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The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Kaguya

Studio Ghibli will always occupy a soft spot in the hearts of people who have grown up with its works. Despite not being “anime” fans, many of my friends profess to love all things Ghibli – from the enthralling fantasy epic that is Spirited Away, right down to the whirlwind romance adventure that is Howl’s Moving Castle. And seeing how Princess Kaguya may well be Ghibli’s penultimate work, I feel somewhat compelled to jump on the all-hail-Miyazaki bandwagon, but then again, I’d rather not.

I feel that it’s only right to start off this review by being truthful about my experience with Ghibli works, just so that if you disagree entirely with what I’m saying, then you’d best base your impressions of Kaguya on another source. In all honesty, I love Ghibli for its music and art, I like it for its animation, and I don’t really care for its stories. In fact, I believe that the plots of Ghibli movies exist solely to support the art and animation itself, and never the other way round. “Sullen Girl Grows up by Getting a Job” sounds less like Spirited Away, than “Adventure in the Spiritual Bath House,” as is the case of “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” and “Howl’s Moving Castle,” and don’t get me started on The Cat Returns. I mean, what even happened in that last one? I just remember a lot of cats.

Anyway, Princess Kaguya’s plot is as sweet and simple as its predecessors. Mukashi mukashi (once upon a time), an old bamboo cutter discovered a tiny princess in the trunk of a bamboo tree. He took the sleeping girl home to his wife, and they watched in amazement as she transformed into a baby. Having no children of their own, the couple decided to raise her, and soon the fast-growing little girl was slipping and tumbling about the mountainsides with the other children. Upon returning to the princess’ bamboo tree, the bamboo cutter found gold and fine silk spilling out of the trunk, whereupon he had an epiphany – the deities must have desired him to raise the girl in finery and riches! So he built her a fine palace and brought her to the capital, where she would now learn the ways of the royalty, and live a happy, fulfilling life.

After the first twenty minutes, the story doesn’t get any happier. To be fair, it’s based on an Asian folktale that ends in tragedy (as do all Asian folktales, trust me on this one) – but I’m not going to pretend that I left the cinema feeling all warm and uplifted. This is one of those shows which teaches a lesson through traumatising you into enlightenment – so folks, appreciate what you have around you, find joy in the simple things, don’t be greedy and materialistic, if not…you’ll end up like Princess Kaguya! It’s similar to what Grave of the Fireflies did, albeit nowhere near extreme, but there’s no denying that had the designs and colours not been bright and pretty, this movie would have made me horribly depressed. Oh, and if it ever looks like things are going to turn around, beware, because this movie pulls TWO trolls on the audience, for no other reason than to flaunt its art and animation.

Which are, of course, absolutely superb. In crafting Princess Kaguya, director Isao Takahata opted for a minimalist style that mirrors the simplicity of a children’s picture book – but it doesn’t make the result any less rich. Instead, the tenderness of the artist is displayed in the minutest details – every stroke that makes up the trees, flowers and birds is applied with care and deliberation. The nature scenes are overflowing with life and joy, permeated by an unfettered sense of freedom. In contrast, as the story transitions to the palace, the colours on each silk robe and priceless treasure are sharper and stronger, reinforcing the exuberance and wealth of the nobility culture. There’s also a dramatic scene where everything becomes black and grey charcoal scrawls in an explosion of unbridled wrath, but like I said, the context behind it is…misleading.

The animation is precise, but not quite standard Ghibli fare, because it’s not entirely fluid. That’s perfectly fine as it’s keeping in line with the visual tone of the entire movie. As I mentioned, the whole thing reads like a picture book from start to finish, so the transitions between the frames almost feels like one is flipping the pages. It may start out rather jarring for those who prefer something more smooth and polished, but don’t worry, the style grows on you, and by the end you’ll probably find it rather charming.

