BACK in June I was pleased to find that a Scottish company called ‘All the Anime’ had launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the release of Patema Inverted for western audiences. This isn’t the first case of a crowd-funded film, or even the first anime feature film to be funded this way for release outside of Japan, but it’s certainly had a noticeable impact on how fans and producers can work together to bring anime to the west. Crowd-funding is on the rise, and it’s allowed more projects to get off the ground that fans can get excited about, enabling them to have a louder voice in what can be produced.
The film starts from the perspective of a hand-held camera pointed at a city landscape, with the date in the corner revealing it to be in the near future. Soon the building begin to creak and break before falling upwards into the sky. We’re told that a ‘gravity experiment’ has left them ‘inverted’. Cut to the film’s present. The locations are split between a generic underground society where the inverts or ‘sinners’ live, and the generic futuristic town that I’m almost positive only has two buildings.
If you made a list right of the tropes of a underground community and a futuristic society I would have no doubt that most of you would tick off at least 75% worth. The 1984-ese environment of education, where students are taught obviously wrong material t suit the agender of the leaders? Check. hazard suits with gas masks and a danger zone which is actually the exit for the underground? Also check. Thing is, I found it quite difficult to be angry at how trope-tastic these two locations were because the whole film is animated so beautifully. Every scene, every costume, every object was so painstakingly detailed and the animation flowed so smoothly it was like a real recording had been painted over.
Patema is a rebellious teenager, an odd one out; she goes against the norm of society, asking questions about why the world works the way it does. Upon visiting the danger zone she falls upwards to the surface where she meets Age (pronounced AJ), a young rebellious teenager, an odd one out, he goes the against the norm….. You get the point.
To give credit to the film, it does leave the audience in suspense; since Patema is trapped on the surface, the danger is always present. It does a great job of making you feel that, at any moment, Patema could fall into the sky. Combine this with how the camera angle is switched back and forth from Patema’s to Age’s perspective, it allows the audience insight into how both characters view each other.
Generic sci-fi fascist villain isn’t pleased upon discovering that an invert has come to the surface, due to some religious reasons which are painfully obviously made up by him. The sinners fell into the sky, why? Because I said so, how dare you question me. While his plan may be just to be a dick, at least his plan of being a dick is well executed; use the girl’s immediate danger to scare her enough into cooperating to help them find the others. Not sure why he needs help though, as the entrance to the tunnels is under a giant hole in the ground, and the village wasn’t even that far away from that.
Throughout the film they play with the physics of having people and items with inverted gravity, leading to some spectacular and fun scenes, including a breath-taking sight of Patema and Age jumping over the scenery and an awkward on-the-fly rescue mission.
While the whole ‘gravity experiment’ was vague and didn’t explain much, it never distracted you from the main story. The further you get into the story, however, the more questions are raised without ever giving any answers, right into the end of the second act and the film’s climax, where the twists not only fail to explain anything but also throw all logic and reason out the window.
The film is certainly beautiful and a lot of fun, but you will have to keep the mindset of ignoring any gaping questions that come up during the film, because they will never be answered or make any sense. I recommend getting this on blu-ray if possible to really enjoy the animation.