Pssh. Right, like a Trigger movie would come to our local theatre and it NOT be a Mandatory Date Night.
Promare starts with a literal bang, as half the world’s population spontaneously bursts into flames, thus marking the Great World Blaze and the appearance of the Burnish – people with fire-manipulating powers who set the world aflame not because they want to, but because they must. And when fire can literally attack – well, suddenly firefighters have a whole new job.
New to the Burnish-fighting/rescue operation Burning Rescue, Galo Thymos is a rookie firefighter with a burning soul and a city to save – but when he apprehends the leader of the terrorist organization Mad Burnish, he discovers a challenge far darker and more complex than he could have ever imagined.
Okay, first off – watch this movie. Just watch it. If you have ever been a fan of anything Trigger or Trigger-adjacent, it is a gift to your eyeballs.
Studio Trigger at its best has always been known for its spectacular, frenetic animation and design. Even the self-consciously low-budget Kill la Kill rocked every single frame of animation that ever touched a screen and Promare, with all the advantages of a movie budget, is so beautiful that I would have cried – had I not been occupied by fits of uncontrollable grinning.
See, Trigger knows what its fans want – namely bold, bombastic heroes, high tech robots hecking stuff up, and outright ridiculous action – and Promare dumps all that onto the screen as soon as it starts. It takes a break a little bit afterward for plot, but then goes right back to what we love with a third act full of so many mecha transformations and WTF moments that it’s hard not to leave the theatre in a state of sheer vibrating nerd bliss.
The plot, unfortunately, is not as strong as its execution. Not that it’s bad – it moves along at an engaging pace and there’s never a dull moment – but given what I’ve seen from other Trigger productions of its type, I expected more. Trigger at its best has a talent for taking a visual motif and weaving it through the entire theme of the work. In Gurren Lagann (not technically Trigger, but still its spiritual predecessor), the visual concept of a spiral connected the protagonist’s defining drill to the spiral of human DNA and eventually to the resilient, overcoming power of humanity itself. In Kill la Kill, the concept of threads and clothing…well. It’s complicated and clever and absolutely nuts, and quite frankly, it’s easier to just go watch Kill la Kill.
Thus, given that Promare starts with a bunch of angry people bursting into flame and the centrality of fire to all human life (After all, it was one of our first tools), I expected a commentary on the all-consuming and all-empowering natures of both anger and fire – especially relevant in today’s angry society – or perhaps some twist relating the thematic concept of fire to humanity as a whole. Instead the movie takes a far more simplistic direction, and though one of its major themes centers upon how humans treat each other, it’s handled in such a predictable way that it became the one truly disappointing part of the movie. But then, I fully concede that it was mainly disappointing in comparison to my expectations.
At the same time, though, half the fun of going into a Trigger work for me is imagining the ridiculous ways in which its visuals and design might tie into its theme, and while most works since Kill la Kill have let me down in that respect, the thought process is still so fun that I don’t plan to give it up.
The only other disappointing element was that Galo was, in fact, not actually a resurrected Kamina (from Gurren Lagann), despite having his same basic character design and personality, and I’m still perplexed by the studio’s choice to make Promare’s protagonist essentially identical to one of its most iconic characters. Though, given how much fan chat leading up to the movie centered around the mystery of “Is it Kamina or not?” perhaps it was merely a clever marketing move.
After all, Trigger has time and again shown itself to be clever with design, and Promare is no exception. The film absolutely gleams with style, from the simplicity of its cityscapes to its unusual color choices (The fire is pink and yellow) to its imaginative character designs to its aesthetic attention to even the most minute background details (There’s a polygonal visual motif that extends even to the movie’s lens flares).
Also, Hiroyuki Sawano’s (always) explosive musical score and Superfly’s fist-pumping pop themes are a pile of cherries on top of an already huge movie sundae – though let’s be real, Sawano could write a score to a blank screen and it would be the most exciting blank screen you’d ever watched or would ever watch again.
Overall, Promare was spectacularly worth the cost of a Fathom Events ticket, and it already has a designated space on my Blu-Ray shelf (whenever it finally releases). Viewers who are unfamiliar with Trigger may not appreciate all its stylistic tropes, but even new fans will recognize it for what it is – a bombastic love letter to us and everything we love about Trigger’s anime.
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