As for the soundtrack, whether or not you appreciate it really depends on how much you can appreciate traditional Japanese music. Joe Hisaishi is one of the best composers out there – unlike Yoko Kanno, whose iconic indie tunes end up being supported by the scene they’re in, Hisaishi deliberately composes for the material he’s given. And given that Princess Kaguya is set within a Japanese fairy tale, there’s really nothing more appropriate than what we get. The theme song plays like a typical Japanese folksong – slow, drawn-out, eerily haunting (they all are); but there are also enthralling orchestral pieces whenever Kaguya is running through the grandiose mountains and lakes. Also, I watched the movie subbed, and I liked the Japanese voices, although if you really want to focus on the visuals then I don’t think that what I hear of the English dub is lacklustre.

Princess Kaguya is a very “Asian” show, in the sense that it’s clearly made for a Japanese audience who knows the cultural backdrop of the story. To begin with, if you didn’t know that the story is based off the The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, then there won’t be the same kind of thrill that you get in watching a Disney adaptation, and thinking things like, let’s see how many of the Greek gods I can recognise in Hercules! Practices like blackening one’s teeth sounds heathenish and barbaric, but to the Asian culture, it was traditionally considered beautiful, though no Asian person today can explain why. And yes, in the past children didn’t get names until they came of age, get over it. The biggest drawback for a Western audience might lie in the fact that there’s a sudden point in the story where the moon becomes important for no rhyme or reason, and when I was sitting as an audience in the cinema at Bristol’s Watershed, I could sense the confusion and disbelief sweeping the viewers – like “what, that was random.” But no, not really, we Asians love the moon to bits; the Chinese believe there’s a beautiful princess called Chang’e who lives there with her pet rabbit. So there are some things that have to be viewed in context, if not it’s all going to seem rather odd.

Ulltimately, I’m still not absolutely sure what to think of Princess Kaguya. As I said at the start, Ghibli works don’t really have plots…well, not the kind people debate extensively about, anyways. Interestingly enough, though, I will say that the titular character, Kaguya, is unusually well-fleshed out. That’s mostly because the entire story is about her birth and growth, and all the frustrations and complexities that come with being torn between desires and duties. As long as you’re taken in with her precocious, intelligent nature, this will be a memorable movie – if not a terribly depressing one. I know I just had to say it again, but those are my sentiments.

I don’t dislike sad shows; in fact, I enjoy them when they explore things that no other work has done before, or teach a lesson so powerful that it makes the whole thing end on a hopeful note (read: Eva; again). Unfortunately for Princess Kaguya, I’m not quite sure it does either of those things. It’s an inexorably intricate, beautiful show – one of those visual feasts you will never forget. Would I watch it again? No way, it was far too painful the first time. But am I still thinking about it now, more than one week after I saw it? I can’t help but think about it every now and then, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. All Ghibli movies are like that. They linger in your mind and capture your thoughts when you least expect it. Princess Kaguya continues to work that same Ghibli magic, and deserves nothing less than an 8/10 for it.

Akira

Akira2

Barely a month back, in my Trigun review (or some might call it an annoyingly repetitive recommendation), I made a loose generalisation that anime from the 20th century don’t usually stand the test of time with regard to visuals. That’s a loose generalisation, because I can think of so many titles which defy the norm – and it really shouldn’t matter if you’re not a moe-holic in the first place. In essence, it’s perfectly possible to appreciate a good story without fussing too much about how it looks – not that everyone can stomach this. However, in the same review, I also made a less loose generalisation, that there are precious few pre-2000 shows which you can watch for visuals alone. Basically, I mean that with the advent of superior animation techniques and computer generated imaging, no 20th century anime is safe from decay unless it can buffer its pretty sequences with a semi-solid plot and fairly engaging characters. And if you understand what I mean by this, then you’ll come to understand why I feel the 1988 cult-hit Akira deserves every last bit of the enduring reputation it has.

