Studio Trigger’s first full-length animated theatrical feature Promare (pronounced PRO-MAYR) was unleashed onto the unsuspecting UK public today with a widespread cinematic release. In real terms, this means that one of my local cinemas showed this movie once, this evening, and probably never again. I am glad I was able to see it.
THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.
Because I am a bad person.
Please do not read further if you want to go into this movie pristine and virginal. If you are already neither of these things, then shame on you, but please continue to read.
As I am such a kick-ass dad, I took my 2 eldest children to see this, along with my (much) younger brother who is of similar in age to them. Their initial reactions:
Darling Daughter: Dad, do you realise that you’ve just taken us to see like the gayest movie ever?
Best Dad Ever: Gay? How was that gay? They’re just good friends. Very good friends. Abounding with mutual respect and a shared goal.
Darling Daughter: Dad, they kissed at the end. And they enjoyed it.
Beloved Son: And then they made up a ship name for themselves and then both shirtless, entered a glowing orb and saved the world through the Power of Togetherness. That’s pretty gay.
Best Dad Ever: So you’re telling me that Galo reigniting the fire in Lio’s heart through kissing his lips was somehow homo-sex-ual? I... you’re right. That does sound pretty gay. What’s the world coming to when a guy can’t deeply kiss another guy (to save his life) and not be accused of being gay?
Darling Daughter: Because they were gay!
Best Dad Ever: You kept saying this about Good Omens too. Crowley and Aziraphale are just good buddies, ok? So if one of my guy friends had a cardiac arrest on the kitchen floor and I gave them emergency mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, that would be gay?
Darling Daughter: Yes!
Best Dad Ever: What if I didn’t enjoy it?
Darling Daughter: *Sighs and rolls eyes*
Beloved Son: (Changing topic) That was just like Studio Trigger’s Greatest Hits: The Movie
Best Dad Ever: (Smug that his children even know enough about Studio Trigger to list their greatest hits.)
Beloved Son: I mean they even did the female character riding a mech doggy-style. Did Trigger have anything to do with that Zero-Two show... What was that again? Darling in the Franxx.
Best Dad Ever: *Sighs*, yes son, they were partially responsible for that.
Beloved Son: And they had a manly, overbearing protagonist and crazy action and a huge drill and enormous mechas and a twist villain and... (Talks at length for several minutes.)
Best Dad Ever: (Unused to being out-weebed by his children) ...the bit at the end with the solar system on fire was kind of reminiscent of the end of Gurren Lagann.
Beloved Son: Yeah!
Suspiciously Younger Uncle of Offspring: Our Dad (kids’ grandad) would never have taken us to see that. I doubt he’d have survived.
Best Dad Ever: Our Dad is too square to appreciate anime. Promare would probably have triggered a seizure. In fact Promare is basically a gorgeously sherbet-coloured animated epileptic seizure. In a good way.
Suspiciously Younger Uncle of Offspring: I’m not going to get any sleep tonight after that. As soon as I open my phone and see the lights it’s going to trigger Vietnam PTSD flashbacks. (Note: He is too young to serve in any army and has certainly never been anywhere near Vietnam. His overall anime exposure is also significantly less than my kids’. Promare may have been a life-threatening experience for him.)
Best Dad Ever: At least those flashbacks would all be in bright neon pink.
Suspiciously Younger Uncle of Offspring: And green, and blue, and... (mutters incoherently.)
Now all of the young ones are in bed, I’m feverishly tapping away at my keyboard trying to make my whirling thoughts on Promare coherent and logical. Screw that. This is coming out stream-of-consciousness style before I forget and the dull winter grey daytime of tomorrow sucks all joy from my heart. Because Promare is certainly full of that - joy - spewing from every orifice in a rainbow of candy-coloured flame. This movie looks like it was an absolute blast to make. The plot is pretty simple and the characters are barely explored archetypes, but this is fine. Promare is about the spectacle, the increasingly insane mecha fights and the huge goofy grin it is trying so hard to (and succeeds in) plastering across every viewer’s face.
An anime movie that uses CGI to its advantage for once, rather than a cost-cutting detriment, I can’t see how this film could have been produced without the sweeping pans, closeups and scattershot editing that director Imaishi employs with the help of liberal computer assistance. The aesthetic is like very little else - very flat, clean lines, almost deliberately retro-polygonal and action scenes set up like the very best kid’s Saturday morning TV shows dialed up so far past eleven that the knob snaps off.
As my son alluded earlier, if you’ve seen almost any previous Trigger production then you’ve a good idea what to expect. No deep philosophising or soul-searching tedium. Lots of manly posturing, head-banging, growling and shouting out insane mecha names like “Deus Ex Machina!” to great audience hilarity. That particular mecha very much lives up to its title, and was a great, if completely dumb joke that I loved.
Promare is earnest and joyful, with a delightfully loopy backstory that probably doesn’t warrant close examination. The same goes for character motivations and plot twists - the story is simple and streamlined - not exactly predictable, but a film does not need to be an intricately-constructed puzzle box to tell its tale successfully. Most of the peripheral characters are interesting but get very little screen time. Mostly the story is laser-focused on the interactions between main character Galo Thymos, initial antagonist/later deuteragonist Lio Fotia and the “twist antagonist” (my son’s words, not mine...) Kray Foresight.
Foresight’s diabolical plan is indeed very... diabolical and there are some effectively unsettling scenes where multitudes of people suffer due to his actions. Once his artifice is shed he does become a very one-note villain, but in a film such as this, ambiguity is probably not welcome. Much like Trigger’s earlier Gurren Lagann and Kill La Kill, Promare uses its main villain to keep raising the stakes higher and higher in a way that propels the film forwards with little chance for a breather.
Although its run-time is close to two hours, the constant action, vibrant colours, frequent light-hearted humour and stunning soundtrack keep everything moving so smoothly that it almost seems to end too soon. I wonder if they could have made this a TV series instead so there could have been more of it... But then it would never have looked so flashy and as special as it does. Promare is like a fizzy, brightly-coloured cocktail that slides down easily, leaves a pleasantly tangy aftertaste and leaves you wanting more. Oh God. I’ve basically introduced my kids to the anime equivalent of Gay Bar Cocktail Happy Hour.
If I’m lucky, they won’t need too much counselling.
Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi (Studio Trigger/XFLAG)
Screenplay: Kazuki Nakashima
Music: Hiroyuki Sawano
Runtime: 111 minutes
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
Original Japanese Cinematic Release: May 24th 2019 (premiere May 15th 2019)
UK Cinematic Release: November 26th 2019 (premiere October 13th 2019)
Distributor: Anime Limited
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