Original Release Date: May 24, 2019
Directed By: Hiroyuki Imaishi
Genre: Action, Science Fiction
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Promare. Reader discretion is advised.***
Nearly three decades ago, a new mutation that granted people the ability to wield a mysterious form of fire appeared. The affliction came to be known as Burnish, and far too often, this power left behind a devastating trail of destruction. To fight these fires, the elite Burning Rescue squad was formed.
Nowadays, a young, energetic Burning Rescue firefighter named Galo Thymos (voiced by Kenichi Matsuyama) has dedicated his life to protecting the people who fall victim to Burnish, be they innocent bystanders or those afflicted with the condition. While on a mission, Galo runs into the infamous Burnish terrorist group Mad Burnish and its leader Lio Fotia (voiced by Taichi Saotome). Although Galo manages to subdue Lio, Lio hints that Galo is doing the bidding of those who wish to eliminate everyone with the Burnish condition systematically.
To Galo’s horror, he not only learns that Lio’s words were true, but they actually didn’t explain the whole magnitude of the situation. To fulfill his desire to be a hero, Galo must team up with Lio to face a threat that could lead to the destruction of the entire Earth.
To start this review off, you must be aware of potential bias on my part. Now, per that phrasing, I wish I could sit here and tell you that my life was interesting enough to say I had something to do with the making of this film. Sadly, that is not the case. Instead, you need to know that I am a massive fan of the animation studio that made Promare, Studio Trigger. Not only that, there hasn’t been a single Trigger production I’ve reviewed poorly, and this movie isn’t going to break that streak.
Promare, which I was lucky enough to see in theatres in Japan, was an absolute blast. Admittedly, my Japanese skills are not flawless, so there were aspects of what was going on that went over my head. Nevertheless, I had a lot of fun watching this film. Not to sound too airy, but every animation studio infuses a unique sort of energy into their productions; this being truer whenever a studio releases an original narrative. Take away the ability to understand everything that is happening in a story, and that energy becomes much more prominent.
Case in point, Promare and Studio Trigger. Although I won’t be so humble and say I couldn’t catch even the general idea of the film (my Japanese isn’t great, but it’s not awful either), I will admit that during my theatrical viewing, I had to rely on the, let’s call them, less than verbal details. For Trigger, those less than verbal details are why I love the studio so much. Trigger doesn’t just tell its stories; it shows its stories. And with Promare, it was a f@#$ing show.
Promare was everything you have come to expect, or, at least, I have come to expect from Trigger, but in feature film form. If there is one thing this studio does better than any other, it can perfectly capture absurdly entertaining chaos. And Trigger can do that on a television budget, picture what they can (and did) do for the big screen.
There are few anime studios I can think of that understands what power a full-color pallet can give a narrative more than Trigger does. When using animation, the scope of a story is only limited by the imagination of the storytellers. In the case of Trigger, its imagination gave us Kill la Kill, Little Witch Academia, Darling in the Franxx, and now, Promare.
For you see, there is going fast, and then there is going Trigger fast. If you’re not sure what that means, then you need only watch Promare’s first (of many) action sequence, which, by the way, begins in the opening five minutes of the film. The resulting mix of motion, color, and music (holy s@#$ the soundtrack in this movie is among the studio’s best, and that’s saying a lot), was like a flaming sledgehammer slamming on top a crate of fireworks sitting in a fireworks factory. It was pandemonium, but the good kind that is awe-inspiring. And this was the beauty of Promare; it wasn’t overwhelming or too much.
Even when it felt like a thousand things were happening at once, it was never difficult to follow. There was always a clear line between points A and B. So, despite the madness, this film never became a jumbled mess (visually, that is, but more on this later).
It is hard not to be impressed by the scale and scope of this movie. At no point during its entire two-hour runtime did things turn dull, uninteresting, or bland. The amount of excitement in most of this film’s scenes was enough to carry most other movies. Still, that isn’t to say Promare didn’t have its slower moments. This film could balance its action and its subtler scenes that allowed the craziness to stay fresh and fun.
To compliment that, for a movie like Promare to not be merely visual eye candy, it needed something to ground it. This time around that something was this film’s characters, another one of Trigger’s calling cards. Admittedly, no one stood out as a breakout hit, but everyone was a source of that previously mentioned energy and not a floating buoy atop a sea of it. Characters like Galo Thymos and Lio Fotia added to the insanity with their larger than life personalities.
In essence, Promare was an excellent popcorn flick. This is the kind of film you put on when you want to lose yourself in what’s going and when you want to feel pure excitement. But make no mistake, this is not the sort of movie you go to if you want to appreciate a good story.
Promare solely relied on its visuals to carry everything. For a studio like Trigger that does know how to tell a good story, this was disappointing. Granted, I don’t want to say the plot of this movie was terrible. Most of it was pretty good. That was until we “learned” what the word Promare meant.
Oddly enough, I’m of two minds on this subject.
On the one hand, the scene that explained the essence of Promare was hilarious. It was a complete tongue-in-cheek poke at how overly complicated more serious stories than Promare can be. It was just a wordy info-dump that even put the main characters to sleep. Hell, the solution to the problem presented was called Deus Ex Machina. The blatantness of this move was the joke, and the joke was hilarious.
On the other hand, and this was the real kicker, the joke didn’t end. It kept going, and what could have passed as a humorous nod to the mecha genre, fell into the very same trap it was parodying. It would have been one thing if there were only five or ten minutes left in the movie. Unfortunately, this served as the foundation for the entire final act.
Since I have, on multiple occasions, made it clear that animation is not something I look at when writing a recommendation for a production, it would be hypocritical if I were to recommend Promare simply because it was pretty. Although the visuals and the music made this movie quite entertaining, there were aspects of the story that were worthwhile too.
The first two-thirds of Promare was solid, and it wasn’t as if the last bit was a broken slog. The end of this movie may have been only overly-complicated, and the details made no sense whatsoever, but those were holes subsequent viewings could fill in.
Promare’s greatest strength is its re-watchability. I know I am going to keep coming back to this film because it was so fun.
Because I knew this was a Studio Trigger film, I was eagerly waiting for its theatrical release. I wasn’t sure how much of it I was going to understand, but I figured I’d, at least, get a kick out of it. Five minutes in, I realized I would get a lot more than I would have dared hope.
Now having watched the film again (with subtitles), I can definitively say that my excitement was not misplaced. This film was so much fun.
If you want excitement, thrills, adrenaline, and other types of pick-me-ups, this movie is for you. Promare has earned a recommendation.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this film? How would you advise Promare? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.