Friday, October 12, 2018

Why I Love Patema Inverted – And You Might, Too


A world divided—not by borders or races... but by gravity and fear. A world where one wrong step could leave you plunging upward into the endless sky. A world where government ideology rules with an iron fist, condemning anyone who diverges from their designs.

Patema Inverted takes place in a Big Brother-style dystopia. The government uses pseudo-religion to keep the next generation in line, teaching them to despise the Inverts: people who live upside-down lives... literally.

Patema Inverted, 2013 Cinedigm / GKids

Eiji is a young dreamer whose father hungered for a world without ideological borders. He may share his father’s hunger for more out of life, but he feels trapped, isolated... until he stumbles across the spunky and inquisitive Princess Patema, an Invert. When the head of government, Izamura, learns that Inverts aren’t just the stuff of legend, he’ll stop at nothing to capture Patema... and take out anyone who gets in his way.

Patema Inverted, 2013 Cinedigm / GKids

I love Patema Inverted. And if you like dystopian settings, gorgeous visuals, and sweet stories of friendships that transcend boundaries—you might too.

Patema Inverted, 2013 Cinedigm / GKids; photo from Wikipedia

Genre: Science Fiction, Science Fantasy, Dystopian
Year Released: 2013
Studio: Purple Cow Studios Japan
Licensed By: Cinedigm; GKids
Director: Yasuhiro Yoshiura
Running Time: 99 min.
Rating: N/A; contains mild action violence

What You Might Like About... the Visuals

Patema Inverted, 2013 Cinedigm / GKids

This film is magical. Everything is visually captivating—from the blue skies Patema risks plunging into, to the grassy hill where Eiji’s father’s workshop sits, to the underground world where Patema’s people live. The few locations stand out from each other while still looking like they belong in the same imagination-inspiring world.

Patema Inverted, 2013 Cinedigm / GKids

What really sells these locations is the lighting and color. There’s the dim, hazy lights of Patema’s underground world. There’s the brilliant starry sky. There’s the ominous fog surrounding Izamura’s tower. It all adds to the atmosphere, sucking you in.

The visuals are also used as excellent storytelling devices. This premise could get incredibly confusing, especially visually; but the upside-down world of Patema Inverted is presented perfectly. The camera flips between Eiji and Patema’s perspectives to show each’s world. But this never gets dizzying or confusing. Each shot is staged in a consistent, coherent, and visually-appealing way.

What You Might (and Might Not) Like About... the Writing

But visuals can only tell so much of the story. What about the rest of the writing?

Though the story’s premise is fascinating, it can be difficult to follow; and the ending is a bit confusing. This is hardly a movie you can turn your brain off to fully enjoy. However, it is a treat for those who enjoy films that force them to pay attention to the details and make them think.

The Characters – The Good and Bad

To best focus on its complicated and fascinating premise, Patema keeps its cast limited. There aren’t many characters in this film, and most of them are straightforward.

Don't give me that look!

I will confess, the characters are one of the film’s weakest elements. Even the main characters, Eiji and Patema, are not complex, nor are they particularly unique. This is a story about two kids who develop an intimate bond (maybe romantic, certainly friendship); nothing we haven’t seen before. This may leave some viewers feeling the characters are flat, one-note, and boring.

Patema Inverted, 2013 Cinedigm / GKids
However, each of these characters is so genuine and sincere that I can’t help but fall in love with them. This is in large part thanks to the excellent voice acting, especially of Yukiyo Fujii (Patema) and Nobuhiko Okamoto (Eiji). They imbue the characters with an endearing, undying devotion to each other that I adore.

Similarly, some people may find the main antagonist, Izamura, lacking. He’s an evil for evil’s sake villain using religion to justify his desires, from political power to... Patema? He has a concerning obsession with the Invert girl, which might disturb some viewers, although nothing objectionable occurs.

Since I’m not against evil for evil’s sake villains, Izamura’s lack of depth didn’t bother me. I was, however, disappointed that his motivation wasn’t explained well. If he hates the Inverts, why is he obsessed with Patema and treats her like some sort of trophy? It’s like Frollo from Hunchback of Notre Dame, but without the song to explain his drive to purge all Gypsies.

Patema Inverted, 2013 Cinedigm / GKids

At the end of the day, I don’t mind that Izamura doesn’t bring anything new to the table; he does his job exceptionally well. He’s an intimidating presence and a credible threat to Eiji and Patema.

The Conclusion

Patema isn’t without its flaws. You may find yourself disappointed with its characters. Or you may be like me and feel that the characters don’t need to do anything revolutionary. I think anyone watching this film can agree that the good guys are charming; the bad guys are creepy, and the stakes are set.

With a good balance of emotionally-satisfying moments and suspenseful action, Patema is a fun view that delivers on its compelling premise. So if the idea of people walking on ceilings intrigues you, give Patema Inverted a watch.

