Sometimes you want to watch a dark horror where a creature of unspeakable terror stalks its prey in the middle of the night. Sometimes you want to watch a couple fall in love and survive against all adversity. Sometimes you want to watch a crime drama where the bad guys win in the end and nothing changes in society. We all have different movies for different moods and there’s nothing wrong with that. So what kind of mood does Promare satisfy?
Promare is for the moods where you want to watch a giant robot the size of a planet blow up the universe in a second big bang while synth rock blares in the background.
Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi
Release Date: September 17 (Dub), September 19 (Sub)
In a futuristic world not unlike our own, a race of people called Burnish began to appear 30 years ago. The Burnish are able to control fire at will and have set out to burn the world down. Now, only one terrorist group called Mad Burnish exist, and the only people that can stop them are the Burning Rescue Fire Department, a ragtag group of a misfits that protect the innocent and put out fires. The most promising member is Galo Thymos (Kenichi Matsuyama/Billy Kametz), a hot headed (heh) member who makes it his mission to put out every fire that the Burnish create.
If you’re at all familiar with the studio that created Promare, Studio Trigger, you should know exactly what to expect from this movie. For the uninitiated, Trigger is a relatively new studio that was founded by former members of Gainax, one of the most legendary anime production houses in the business. In the span of six years, Trigger has made a slew of great anime ranging from mecha action pieces like SSSS Gridman, magical comedies like Little Witch Academia, and the insanely violent spectacle that is Kill la Kill. Out of the three, Promare shares many traits with Kill la Kill, including the director Hiroyuki Imaishi, who also served as the director of Gurren Lagann.
Promare has a plot, but it is by far the least interesting thing about the movie and is almost tossed aside as quickly as it’s introduced. Action is the name of the game here, and Promare takes an almost childlike glee is blowing up as many things as possible in the most colorful way possible. At first the constant blast of colors is incredibly distracting, but over time you get used to the garish tone of it all. Besides, I’ll take a movie that has too much color over a movie with a lack of color any day of the week.
To give Promare credit, it plays to Trigger’s strengths at showing off just how damn good they can make action look. Screenshots don’t do this movie justice as the stakes constantly raise alongside the action. Within five minutes you’re thrust into a rescue mission that ends with a confrontation with Mad Burnish that would make any other animated film this year piss themselves in awe. Flaming motorcycles, sword duels, and giant freeze rays abound, and somehow Promare only just adds more fuel to the fire as it progresses.
It’s almost refreshing how much the movie doesn’t care about its own plot, with the main antagonist revealing himself to our heroes in the first half hour, dropping all pretenses about his benevolence. Galo simply asks him if he’s evil, he says yes, and that’s about it. Then for the next 90 minutes it’s just nonstop action. A part of me wishes that we had some more character development, since all of the characters present are so stock it hurts, but at least the movie seems to acknowledge that it needs at least some set up before getting to the giant dragons made of living fire.
The imbalance may be interesting from a narrative perspective, but it runs the risk of making the final battle drag on for what seems like an eternity. It’s all pretty to look at, but it’s like shotgunning a pixie stick only to realize that you have to shotgun a dozen more. It quickly descends into a kitchen sink mentality where newer and bigger threats appear to challenge our heroes without any rhyme or reason. It just serves an excuse to keep the battle going simply because there needs to be an epic final battle.
I’ve heard of worse problems for a movie to have, but it’s a unique problem to Promare. It’s a strange anomaly where if the action was pared back a smidgen, it wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining as it is. Make no mistake, Promare is a highly entertaining movie that stumbles only in its mad dash to get to the third act. For the record, while I did the the subtitle version of the movie for this review, I would recommend watching this movie with the English Dub. Due to the frenetic action, I feel it would be best if all of your attention was focused on watching the insane action rather than trying to follow along with the subtitles at the bottom of the screen. While that didn’t impact my general thoughts on the movie, Sub Vs. Dub is a debate that some people fight to the death over, so that’s my two cents on how to best watch Promare.
Special mention needs to be made of Hiroyuki Sawano’s soundtrack, which manages to get you pumped up and ready to go with a few anthems that smash their way into your brain. “Inferno” in particular serves as the main theme of the movie and just hits all of the right notes for me. The guitar riff, the chorus, the synth just comes together immaculately and embodies exactly what Promare is. It’s bright, fun, and colorful that makes you feel good. You’ll remember it more for it’s style than anything else, but sometimes we just need a little bit of speed in our bloodstreams.
For anime fans, this is Trigger at their most Trigger. Make of that what you will.