Studio Trigger’s first feature-length anime movie Promare is a cart ride through a futuristic funhouse on lots and lots of drugs.
Known for their over-the-top animation and absurdist humor, Studio Trigger is a hot name in Japanese animation right now. They’re the muscle behind hits like Kill la Kill, Little Witch Academia and Darling in the Franxx, all of which benefit from the studio’s signature stream-of-consciousness visual metaphors. Released in North America on September 20, Promare is no different, as it’s produced by the team from Kill la Kill and the lauded mecha anime Gurren Lagann. It takes the studio’s deranged and genius animation style into a fresh context: firefighting.
Sometime around the present day in Promare, spontaneous combustion becomes a plague known as the Great World Blaze. A huge portion of the world burns. The people with this flame-throwing power are known as the Burnish, and many years into the future, when Promare is set, humans learn how to contain the awful destruction with futuristic firefighting techniques. Of course, these techniques involve mechs and scantily-clad heroes.
Galo Thymos works for Burning Rescue, an elite team of firefighters. Promare’s first scene features the reckless hero fighting a skyscraper blaze using a mech that transformed more times than I could reasonably count. (After the third or fourth transformation, the audience in the theater with me began to laugh hysterically.) He would rescue some survivors and deliver some ridiculous lines about his firefighting soul before eventually confronting a Burnish leader, also in a mech, named Lio Fotia. Lio Fotia is a blonde and elegant villain-type who, he says, needs to burn the world. The city regards Fotia as part of a terrorist sect and sends government agents to imprison him, simultaneously stealing Thymos’ thunder. Later, though, the city’s hard-chinned governor, Kray Foresight, awards Thymos a medal.
That is basically the movie’s opening. Things go off the rails from there, as allegiances between Burning Rescue, the government, and the Mad Burnish shift. There’s Margherita pizza, mad scientists, romantic tension, artificial intelligence, aliens, bubbling-up magma, more mecha fights. Each time I thought the drama might resolve, some new and even more absurd drama would be introduced, upping the ante. Eventually, I started to think the entire world would burn and that none of the previous 90 minutes would matter at all—a thought that was as likely as it was humorous.
It’s hard to overstate how funny Promare is. Galo Thymos is just completely stupid, like the idiot protagonist from Space Dandy. The anime callbacks—from Sailor Moon to Evangelion—are ridiculous. Promare’s mishmash of tropes, barebones writing and roller coaster plot would not have worked without Studio Trigger’s next-level animation, which sets the movie’s psychedelic tone.
Promare blends impeccable 3D animation with low-fi, expressionist 2D. A scene might include both a super-detailed 3D giant spaceship and a couple simple geometric shapes. While one moment might be drawn entirely in greyscale, another might burn your eyes with hot pink, lime green and lightning yellow. The effect of Promare’s contrasting animations is successful. There is not one boring scene in the movie because there’s so much stylistic variation, so many brilliant colors and shifting shapes and textures.
Promare is overstated mayhem, and a successful entry into the world of feature films for Studio Trigger. It’s definitely worth seeing at the theater if distributor Gkids is showing it near you.