Ya know, when I decided to go watch some anime films for the month, I really thought I knew what I was getting into. As usual, I had no idea. Story of my life. I’ve bullshitted my way through 45 years now, but still, you’d think I, at the very least, would know when I was bullshitting myself.
Okay, so, when I decided to do anime films, I thought to my self, hey, let’s avoid anything from Miyazaki, Ghibli, and Makoto Shinkai. I already know I love that stuff. You guys know I love that stuff. You guys love that stuff. We’ve all seen that stuff. Maybe, it’d be fun to jump into some stuff I knew nothing about, and you guys might even learn about a movie even you hadn’t heard of.
Sometimes, I really am an optimist.
Turns out, culling a list of films that does not include those three movers and shakers is easier said than done. I mean, I could do a whole month on Mamoru Hosada films, and enjoy every second of it. But still, while he’s sure to pop up here a second time after Wolf Children, cause he’s that darn good, I wanted to branch out and really dig into something I didn’t know if I was going to enjoy.
Comfort food is great, but at times, it leaves you hungry for something different, ya know?
All of which lead me to this weeks offering, the 2013 feature film, Patema Inverted, which takes a nifty, if well worn, idea, and does some genuinely awesome stuff with it. Like, I was glued to the damn screen for the entire 100 minute run time, and never even guessed at the big final revelation.
For those who haven’t seen it, Patema Inverted follows a young girl named, duh, Patema. She lives in an underground society, under the burden of tons of rules. Like, don’t go into the danger area, because bat people will get her. Regardless, inspired by her friend Lagos, who has gone missing some time ago, she routinely explores the abandoned tunnels around the danger area.
There was no Kenny Loggins played, but I won’t hold that against the movie.
One day, after discovering a ladder leading upward, she is assaulted by what can only be described as a bat like creature, that walks on the ceiling. Narrowly escaping it, she accidentally falls into a shaft, and out onto the surface, where she struggles not to fall upward, into the sky.
Rescued by a boy about her age, named, appropriately, Age, she soon finds herself in a storage shed, safe from her the weird gravity that threatens to toss her upward. Age lives here safely, in the land of Aiga, and knows of people like her. Inverts, the descendants of the sinners who tampered with gravity in the distant past, and as punishment from God, were flung into the sky.
Aiga is a land founded by people who survived this, and is something of a theocratic state, where laws and rules are everywhere, strictly enforced by constant surveillance, and security police, who look a lot like the bat creature Patema saw before, but are actually just men in masks.
Patema and Age learn about each others societies from each other, until in an attempt to return her below ground, Patema is captured by the leader of Aiga, Izamura, a fanatic who believes the Inverts all need to be destroyed, before they can contaminate the perfect society Aiga has become. Imprisoned, Patema learns that Lagos died, and is kept on display by Izamura, who is a bunch of cracked walnuts shy of a sundae.
Age, punished for his actions, soon encounters Patema’s childhood friend, Porta, who has come to find her. Together, they return below, and concoct a plan to rescue her, which doesn’t exactly go as planned, leading to Age and Patema both falling into the sky.
From there, the movie gets right trippy, with more twists and turns than M. Night Shymalamanadingdong having a taco fueled fever dream.
That’s not what made it so amazing, though. I mean, yes, the various plot twists were all stunning, and most of them caught me totally off guard. The movie has a way of getting you too interested in what’s happening at the moment, to spend much time thinking about what’s coming next. In hindsight, it was all really well laid out, and the final big reveal is a bit obvious. At the time, on the first watch, it wasn’t.
I guess that’s why hindsight is 20/20, now that I think about it.
Like I said, though, the characters are too well done to pay much attention to the rest of it. Patema, in particular, is a nicely crafted character who comes off as very human. While adventurous, and always open to new possibilities, the initial shock of nearly falling into the sky terrifies her enough that it makes her hesitant to act. Which, ya know, I can kinda get. That’s scare the beejesus out of me, too.
Still, when the times comes, Patema never hesitates to do what must be done, to protect the people she cares about. Sure, she cries at times, and needs to be rescued on occasion, but just as often, she’s brave, and does the rescuing. So, a nice, well balanced character, who makes for a solid protagonist. Plus, she’s adorable, funny, and a ton of fun, so getting invested in her was easy.
