Flares both literal and visual combine in an incredible fireworks of a film.
“Coward. Attacking me when I was striking a pose.”
I’ve always been a huge fan of Studio Trigger’s unique animation style and artistic sensibilities. Always pushing the boundaries of stylistic excess, they mix satirical yet emotionally complex stories with over-the-top visual flare and lots of out of nowhere wacky nonsense. It means that while you may get an idea of what sort of experience you’ll be witness to, it never quite bends to your expectations. A Trigger product can start as a story about a subjugated people forced to live underground and end with mechs several lightyears long throwing galaxies at each other.
With that in mind, I’m not quite sure why it took me so long to watch their debut feature film Promare. Released in 2019, after the success of both Guren Lagann and Kill La Kill, Promare is set in a future world where a group of people have suddenly developed the ability to summon flames from their bodies – though not always control them. Labelled burnish by the community, they are ostracised by society for their tendency to occasionally set things on fire. These fires are kept in check by firefighters called Burning Rescue, among whose members is the brash and confident Galo Thymos. After an encounter with a burnish radical rebel group, and their leader Lio Fotia, Galo discovers there’s a lot more to these seemingly out-of-nowhere abilities.
Promare has a lot of plot going on, and it’s incredibly easy to be distracted by it when everything moves and looks like it does. Visually it’s as madcap as you’d expect – even more so without the constraints and budget of a TV schedule – which can be a bit much from time to time. There are enough scenes of chitchat and exposition to keep things in check, thankfully, though the story can be just as frenetic as the animation in places. Still, this energy keeps the film moving at a good pace, and it never gets to slow to a crawl at any point. Some of the story beats might be familiar, but the incredible visual style does keep you from thinking too hard about it until it’s over.
The movie’s other big standout feature is its sense of humour. Trigger has always had its tongue in its cheek – you can’t produce work like Kill La Kill otherwise – and here the satire, trope lampshading and winks to the camera are infrequent enough to not be distracting, but have enough of a presence to keep everything light and fun. Deus, a deceased scientist who turns out to be a key ally, is the primary source of this, shrugging away the fact that half the things involving him happen by coincidence.
That said, Promare is a film you do have to be in the right mindset for. The nonstop fast-paced animation is great, but it’s also exhausting at times. It doesn’t often let your eyes rest, as even slower moments are loaded with bright colours, wild angles and sharp, angular motions. But it’s still very much a good time, in the style of the studio’s other work. The plot more often than not makes you wonder if this was supposed to be a series or not, but the pacing isn’t too bad, especially considering how much stuff they have to cram into a single film. Their stories do often tend to get a little bit over the top near the end, and Promare’s other-dimensional fire beings don’t disappoint. It’s a film that’s on fire from start to finish, and doesn’t stop until the credits to cool down.
Verdict: Pure, unadulterated fun from Trigger, Promare is the sort of big, outlandish production cinematic animation was made for.
Overall entertainment: 8/10
Violence: A very pretty 7/10
Wackadoo Factor: 7/10
Rats: One cute mascot
Villains: A completely 100% surprising reveal
Also known as: プロメア
Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi
Writer: Kazuki Nakashima
Kenichi Matsuyama – Galo Thymos
Taichi Saotome – Lio Fiota
Masato Sakai – Kray Foresight
Ayane Sakura – Aina Ardebit
Hiroyuki Yoshino – Remi Puguna
Tetsu Inada – Varys Truss
Rikiya Koyama – Ignis Ex
Mayumi Shintani – Lucia Fex
Kendo Kobayashi – Vinny
Ami Koshimizu – Heris Ardebit
Ryoka Yuzuki – Biar
Taiten Kusunoki – Vulcan Haestus
Nobuyuki Hiyama – Gueira
Katsuyuki Konishi – Meis
Arata Furuta – Deus Prometh