If I had to describe Akira, I’d call it an amalgamation of a few things – it has the style of an older version of Redline, the energy of a Fast and Furious movie, and the tumultuous angst of the classic Catcher in the Rye. The story takes place in 2019, in a decrepit city called Neo-Tokyo, where rioting, vice and hooliganism is rampant in the wake of World War III and corrupted reform politics. Teenage delinquent Tetsuo Shima is a member of the biker gang Capsules, which his fearless and confident best friend Shotaro Kaneda leads. One fateful night, while the gang is out on the streets having a motorcycle chase showdown with a rival biker group known as the Clowns, Tetsuo crashes into a strange young boy with a disturbingly wizened appearance – who turns out to be an Esper created by government ESP experiments. Thereupon, police and government officials swarm over Tetsuo and his unconscious body, and finding him a suitable candidate, subject him to the same medical procedures that ultimately awaken dangerous powers in the young lad. While Tetsuo loses his sanity over his newfound telekinetic abilities, his gung-ho brother Kaneda plays the hero in chasing after his best friend (and skirts whilst he’s at it), and the government and revolutionaries continue to clash…with the only certain thing in this kaleidoscope of chaos being that there’s a supernatural identity behind all this, known as Akira.

Now, Akira’s plot is nothing mindblowing or novel in our day and age – at its heart, it’s a story about superhumans who ultimately go berserk and turn against their creators. With motorcycles, drugs, and civil unrest as the backdrop. It’s not complicated to get your head around (although I apologise for the convoluted summary above), and in fact, you don’t really have to switch your mind on or poke too deeply into the possible themes and issues within the show…though sure, you can try to draw parallels between the world of Neo-Tokyo and modern (or future) society, and feel creeped-out at just how raw and disconcerting it all is…I mean, rioting students? How could they have even known? But at the end of the day, no matter how the explicit, dog-eat-dog world of Neo-Tokyo immerses you into the story, I feel that none of that has anything to do with the plot itself. There’s no obvious causal link between the X-Men experimentation, and the fact that this is all taking place in a society where citizens are disgruntled about taxes. The two things run on almost disparate planes. So just sit back and enjoy it like you would an Expendables movie.

But of course, if you want to elucidate something ‘bigger’ that Akira is trying to say, then I think you’d best be focusing on the character of Tetsuo, the rebellious adolescent punk. Tetsuo himself is not a mysterious or intricate character by any stretch of the imagination; he’s introduced to us as the sympathetic ‘sidekick’ underdog who suppresses a deep-seated inferiority complex. The nagging question is how and why he comes to be the central point of the pandemonium – why he’s selected as the choice subject for government experimentation, why he chooses to unleash his power in the form of destruction, and above all…why the masses generally respond to him (or Akira) as some form of deity. The first of those three questions…goodness knows, because this is anime and characters are always randomly chosen to have massive destinies heaped upon them, I guess.

The latter questions, however, I suppose one can trace back to the subtle, overarching theme of power. Tetsuo, who has been living in the shadow of Kaneda all his life, who was downtrodden and marginalised in his childhood, desires power. Initially, he tries to make off with Kaneda’s fiery crimson motorbike, then subsequently obtains telekinetic abilities, and parades himself around the cityscape with a (surprise) crimson cloak slung around his shoulders. Curiously enough, though, while the sea of onlookers eventually respond to his powerful presence with mingled reverence and fear, Tetsuo himself doesn’t appear to taste any semblance of satisfaction from any of this, instead choosing to continue on a headache-ridden rampage that ultimately seems to destroy himself. It genuinely bugs me that the narrative conceit isn’t consistent – why is Tetsuo not shown to bat an eyelid at the sudden attention he is getting, since the build-up of his angst and defiance should lead to that sort of climax? Is this a point the writer is trying to make, or a lack of coherence? What the viewer takes from all this is a matter of personal reflection.

And regarding the open-ended, ambiguous finale; the only thing I can wring out of it all, is that the conflict is never resolved, merely whisked away in an out-of-sight-out-of-mind fashion. Does Tetsuo express, or even learn anything from the entire episode of having uncontrollable powers? Nope. Do we see any aftermath impact on the masses who have been embroiled in civil war and Armageddon? Nope. And with that, I think enough has been said about the story of Akira. It’s easy enough to follow, and it would have made a few profound statements, if not for the fact that it never completes any of them. It paints a compelling picture of what is happening, but never gives its own conclusive opinion on what it presents; not even a presentation of both sides of the conflict.