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All photos property of their respective owners and used under US "Fair Use" laws. Unless otherwise specified, all are from VRV.co (which is basically Funimation and Crunchyroll rolled in one, plus lots of other stuff. Awesome monthly sub for your anime desires).

Patema Inverted and all related names and terms are the property of Purple Cow Studios Japan.

Review format adapted from Curtis Bell's Iridium Eye. If you're bored of the typical Netflix fare, check out Iridium Eye for a medley of movies and shows I can guarantee you've never heard of.

From Him, To Him

11 comments:

  1. I'm glad you mentioned both the good and bad in this movie since I saw that some otaku like this movie WAY too much. The world-building was fascinating even if there were some plot holes in it. I'm also glad I'm not the only person to notice that Izamura was just like Frollo. There's a joke I could make about talking about certain anime villains with 90s Disney villains being alike, but I'll pass. One thing I've also noticed is how Shinkai-esque the setting and the relationship was. Also, I found it hilarious that one of the characters' names is Lagos. Let's say Tito from Hollandus Landing would get a kick out of that since his parents are from that city.

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  2. I try to be fair in my reviews, even if it's something I like. I think it's important to acknowledge that it's okay to like something even if it isn't perfect. :) Glad you appreciated the review!

    I don't know enough about Shinkai's work to really comment, but it sure is otherworldly! I really enjoyed it, so I'm sure I'll really like Shinkai as a creator overall as well.

    I didn't realize Lagos is a city, haha! I wonder if that was intentional given what the character does.

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  3. Same here and I wish more people would do that. Even the stuff I've given 10/10s to mention flaws in it.

    It certainly is. The biggest thing I've noticed was the concept of distance (metaphorical and physical) between lovers/friends which is a HUGE motif in a lot of Shinkai films.

    Oh, yeah! Lagos is the largest city of Nigeria and all of Africa, by the way. I'm not sure how intentional it was, but I still found it funny though.

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    1. I like that you're of the "even 'perfect' media isn't perfect" mindset. I have a lot of respect for reviewers who feel that way. Having perfect scores reserved for something that allegedly has no flaws seems silly to me. Why bother having a 10/10 rating at all?

      I can certainly resonate with the theme of distance between people, so I'm sure I'd really like Shinkai's stuff.

      And I never would have guessed Lagos was in Nigeria! Interesting!

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    2. Thank you and I'm glad you feel the same way. Yes, I do use the 10 point system, but I do counteract it not just by mentioning flaws, but also by having my adjustable score system after the final paragraph since I know something that I would consider to be 10/10 may not be the case for someone with different tastes than me.

      Definitely. Check out The Place Promised In Our Early Days whenever you get the chance. I found out it's on Crunchyroll. Just sayin'.

      Yup. It's a huge hub as far as African cities are concerned. Which country did you think a city like that was from just by looking at the name?

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    3. So glad to hear it's on Crunchyroll! It's hard to find older films on CR, and I normally went to VRV for my older anime needs until I found out FUNimation would be pulling out of all VRV content. So sad! It really was the one-stop shop for all your anime needs. -sigh- But yeah, I'll definitely be giving The Place Promised in Our Early Days a watch soon, knowing that!

      I actually thought it was either an Asian city (I think because it was similar to Laos) or South American.

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    4. Yeah, that and Voices of a Distant Star (Shinkai's 2nd short film) were on there which was a pleasant surprise. I wasn't aware of that with VRV, but that's a shame with FUNimation pulling out of that platform. Definitely check out that film. It does have some older animation, but I really liked the setting, storytelling, and characterization.

      Oh, really? That's interesting. I also found out that the name of the city is actually of Portuguese origin which means "Lakes" and there's a city of the same name in Portugal although it's nowhere near as big as the one in Nigeria. The original name in the Yoruba language is actually Eko.

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    5. I started watching The Place Promised in Our Early Days yesterday! Look forward to that review sometime in the next couple of months. ;) I thought the atmosphere, background art, and character designs seemed familiar... I actually HAVE seen something by Shinkai previously: another friend of mine recommended watching 5 Centimeters per Second, which I watched winter of last year. I'll reserve my general thoughts on both for the sake of later posts. ;)

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    6. Nice! Yes, Shinkai made 5 CM right after The Place Promised In Our Early Days. The Place Promised is actually Shinkai's first full-length movie and the first film of his where he had a whole studio behind him instead of just animating everything himself. Seriously, watch Voices of a Distant Star or even She and Her Cat (the original short film), then any of his later works and you can see a huge jump in quality.

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    7. I saw someone in the comments on Crunchyroll mention that he's a master of sky backgrounds. Have to completely agree based on what I've seen of his work. I'm interested to see how it compares to his earliest stuff.

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    8. That is definitely true. Shinkai really likes his skies let alone making elaborate scenery in all of his works.

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