- Genre : Extreme coolness in a burning way, action, surrealism, comedy, parody, trigger
- Length: 1 hour, 55 mins
- Studio: Uhm…Trigger
30 years ago something happened. We’re not exactly sure why but people started to spontaneously combust, burning with a fire from within their very bodies. In time, these people came to be known as “Burnish” and were feared and reviled as dangerous. But they were and are still people. People driven to burn everything in their path, but who hasn’t had one of those days? With this new threat, a new bread of protectors was born. The proud men and women of the Burning Rescue Fire Department are here to protect the good citizens of the world. But is there more than meets the eye. Could something even bigger be at stake?
Did that description remind you of a currently airing seasonal anime perhaps? Cause Promare reminded me of Fire Force BIG TIME. And you know what? I didn’t mind one bit! Seems a good story is just a good story.
Before we start, it’s only fair that I offer you full disclosure. I am a fan of Trigger studio. I find their aesthetic visions pleasing and enjoy the frantic tone they tend to adopt. More importantly though, I am an irredeemable fangirl of the creative team of Hiroyuki Imaishi and Kazuki Nakashima. I count both Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill to be among my very favourite anime series with the former almost a love interest. That sounded weird. I have a crush on Gurren Lagann guys. Not any specific character, the series itself….It’s weird…. To say I was predisposed to enjoying this movie is an understatement. When I saw it was playing at Fantasia, I immediately bought my ticket without even checking the time. I was more than happy to go alone and take time off work if required.
I don’t think this is particularly important or of any consequence to the post that follows, but I still feel you should know. Besides, there are already a dozen posts on this blog spelling this out so I don’t want new readers to be uninformed.
Ok so technical aspects….awwww gawd, this is not how you review an Imaishi title. It rocked you guys. It was an obnoxious explosion of super bright, borderline fluorescent colours in every corner highlighting almost breakneck nonstop breakneck action. And I say that with admiration and delight. Like it’s small screen cousins, Promare luxuriates in visual excess, It is best described as eye-popping. Such loud and uncompromising images may be divisive, but I have read nothing but positive reviews so far. Just know what you’re in for. There are no attempts at realism or subtlety in the imagery. Colour coding, camera angles, framing and even transition shots are all over the top and obvious. And dripping with a sort of gaudy style that is a hallmark of the studio.
Basically, think back to the visual styles of the series I mentioned above, now imagine what they could do if they only had to animate a little under 2 hours and had 2.5 times the total budget! I’m guessing about the budget here but I heard it was good. It looks expensive at any rate.
That is, except for the CG which at times seems to purposefully clash with the rest. I mean, some scenes looked like an old school music video from the 90s. The CG is integrated much more subtly in other scenes which is why I am almost certain it was a choice and one I enjoyed but it could get grating if you don’t appreciate the joke. There is a scene towards the end of the movie with a giant CG dragon fight which I thought was breathtaking and I annoyed my viewing companion (I did find a friend to go with me after all) about it after the movie. He was considerably less impressed by it. In case he reads this, I would just like to make extra clear that he was wrong. It was an amazing scene.
Voice acting was good, despite the fact that they chose to cast traditional actors over voice actors, a move I don’t usually like much. However, it seems most of them had done some voice acting in the past and they managed to have good chemistry, nonetheless. Moreover, the characters, much like the visuals, are essentially caricatures that deliver their dialogue in a heightened version of themselves, delicate interplay isn’t as important.
My viewing friend told me he wished there had been more music. I hadn’t noticed the lack thereof, but I did notice when it was used, and the soundtrack was extremely fun. I also wouldn’t have minded more.
I think I may have painted a confusing picture here. Bottom line is that the production was great. It obviously had a lot of resources and talent at its disposal. But it also took a lot of chances, most of them very glaring and impossible to ignore. As such, if you are in the mood for a classic anime, this is simply not it. One of my favourite running gags was the increasingly frequent and ridiculously large character name screens which eventually take a life of their own (for instance). It’s a simple, even immature visual gag taken to it’s extreme for laughs. And it’s the sort of trick the production pulls a lot throughout the runtime.
By now, some of you may be thinking, oh my, Trigger can make a visually interesting anime given a generous budget. Not exactly breaking news there! And to that, I say…probably none of you are actually thinking that. You’re all lovely people I’m not sure why I would say such a thing. Probably projecting or something…
Fact is, production alone can’t carry a movie. Although it is, in my opinion, a lot more important in this format than in a series, (because movies have a large screen to take advantage of but a short runtime which inherently changes how and how much development you can bring to your story) you still need something to tie all the bells and whistles together.
And what does Promare have to offer in that regard? Trying to explain the story as a straightforward narrative is pretty useless. I mean, try to explain the actual text of Kill la Kill to someone. I mean you could, and they would end up with a probably confusing but more or less accurate idea of the string of events, and they would probably miss out on everything the series actually was. Same thing goes for Promare.
On the surface, it’s a convoluted and often very fun story that has more than a few elements in common with Gurren Lagann (including Mechas – for you Scott!) but the actual interesting stuff is underneath the story. It’s a bright and unhinged tapestry of subtext which explores a lot of rather serious subjects. It’s also the type of movie that (in my opinion) pretty much demands a second viewing to fully appreciate and as such, I know I am not going to do it justice today.
I was so giddy to see it and the festival atmosphere just intensified my excitement so I ended up just staring with an enormous smile plastered on my face the entire time, hollering and applauding at all the best bits. I’m saying I missed out on the smart stuff. I did pick up the obvious themes of discrimination and acceptance. It was a pretty sentiment but not exactly new or daring. Still, I do think we are currently living in a time where we can stand to be reminded of the importance of tolerance towards those who are different.
Another nice element was the exploration of traditional masculinity. And I mean exploration. The narrative neither glorified nor condemn classic ideas of masculinity, it simply presented them then present an alternative. Framing both as equally valid and equally flawed in different ways and illustrating them as complementary rather than in opposition to one another. I really liked that, and I don’t think I’ve seen it done this effectively.
The only sore point for me is that Hiroyuki Imaishi and Kazuki Nakashima are responsible for a lot of my all-time favourite female characters in fiction and the ladies of Promare really didn’t get much of a chance to shine. Don’t get me wrong, they were awesome characters and saved the day on more than one occasion, but it simply wasn’t their story. And in the 2 hours we had, we didn’t get the chance to know them very well. It’s a small gripe and one that I honestly don’t think could have been solved. I guess I’m just nitpicking to seem more balanced…
If you haven’t picked up on it, I loved this movie. I would see it again anytime. Right now if I could! It’s weird and over the top which makes me think it won’t be for everyone but at the same time, I couldn’t tell you why you wouldn’t like it so there.
If you can find it, watch it!
Favorite character: Lio (great hair) and Remi
What this movie taught me: It’s apparently pronounced Pro-mayor and not Pro-Mah-Ray, like me and apparently the entire festival staff were saying. And I refuse to say it right! Fight the Power!
“Three be the things I shall never attain: Envy, content, and sufficient Champagne.”
Suggested drink: Paris is Burning
- Every time we see a triangle motif – take a sip
- Every time things get purple – breath in
- Every time we see a mecha – take a sip
- Every time anyone says “burnish” – get a grilled snack
- Every time anything burns – get some water
- Every time we see ice – take a sip
- Every time one of the main guys needs saving – take a sip
- Every time there’s an eyecatch – take a sip
- Every time we see a drill – cheer