The other characters are nowhere near as troubled as Tetsuo, but this is not to say that they aren’t engaging. The arguable protagonist, Shotaro Kaneda, is essentially everything Tetsuo dreams of being – flaws and all. He’s loud and liberal, and if he had existed today he would have been one of those angsty teenagers online, tweeting about how true friends don’t talk behind your back, but instead talk with you behind the backs of others. He and his biker gang fight for justice and pride, recklessly beating up policemen along the way – doing what he does because he lives in a culture where it’s admirable and cool to rebel against authority, and to only stick up for one’s sworn blood brothers. You can’t admire his guts in a vacuum, but you can definitely understand the context in which his actions are taking place.

The other characters are hits and misses in some form or other – the only semblance of a female protagonist, Kei, floats around, occasionally being useful by driving Kaneda’s motivations to act, the Colonel is there to shine a light of fascism in the bleak wake of ineffectual, squabbly politicians, the three Espers are (I’m guessing) there to reinforce some kind of horror at evil government conspiracies that involve the vulnerable…and everyone else is fodder.

Fodder for what, you may ask? Well, if you aren’t above the age of 16, I cannot recommend this show for you. It’s graphic, it’s violent, it’s the kind of show which makes you wonder what the creators were consuming when they came up with the bloodfest scenes that could rival Asuka’s fight in the End of Evangelion – or even the kind of sadistic things the director was telling his animators during production (‘no, no, his head needs to be decapitated like this’). The scary part is that you have to admit it – gory or not, everything is so well animated. This movie pulsates with pure kinetic energy, and there’s literally never a dull moment, regardless of what’s going on story-wise. The motorcycle chase scenes are breathtakingly gorgeous to watch; with details like the splatter of puddles and streams of neon light trailing in the wake of the cruising vehicle, making everything a feast for the eyes. Even if you forget everything else about the plot, it’s impossible to forget scenes where every object is injected with a life of its own, either skittering or zipping across the screen – and I’m not even talking about those moments where every piece of garbage is animated bobbing in the sewage rivers. I’m talking about the scenes where Tetsuo hallucinates in the hospital, where him and Kaneda battle it out in a junkyard, and of course, that iconic scene where the whole city is sucked into the heavens.

There are still anime projects which adopt this style of having everything in constant motion; everything by Studio Ghibli, for one. But Akira is special – because it animates things which I don’t ever expect Ghibli to touch with a ten foot pole; not in the next ten years, if Ghibli is even going to exist then. It’s not really about the animation per se, but the design and tone in general. Akira builds a city full of vice and pervasive class divide, using gritty and bold colours rather than softer pastels; it constructs realistic but cringe-inducing experimental laboratories, denizen underworlds, sterile hospitals, graffiti-infested schools, decrepit squatter housing, and so on.

Character designs are nothing like what we normally get today, and while this is in no way a black mark against the movie, I’m being honest when I say it can be off-putting at first – Kaneda does not look like your average harem heartthrob, and Kei looks even less like the average harem contestant. But you know what? This makes for some good transparency. Truth be told, Kaneda is, in fact, every bit as dense as he appears on first impression, and Kei is every bit as tough as she looks, too. I’m just pointing out that the designs may not look appealing, and therefore characters don’t come attached with pre-armour against any instant hate. Why else don’t you immediately get turned off by Naruto’s Sasuke Uchiha, despite him and Tetsuo being virtually made from the same substance? They both exhibit rudeness, angst, a bad habit of betraying one’s friends…yet the former has a legion of fangirls defending him for being ‘misunderstood’, while the latter just comes off as obnoxious. Think about it.

