Taking unique concepts and using them in unique ways is exactly why I fell in love with this medium, so it’s movies like Patema Inverted which remind me why I still look forward to every season and consider myself a fan of anime.
That’s just what Patema Inverted is: a unique concept. It’s almost one that I still have trouble wrapping my head around when I think about it. Patema, a princess from an underground civilization, loves to explore the unknown and do things that she isn’t supposed to do. Not surprisingly, she falls into the unknown and meets a boy named Age. The only difference between this all too familiar love story is that everything is just as the name implies. Age, everyone and everything who is in his society experience gravity completely opposite from Patema, which puts her in great danger of falling up(or down) into the sky.
Patema Inverted doesn’t waste time explaining the intricacies and scientific reasoning behind things are the way they are, instead it jumps into the concept headfirst and shows how it effects the characters and socities. Any attempt to explain it probably wouldn’t make any sense, so I preferred that Patema Inverted focused on which directions the story and characters went because of it. That’s not to say that there’s no reason why gravity is inverted for half of this world, since the film does give an explanation for why things are the way they are, just not how the cogs and gears of inverted gravity works.
All I needed to know was that Patema is in great danger, until she meets Age. Although Age and Patema come from two different worlds, they are very much the same in dreams and ambitions. Age spends most of his free time looking toward the sky – dreaming of something bigger and better from the dystopian society he has lived in all his life.
Although great danger was known, it was kind of funny to see Patema flail around – since we were almost as confused as Age was when he first ran into her. This concept is still new to us as well, so it isn’t until later that we learn the gravity of the situation when Age needs to experience the inverted gravity that Patema had to go through for the majority of the film.
Speaking of dystopian societies, Age is from a city called Aiga. It’s so oppressive that his favourite hobby of looking toward the sky is banned, among other things. People travel from point A to point B via moving walkways, cameras are constantly watching everyone at all times, and worst of all, they’re taught that everyone who is “inverted” are heretical sinners that should be arrested on site. This North Korea-like society gives the film a feeling of gravitas, despite seeming more light-hearted at the beginning.
In a way, the film and its characters explore a new world and perspective, despite not being too far from home. From Patema looking ‘down’ into the stars, to Age looking ‘down’ into the pits of darkness that Patema and her followers have dwelled for so many years. Both are equally unknown, equally terrifying and equally fascinating.
The characters are all likable in their own right and none of them are bad, though I wish that they were given a little bit more development. I think the film would have benefited greatly from 20 more minutes of slice-of-life style scenes between Patema, Age or anyone else. There was a female character in Age’s class who I assume would have a more prominent role, since the camera panned to her at one point to show her reaction to something Age did. I’m pretty sure she didn’t have a single line in the movie; more should have been done with it. The main villain was also almost comically evil, more should have have been done to show the societal struggle of stability versus freedom rather than just assuming that stability is all wrong if it means camera’s everywhere.
The film looks and sounds gorgeous – I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the budget for this film was only just over 1 million dollars. Although I guess it makes sense, since a good deal of the scenes were fluid character animation in front of simple backgrounds(such as the sky or fields of Aiga). If anything, it shows that the animators of Patema Inverted made the most of their limited budget. There was a few instances where the animation randomly dropped to about 5 frames per second, though I think it was more a stylistic choice and I only remember it happening twice. Despite these gripes, animation gets full marks.
Patema Inverted’s right up there with some of the best Ghibli, Disney and Pixar movies as far as I’m concerned. Despite being a fairly basic adventure beyond the initial concept, it’s exactly the kind of film that can rekindle ones interest in anime or even introduce them to it. It might just be the first box set of something I’ll own, once it once it ends up getting dubbed and released in North America. We come to see how people from two different worlds perceive the environment around them. Sometimes it’s just as simple as looking down into the sky.