Age took a bit more work. While he is something of a rebel, the son of a detested inventor who once tried to invent a flying machine, and fell to his death, Age doesn’t try to make waves. He’s a fairly typical “nice guy” at first, saving Patema because it’s the nice thing to do. It’s only as the story progresses that we begin to see Age as more than how he is initially presented. As he evolves, he gets pretty easy to care about as well, it just takes a little longer than it does with Patema, who’s pretty awesome from the start.
Porta doesn’t get a lot to do, besides be funny, but he does get a few good heroic moments. Izamura, on the other hand, is almost a cliche, though shaded just enough to not be. He is maniacal, and menacing, given to frequent outbursts, unreasonable demands, and in all ways, acts like the sort of dictator that, well, he is. He controls Aiga completely, and no one dares question him, or his loyal security police commander, Jaku, will make them very sorry.
However, much of Izamura’s actions as the story unfolds become easier to understand, when you begin to see the world the way he does. Yes, he’s a religious fanatic, but he does honestly believe he is keeping people safe, and that the Inverts who lurk below threaten the stability of all that remains of the human race. While he is, no doubt, an unsalted cracker that’s been left out in the sun for way too long, his motives, and his actions, are from his point of view, the protection of humanity from certain destruction.
Jaku, while he spends most of the film as Izamura’s loyal lackey, soon begins to question this, however, and creates what is one of the films better moments with his slowly growing doubt. Much of which is born of Izamura’s growing instability over one, young, Inverted girl.
All of this culminates in a revelation so surprising, even Izamura can only gape at the ramifications of it. Not that he survives long enough, but still, his last moments are spent in a state of shock, so that was nice.
What? I said his motives were understandable, not defensible. Dude was a total ass.
Besides well crafted characters, and a really good story, the movie is incredibly well paced, rarely letting you stop to think too deep about what’s happening. Much as the characters are caught up in the events, and don’t get much time, the viewer doesn’t either, which creates a lot of good tension, and helps hide the big reveals that the story doesn’t want you to figure out too soon.
No, you may not pause it to think it over. Just enjoy the ride. No cheating.
In terms of animation, this movie is freaking gorgeous. It was made by Purple Cow Studios, and I have no idea who they are, but they made one hell of a good looking movie here. Everything is just so on point, and there’s times where the movie lets the animations sell things. Scenes where the characters are speechless, and the moment is given weight by the quality of the animation, so you feel their awe, or fear. It’s just superbly well done, and really, you have to see it to get it.
This is what sets good animation apart, by the way. Knowing when to let it shine. Patema gets that, and does it, and it’s freaking gorgeous.
The film was written and directed by Yasuhiro Yoshiura, who is something of an unknown to me. He’s got several writing, and directing credits, but not for anything I’ve seen, or even heard of, but with this movie, the man made me a fan of his work. I will definitely be checking out his other stuff, such as The Time of Eve, Pale Cocoon, and Bureau of Proto Society, to see more of this kind of film making.
Not only is the movie really well written, with the pacing managing to not interfere with the characters development, but the direction is just stunning. As I said, the big moments, when the animation needs to shine, to sell the moment, are really well done. The whole thing is well done, really, but there’s moments of actual genius in direction in here. Moments that are just stunning, and captured so perfectly, I can’t help but be amazed at the work.
This Yoshiura guy, he got some mad talent, yo.
I need to stop saying yo.
The music was from a favorite composer of mine, Michuru Oshima, who composed the OST for the 2003 FullMetal Alchemist series, as well as Snow White With The Red Hair, Little Witch Academia, Le Chevalier D’Eon, and a bunch more. You’ve probably seen me rave about her work in the past, and you’re gonna get the same here.
The music is balls out awesome. Really, it’s just stunning, with one track in particular really getting stuck in my head, and now desperately desired to be added to my playlist of anime music. It elevates at every turns, adds depth, context, and highlights beautifully. It’s a masterful OST from a masterful composer, and really, is just gorgeous to listen to.
Unfortunately, saying much more will come with a risk of spoilers, and this one, I don’t want to spoil for you guys. This is one you really need to see, and experience, unprepared for the various twists the plot takes, and the surprises the movie has hidden up its sleeve. Mostly because they are worth tit, but also because any movie is better that way.
With a likable cast, a decent enough villain, eye popping animation, and a stunning score, Patema Inverted was way more than I bargained for when I stepped away from my comfort zone of Miyazaki, Shinkai, and Studio Ghibli.
Damn glad I did, too. This is one movie, I wish I’d seen sooner.