Akira’s soundtrack isn’t particularly memorable, but it doesn’t need to be. I’m kind of happy that despite it being so Western in terms of tone and visual flavour, watching it in 2014 doesn’t give one that immediate ‘sense’ of Westernisation, because the music is anything but Western. None of those synthesisers and heavy bass beats that you’d expect in an adrenaline-infused car chase, just an eerie jam of gong chimes, taiko, organs, overtone solos…and credits go to Asian folk music band Geino Yamashirogumi, the group responsible for the whole soundtrack. Since music is hard to describe in words, I’ll give two examples of what Akira sounds like – Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the original Ghost in the Shell film. If you’ve watched either of these before, then you might have an idea of what it’s able to offer – something unexpected and definitely not mainstream. And it complements the flavour of the visuals, by reminding audiences 20 years later that this is a Japanese film. A critically important trait, some loyal weeab – I mean, otaku, would smugly say.

The Japanese voice-acting still holds the same high standards as most anime coming out today. Since the characters are unusually angst-ridden, it was necessary for the Japanese actors to do a lot of shouting and yelling, and I think the cast did a pretty good job overall. I have not watched Akira in dub fully, so nothing I say about the dub should be taken seriously, but I am aware that there are two English dubs, one supposedly good, and one supposedly bad. I watched the good one (the one with Johnny Young Bosch) in snippets, just to get a feel of it, and I have to say that it’s…good. Like people say. Plus, I generally advocate dubs for shows as demanding on the eyes as this one. Especially since Akira is all about the visuals; nothing else matters, and on hindsight it probably would have been better for me to have watched it in a poor dub than in Japanese.

So, in conclusion, Akira is the very rare kind of show which should only be watched if you aren’t convinced that animation from the 1980s can ever stand the test of time. On that front, it outright decimates all expectations. However, it’s equally probable that anyone who doesn’t usually watch anime exclusively for visuals in the first place, will find close to nothing else in the movie that is groundbreaking. The plot is incomplete, and the main characters, while admittedly realistic and memorable with regard to my personal inclinations, are seriously as obnoxious as they look, and can’t be appreciated by everyone. If you do appreciate them, then that’s a badge of maturity for you.

In all honesty, I fail to understand why someone should be made to watch this movie, simply because it was the cult-hit that brought anime to the West back in the day – I mean, wouldn’t knowing that it did be sufficient to score brownie points on a History of Media exam? It bites me that old elitists get to pooh-pooh new material, and insist that nothing can ever take away the charm of classics. I’m sorry, but the days of cel animation are over, move on! And so, let’s be transparent here, I recommend Akira if – and only if – you have even the slightest enthusiasm for art and animation, and aren’t the kind of person who would shun something just because the character designs are weird. For myself, at least, this movie is a visual masterpiece from start to finish, and it’s a shame that not everyone will appreciate that. 7/10, and stay away from drugs!

Patema Inverted

Patema Inverted 2

There are times when I look at a show and think – this is probably the most underrated thing in all existence. And then there are times when I look at another show, and say – this is so overrated that it’s an insult to human intelligence –I’ll refrain from giving any examples, so as to avoid treading on any toes (then again, *cough cough* Sword Art Online *cough cough*). Now, less frequently, there are shows which people say are overrated, yet when I watch it, my reaction amounts to something like – shrugs, I thought it was amazing, didn’t you? And on the flip side, there are shows nobody knows of…and my reaction to that is – yeah, I guess I can see why.

So let’s not beat about the bush today; I think Patema Inverted is one of those underwhelming shows, but the horribly irritating part about saying that, is that it doesn’t have to be. See, the premise of the story is actually really, really intriguing. We’re introduced to Patema, a bubbly girl who lives in an underground community of steampunk architecture, amongst people who have to wear astronaut-like suits in order to survive. Being an adventurous rebel, Patema does what all child protagonists in Ghibli films do (not that this is a Ghibli film), and explores the ends of her claustrophobic little home, despite her elder’s warnings not to do so. By fate, she drops into an abyss and suddenly finds herself literally hanging off the edge of the world – in a new universe where grassy fields are the heavens, and the ground seems to be the sky itself. It’s soon apparent that this new world is none other than the surface of the Earth, and for Patema, whose cells obey the laws of anti-gravity, it’s completely inverted. Instead of going on a holiday in this inverted world, Patema finds herself clinging onto an Earth schoolboy named Age, for fear of falling into the stratosphere. And then it turns out that the surface is run by a totalitarian regime that despises inverted people, and that they’re after Patema’s head, and there the conflict starts to kick in…

