Film / Reviews

'Promare': A burning need for rage control

by Matt Schley

Contributing Writer

Ever been so angry you felt like you were going to explode? In “Promare,” the new anime film from studios Trigger and Xflag, that’s no metaphor. The story goes that when the members of a certain segment of the population get mad enough, flames burst from their bodies, leading to fiery death and destruction.

Fast forward 30 years, and those volatile members of society, dubbed Burnish, have been largely brought under control. The gleaming city of Promepolis is replete with anti-Burnish technology, from futuristic fire hydrants to an elite team called Burning Rescue, dispatched whenever a Burnish blows his or her top. Piloting mecha exoskeletons that can turn on a dime, leap into blazing buildings in a single bound and launch rapid-fire rounds of super-chilled ice bullets, Burning Rescue are basically the world’s coolest firefighters — literally and figuratively.

The newest member of Burning Rescue is hotshot pilot Galo Thymos (Kenichi Matsuyama), a self-proclaimed moron who thinks with his heart long before his head ever catches up. But, after doing battle with the terrorist group Mad Burnish and its leader Lio Fotia (Taichi Saotome), Galo begins to question the party line, and soon discovers there’s more to the Burnish than just fiery rage. When he learns the truth, Galo must choose between sticking with his mentor and hero, Kray Foresight (Masato Sakai) or teaming up with Mad Burnish — with the future of all humanity at stake, natch.

Promare (Puromea)
Rating
Run Time 111 mins.
Language JAPANESE
Opens May 24

“Promare” is the creation of director Hiroyuki Imaishi and screenwriter Kazuki Nakashima, the dynamic duo behind series like “Gurren Lagann” and “Kill la Kill.” In making the leap to the big screen, Imaishi and Nakashima have retained the sensibilities that made their TV shows fan favorites: a lovable cast of ragtag heroes and delightfully over-the-top storytelling. When Galo admonishes Lio by bellowing, “The only thing that should be burning is your manly spirit!” you know you’re not exactly in for subtlety — but you may well find yourself grinning from ear to ear.

With little doubt about the storytelling abilities of Imaishi and Nakashima, the real question mark hovering over “Promare” came in the form of its visuals: While its characters are hand-drawn, pretty much everything else is animated in 3D. That’s a first for the pair, whose hyper-kinetic action sequences have earned them as much acclaim as their stories.

Thankfully, the transition to 3D is a largely unqualified success. I say “largely,” because figuring out which frame rate to use for CG has been giving the anime industry a collective headache for years, and a few choppy shots in “Promare” prove the struggle isn’t over. Otherwise, though, it’s pretty great. The vibrant, cel-shaded look blends well with the hand-drawn characters, and while the environments initially look almost too simple, that lack of clutter prevents visual overload when the camera starts kicking into gear. And kick into gear it does. Even in 2D, Imaishi is a three-dimensional thinker: His characters, seemingly unbound by the forces of gravity, bounce up, down and in every other direction you can think of, and the CG animation here allows him even more freedom to take us on a fast and furious ride.

Like “Gurren Lagann” and “Kill la Kill,” “Promare” offers a vision of the world where teamwork, love and just the right amount of stupidity lead to justice coming out on top. Just try to leave the theater without feeling a blazing passion in your guts.