ying-yang, good versus evil ordeal, where the audience has to suffer along some of the worst writing put to screen in 2019.
What can be best described as X-Men meets Pacific Rim, Promare demonstrated a good amount of potential near it’s humble takeoff, before the eventual landslide of cliches which dawned upon the film’s lackluster finale. For all anime fans who don’t mind weak characterization nor exposition heavy narratives, this is the film for you! For everyone else, there’s a bigger world of animation out there with plenty of new voices to be heard from. You just need to pay a little bit more attention, and avoid the perverted gaze of male-centered anime directed features.
Promare screened at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival. Fanthom Events will screen the film for a special twp day theatrical event (dubbed – September 17th, subbed – September 19th) nationwide. GKIDS will release the film in select cinemas on September 20th