There’s something really brilliant about an idea like this. All it takes is a story that’s built around a single question. Attack on Titan asks the question – what happens when humans aren’t at the top of the food chain? Psycho-Pass asks – what if we could measure one’s propensity to commit crime? And Patema Inverted asks – what if there was a species of humanity who obeyed the laws of anti-gravity? The problem is, the answers that come aren’t exactly…satisfying. I mean, sure, half the time there’s this imminent heart-stopping fear of seeing Patema literally fall into the sky. But there’s obviously so much more to the story. How did the Inverted People become like this? Why are they so despised by the humans living on the surface? Is this divergence the reason why Earth’s surface has become overrun by militants? Is there ever going to be a way to reconcile the two human species?

And the answer to all this is – use your imagination! Yeah, I wish I could make this up. The truth is that, we as audience, are flung bits and pieces of the messy-sounding backstory, and told to assemble a very incomplete jigsaw – which means that the gargantuan gaps are best filled in my a healthy dose of extrapolation. There are brief hints about scientific experiments that led to the creation of the Inverteds, glimpses into the story of pivotal off-screen characters, and a whole load of mysterious but empty babble from people who seem to think that they count as villains. Nothing concrete, not even by reasonable inference, and nothing that amounts to any form of legitimate closure by the end. In fact, at the finale of the entire hour and a half, we’re hardly closer to the truth than when we first began, and the story finishes by throwing yet another spanner in the works, in the hope that the audience will rally for a sequel to be made. Well hardy-har har…no.

Now, the characters. Honestly, I don’t have much to say, apart from the fact that they are all, so, bland. Patema herself is the little sprite whom, as I said, bites off a bit more than she can chew when she goes travelling into the unknown spaces of her living quarters. That is all well and fine by me; I don’t actually have a prejudice against stereotypes, but it doesn’t do anything for her character when she first responds to danger by being a spoilt brat, and then changes tactic by relegating herself to the role of damsel-in-distress. Age, her supposed romantic interest from another world, is possibly a bit more engaging, and by a bit, I really mean a bit – since both he and Patema are essentially complimentary characters with the “I-want-to-break-free” syndrome, with the only difference being that Age gets to actively do something about it, by playing the brainwashed-citizen-turned-rebellious-hero. Don’t ask me why. Because he’s a guy, and whoever wrote this is marginally sexist, maybe? Who knows.

I know it sounds like I’m dishing this movie a lot of hate, but fret not, credit goes where credit is due. The artwork and designs are fantastic. Patema Inverted is another one of those shows which does world-building very well, and is able to construct two vastly opposing universes with subtlety and style. The Inverted underground is a steampunk labyrinth of sprawling pipes and metal cabins, claustrophobic but undeniably jolly and bustling – the boundless surface of Earth and the heavens above are vast but gloomy, expansive but lifeless. The Inverteds are caged within bulky protective gear; the humans on the surface are mentally confined within sterile classrooms.  The final scene of Patema Inverted adds a further dimension to these opposites by ripping the background canvas and exposing another hidden fantasy land for us to feast our eyes on – although wracking my brains over the point of it all sucked he visual enjoyment out of the closing artwork. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the beautiful galaxies that came before.

