REVIEW: プロメア [Puromea] [Promare] [2019]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★


Rating: PG-13| Runtime: 111 minutes | Release Date: May 24th, 2019 (Japan)
Studio: Toho Visual Entertainment / GKIDS
Director(s): Hiroyuki Imaishi
Writer(s): Kazuki Nakashima

“Oil and water as one!”

Its mechs vs. monsters storyline starts pretty straightforward. The latter are born from a mysterious mutation that gives a select percentage of the Earth’s population combustion powers that they simply couldn’t control at the time of the “Great World Blaze” en route to causing a mass genocide it’s taken three decades to overcome. The former are the creation of a new scientific law enforcement entity that goes by the name Foundation. With popular billionaire Kray Foresight (Masato Sakai) as its CEO, newly crafted high-tech resources augment a so-called “Freeze Force” of anti-Burnish (what those with the mutation are called) officers led by Vulcan Haestus (Taiten Kusunoki). A fascist unit doing more damage to humanity in Promepolis than good, the people’s true heroes are therefore known as “Burning Rescue.”

Screenwriter Kazuki Nakashima and director Hiroyuki Imaishi make certain we know this fact from the get-go once the almost extinction-level event prologue of their Puromea [Promare] fast-forwards to the present-day. A fire has just broken out at a skyscraper with the same properties as that which the Burnish manufacture from within and the Burning Rescue firefighting team is dispatched to the scene. Ignis Ex (Rikiya Koyama) calls the shots while Lucia Fex (Mayumi Shintani) works dispatch with an abundance of glee as her own technology is let loose in the field as piloted by Aina Ardebit (Ayane Sakura), Varys Truss (Tetsu Inada), Remi Puguna (Hiroyuki Yoshino), and over-confident rookie Galo Thymos (Ken’ichi Matsuyama). Saving victims comes first. Stopping the fire comes second. Arresting terrorists is third.

That last part is where we’re introduced to the Mad Burnish—evil sect of the aforementioned fire-starters that boldly goes out in public brandishing flames without mercy. And since Galo fancies himself a fearless man driven by a need to make Governor Kray proud (the politician saved his life when he was a boy), he brushes off orders to combat the formidable fugitive Lio Fotia (Taichi Saotome) and his cronies before the Freeze Force has an opportunity to claim jurisdiction. The ensuing fight prepares us for the fast-paced style of the whole that will continue straight through to the end with triangle flames, geometric tessellations, and a crude yet engaging 2D animation structure that keeps everything as smooth and legible as possible despite an energetic excess of chaos.

It’s a lot of exposition to nail down even before adding that Aina’s scientist sister Heris (Ami Koshimizu) brings Kray’s “foresight” to fruition as his right-hand. And how about that tongue-in-cheek playfulness? While this goes beyond the governor’s name, you might be surprised how egregiously wild Nakashima and Imaishi’s humor gets. I don’t watch enough anime to say for certain, but it’s like they’re satirizing the genre with each off-the-wall embellishment. It’s one thing to have every new character/piece of tech earn a freeze-frame moment with their/its name in huge letters behind them, but another to do it ten times in one scene. Whether it’s aesthetic, brashly assertive characters, or plot subversions, however, nothing matches the jaw-dropping power of a deus ex machina literally named Deus X Machina.

But nothing feels out of place. The character intertitles occur during that initial battle and never cease. Galo’s refusal to back down from a challenge and go against his code to save the world or die trying never wavers. And Lio’s cocksure leadership of the Burnish ensures we realize quite early that the universal hatred towards his kind isn’t as simple as the Freeze Force pretends. The plot doesn’t go far enough to make this truth relevant social commentary outside the narrative’s need to set-up later twists, but I don’t think anyone will fault an action-packed cartoon trading in excitement from leaning solely upon theatricality for intrigue. Once aliens, last-minute role reversals, and eleventh hour saviors enter the fray, you’ll either embrace the ride or checkout completely anyway.

I’d recommend going with it because the result is a ton of fun. Saying more about the story would be spoilers, though, since it perpetually turns on a dime without warning. Obvious stuff about duplicitous and/or misjudged characters is easy to guess, but the results of that arrive as though by the seat of the filmmakers’ pants. This artistic choice keeps it fresh, lets them mock their own movie as it progresses forward, and maintains a desire to always have at least one more surprise up their sleeves. You can feel the enthusiasm that must have filled the room during the creative process with Nakashima and Imaishi one-upping themselves with every, barely-controlled, swerve of the wheel. My smile remained intact once the dust settled. Hopefully yours will too.


photography:
courtesy of GKIDS

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