The hotly-anticipated feature debut of anime company Studio Trigger, Promare is an original action-adventure anime that can’t be faulted for a lack of creativity. Even though the film’s level of energy can become a bit overwhelming at times, Promare proves that the creators at Trigger have a bright future ahead of them.
Perhaps the biggest reason why this movie doesn’t entirely land is that its story is overly convoluted. At the core of the film is the battle between the Burnish, a race of flame-wielding mutants, and Burning Rescue, a force of firefighters who protect the world from the extremist “Mad Burnish”. However, later in the movie, the audience is introduced to the Freezer Force, a government-run and more militant rival group to Burning Rescue, and the eponymous Promare, whose connection to the story is less clear and not entirely necessary.
The film would have been much better off had it focused on one of these three storylines. The war between Burning Rescue and the Burnish is the most compelling and intriguing, as it lends itself the best to large-scale action sequences. In fact, the first post-introduction scene (there is, of course, an exposition dump explaining the backstory), in which we get to see Burning Rescue in action, is undeniably the best in the movie.
The other two storylines of the film feel entirely underdeveloped. The Freezer Force particularly feels like a waste of potential, as that storyline seemed designed to represent instituationalized discrimination and racism, but this feels like more of an afterthought than a priority. As for the Promare, they end up being rather confusing. They don’t even come into play until the final act of the movie, and even then, the Burnish versus Burning Rescue conflict is still far more intriguing.
Additionally, the character development in the film could have worked. Since there are so many characters in the different groups involved in the story, it would have been difficult for the movie to adequately develop them all in a single film, even one that is almost two hours long. Perhaps the filmmakers were waiting for future entries to explore these characters with more depth, but with the way the story resolves, the path towards a sequel is unclear.
The best part of this movie is undeniably its action sequences. The film is very visually stylized, and this lends itself to some cool fight scenes. Ultimately, the premise doesn’t really boil down to much in terms of complex action — it’s mostly just a bunch of giant robots fighting — but the way in which these scenes are animated is quite impressive.
There is an obvious level of energy that dominates the movie, and that energy is somewhat infectious, being the main factor that keeps the film’s narrative in motion. The movie’s use of color is probably the most memorable aspect of its animation, and hopefully this technique will continue in Studio Trigger’s future efforts. There is also a song used as a motif in the film, and although it does become a bit annoying after hearing it again and again, it is admittedly pretty catchy.
Promare has plenty of issues, but it is a mostly interesting movie nonetheless. Although it may not appeal beyond those who are already a fan of the anime style, this proves that the animators over at Studio Trigger have a vision, and that vision is something we should keep a close eye on in the future.
Promare opens in theaters on September 20 after Fathom Events showings on September 17 and 19.