Promare is the feature length debut for Studio Trigger, one of my favourite animation studios out of Japan. And it also is the feature length debut of Hiroyuki Imaishi, who’s directed excellent television series, including Gurren Lagann, Kill la Kill and Space Patrol Luluco, and even worked as an art director on the one of the most popular Anime of all time, Evangelion. Rather like that, this is his feature length debut for a film that’s going to be appearing in cinemas.
I released my book, ‘The Nerd Consultant’s Guide to Anime’, and in it I talk a lot about one of the reasons why Imaishi is one of my favoruite directors. And I was very lucky that when I went to this special screening organized by Eventbrite and the festival organizers, I was able to attend a Q and A with several of the staff. So, I have heard a lot about the creativity that went into this movie and what has made up a lot of the production.
The basic plot of Promare is that it’s set in a rather futuristic world where, after a massive fire storm thirty years prior, a terrorist organisation known as the Mad Burnish, who are fire-wielding creatures, have begun to attack human populations, leading to the Burnish becoming hunted by futuristic firefighters in giant mech suits. Led by Lio Fotia, played by Taichi Saotome in the Japanese version and Johnny Yong Bosch in the English dub. They attack human structures, however, they are stopped by one particular company that begins to investigate the scenario, including the heroic Galo Thymos, played by Kenichi Matsuyama in the Japanese version and Billy Kametz in the English language dub. However, after several plans have been thwarted and Galo begins to notice some things are wrong and there may be more than the Burnish first thought.
Okay, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. If you’re familiar with Studio Trigger, you know that they do some really high concept ideas in their projects, and most of them are completely out there and insane, even by Anime standards. Promare to a certain extent is no exception, but I just feel like the studio have reeled things in a little bit for their first feature-length film. Though, that being said, you can absolutely tell that Gurren Lagann’s director has been the director of this project. I’m not going to lie, this is absolutely an insane explosion of action and colour and simple insanity! If you’re a fan of a lot of the creative staff’s previous work, you’re going to love this film. There are excellent giant robot battles all round, and tons of references to their previous works, especially Kill la Kill, Gurren Lagann and a few others, but they will not come in ways you exactly expect.
The best way to see this film is to be surrounded with people who also get the references. The audience I saw this film with were all well in the know and were absolutely loving every second of it. The animation quality is top notch; this is one of the best-looking animated films to come out in 2019. The use of abstract drawing and the way they simply draw the lines really makes things stand out. Yes, it is a bit obvious that they’ve recycled a few of the character design ideas – Galo bears a very striking similarity to Kaneda from Gurren Lagann, for example, and there’s a few others sprinkled in here and there. Though, when I was at the Q and A, this was apparently very deliberate. It almost feels like this film is a full-on celebration of all these projects that have come before it. This is not surprising considering one of the most recent television projects from this studio was a complete Ready Player One style TV series, in which characters travelled to several worlds of their previous work. This one is a little less on the nose. Certain aspects do feel like they’re carried over, but at the same time, this film definitely has a distinct identity all of its own. Not to mention, this film’s hilarious. There were so many moments where I was laughing my ass off watching the movie.
Now, in terms of performances, I haven’t seen the English language dub of this movie. This is simply because I couldn’t get out in time to see any of the English language versions, but I’m pretty sure it’s absolutely fantastic, and I’m dead set on seeing it in the English language version at some point, especially considering it’s practically a who’s who of some of the best English dub voice actors that have worked in the industry. This is practically like an all-star team, including Billy Kametz, Johnny Yong Bosch, Mike Pollock, Steve Bloom, Matt Mercer, Crispin Freeman, Kari Wahlgren, Yuri Lowenthal, the list goes on and on. I am dead certain I want to see this film in the English dub at some point, that being said, I would be very doubtful that they could match the energy of the Japanese who are also really a highlight, and once again, are also a bit of a who’s who of excellent actors, including Kenchi Matsuyama, Ayane Sukura, Taichi Saotome and of course, Masota Sakai. These performances are great across the board. I think the standout for me though is Taichi Saotome as Leo. He does an absolute stand out performance in this film. Giant robot fans will be also really happy with this film. This action is nailed perfectly. The designs are great, and it feels like every scene has been thought out. If I had to be a bit negative, the plot gets a little convoluted at the end and it feels like they tried to pack in a little too much. But at the same time, it does wrap up the film in a nice little bow. And let’s talk about that soundtrack. The soundtrack’s been produced this time by Hiroyuki Sawano, and if you’ve watched any popular Anime in the last few years, chances are you’ve heard his soundtracks. He’s done the music for several pieces of work, including a lot of the recent Gundam series, Attack on Titan, Seven Deadly Sins, Blue Exorcist and his work with Studio trigger with Kill la Kill. Those soundtracks were all excellent. All those works are pretty seminal, but here’s the thing: this might be his best one to date. I haven’t been able to get this soundtrack out of my head since I’ve hearing it. There are so many amazing songs on this soundtrack. Solano, you’ve done a great service. The film should really be nominated at the Oscars for best original score. The only soundtrack that’s really come close to challenging it in the category is Weathering With You, but I’ll have to wait until that film properly comes up before I review that. Also, the song Inferno must be nominated for best original song, it’s just one highlight in an excellent soundtrack.
Not gonna lie, I could gush about this film all day – it’s a wonderful, splendid piece of action. It can feel a bit style over substance and if you’re not used to high energy, high octane Anime, this won’t do anything to change your mind, but this as a film feels excellent to watch. And it feels great to finally talk about it after a couple of rather disappointing weeks. The film has an interesting plot that examines some interesting themes and has some excellent giant robot battles to boot. The animation is an explosion of colour, I really dug the world and the cast deliver excellent performances. This one’s getting some additional screenings in December following its rather successful early screenings, so I would recommend if you get a chance, check it out. And if you don’t like reading subtitles, I’m fairly certain that some of the English language dub will be at some of those screenings. Just check your local cinema. I really want people to go to see this film because the cinema screen is the exact place you need to see it.
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