The animation is also superb, mostly because the premise of this show rests entirely on physics – and on that front, the animation team really delivers. Everything from Patema hanging off a fence to her and Age flying through the air, is completely believable; and it was in the small things, like the way the tiniest of objects float in the air and swish around when force is applied, that added to my overall enjoyment. In between the frustrating lack of real plot, my attention would be diverted by the whole “Rotate the screen again!” craze; and really, because of the effort and accuracy that was put into this portion of the movie, I could almost forgive the show for otherwise being an utter failure. Almost.

The soundtrack is alright on the whole, because even where soft ballads try to reinforce the “Awww” factor of an emotional scene, I usually wound up thinking that there was nothing really emotional about said scene in the first place – I mean come on, Age, you just met the girl a few hours ago, and now you’re spouting honey-glazed poetry on how great she is when you see her upright for the first time?

So was there anything significant that I took away from this show? Well, I admit I always try to read a little into things, for the pure sake of it – and also because of my reluctance to write anything off as a waste of time. So with Patema Inverted, there’s a nice little message inside there, hidden among the cluster of poor writing and bland characters. It’s essentially a message about the benefits of anti-discrimination, if you want to give the writer that much credit, and it goes something like this. We meet people all the time, and occasionally we come across individuals who happen to be very different from us, and who don’t fit into our society, or our world view – and they have a pretty lousy time trying to even survive in what we call our natural environment. But hey, as Age’s experience in the Inverted world tells us – maybe it’s not so obvious that we’d have an equally challenging time in the place where they are most comfortable.

The solution, which is, to some extent, expressed metaphorically, is to pull together contrasting perspectives and to work together in complementing each other’s flaws and inadequacies. It doesn’t just mean the world to people who could otherwise not carry on without support, but it also enables us to expand our own abilities – and fly through the air, apparently. Okay, you know what, I’m pushing it; I genuinely don’t have much else to say which can defend this show – if it speaks to you in that allegorical life-lesson kind of way, that’s brilliant. I learned nothing from it. I could have, but I didn’t. Why? Oh, I’ll tell you why. Because for the metaphor to take flight, more needs to be done to expand on the ideas presented to the audience. Sure, the ‘show-don’t-tell’ rule still stands as always, but how do you honestly expect to move past the initial thrill of the physics, when it’s not explicitly reinforced that the discriminating villains are significantly disadvantaged by their refusal to embrace those who are different?

In summary, it’s fine to give this movie a miss. In fact, I have to say that (this being entirely from observation) some original anime movies are worth skipping if they aren’t popular, because there’s an alarming trend of movie writers trying to squeeze what could have filled out a 12-episode series, into a 2-hour long feature. Before you wave your pitchforks at me; let me establish that this obviously doesn’t speak of movies by established directors and studios – Ghibli, Satoshi Kon, Mamoru Hosoda, Makoto Shinkai, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by skipping any of their stuff. But seriously, them aside, look at Brave Story. Another movie with gorgeous animation, and an unforgiveable plot. What ultimately bugs me, is that Patema Inverted could have been so much more than what it is, and in a fit of arrogance I shall point out what could make all the difference. A better attempt to explain the origins of the Inverted people, even if it involves physics mumno-jumbo about tesseracts and anti-gravity matter. Scrapping the Patema and Age fling thing, and focusing on the adult bromance that we’re only given flashbacks of. Rewriting the James Cameron Avatar ending and giving humanity the spark of some technology to neutralise the effects of Inversion.

Have I covered everything yet? I doubt so. But I wonder if it’s unfair to say that even the man on the street could have come up with a better direction and focus for the movie. It was as though the whole thing was cooked up by a bunch of obliging friends sitting in a circle, with A saying “Hey guys, I just thought about this really cool physics idea where people’s gravity pull are reversed”, and B goes “Guess what, I have an idea about a dystopian Earth where people are ruled by stuffy old men laying down discrimination policies”. C goes “Can we have some romance?”, D goes “Can there be a love triangle?” and E goes “Has anyone seen How To Train Your Dragon 2? Because there’s a really cool thing where there are ruined civilisations covered in greenery.” So there stands my verdict – it’s alright, but not worth watching other than for the art and animation. 5/10, and no sequels, please!