Day Twenty-Five: Promare (MotM 2020)

promare cover

Look, everyone! I watched anime again! What a blast from the past, huh?

Before I begin, I want to clarify a couple things:

  1. This may be a comparison-heavy post. Reviews, past works, relevant works; it may be a tad hard to follow, but I’ll do my best.
  2. I did not actually watch all of this. My video player shit out with about 25 minutes left and wouldn’t reload for the life of me. I read up the rest of the plot via Wikipedia, and while to some that may not give me full leniency to voice my opinion, I’m going to anyway.

Alright, first things first, I want to reference this review of Avatar via Letterboxd. The reason I do so is that I feel almost the exact same this person did, except with this instead of Avatar.

My history with one Hiroyuki Imaishi is fairly substantial, though not complete. Gurren Lagann, Panty & Stocking, and various Trigger works such as Kill la KillLittle Witch Academia, and Space Patrol Luluco. (Note: I only included works that he served as director over.) I generally know what he stands for and what I can expect to see when going into something he’s given creative control over. I’ve adored things of his in the past (Gurren Lagann, Kill la Kill), so that allows me to continue hoping for something that will rekindle that same sense of adventure and heart as those did.

promare 3
Cool visuals, yo.

At this point, it’s becoming hard to give him much credit anymore, as while Space Patrol Luluco was… ehhh, anything that has the same kind of wavelength to it has become fairly tiring to me. Non-stop explosive action, riveting animation, screaming men, and colorful explosions sound like a blast, and it should be… but I feel nothing. Have I simply evolved out of that phase? Is Imaishi’s shtick, which has become very apparent over the years, simply gotten too stale? It could be both, it could be neither. All I can say is that when it comes to Promare, Imaishi is sucking his own dick, hardcore.

The first twenty minutes to this, with no exaggeration, is among the flashiest, messiest visual spectacles I have ever seen. Things are happening at light-speed, buildings are erupting, people are running around, CGI (that actually looks interesting) is enveloping the entire screen, and the colors are practically popping out of the screen. Everything about it screams, “IMAISHI!!!!!!!” Thunderous effects, explosive emotions, world-bending stakes. It’s an overload within a capable state of mind, and my goodness is it boring—wait, boring?

promare 1
This shouldn’t seem boring.

One other review I’d like to reference is one on MyAnimeList that is actually praising this film as a masterpiece (at least by their score). (Actually, just go to the MAL page for Promare and read the review by “manofmanymanga.” MAL’s URL linking is too confusing.) In it, they state, “I think I thought that Art, if it wanted to be taken seriously, couldn’t JUST ‘Put Fun First.’ I don’t think that anymore.” This process of acceptance is cut off somewhat from my quote, but I would recommend reading the whole review, as it’s more of a personal anecdote than anything. How this ties into my thoughts is that I agree with this reviewer’s notion that fun can be an integral part of art. Yet if the fun does not hold, what is there to fall back on? Good animation? Maybe, but that doesn’t cut it for me.

There are several reasons to consider Promare art regardless, stemming from the subtle hints at the current world regime of capitalism and its effect on climate change being a prevalent part of the narrative. While they can be respected, and may have pointed out so, if it’s not fun, why does it matter? Imaishi banks on himself immensely with Promare‘s structure, jam-packed with cues to past works and the things he may believe work with other settings and placing them here. What it all amounts to in my mind is that he made this with the impression that fans would adore it because fans adore him. It didn’t quite work for me.

promare 2
I know the name of one of these characters.

Characters were probably the fatal flaw to the whole design. There’s the main character, who is a lesser Kamina; the other main character, who is a male Satsuki; the (implied?) female love interest, a shockingly pointless Yoko; among others that also scrape across Imaishi’s character history and somehow end up worse than all of them. Part of this can be blamed on writing, which is blatantly explicit and lacking in all subtlety, along with pacing, which is as lightning-quick as the film’s action sequences. With as many faces and names that are given lines and priority, very few actually seem all that important or worth caring for. It’s a certain flavor of “They exist, therefore they matter,” an unspoken law of altruism that takes precedence over the story’s core. Yet if we’re going to use this as a fallback for lazily incorporating uninteresting characters, my tolerance only goes so far.

One can also praise what the story stands for, which I can agree with. The planet needs saving, and the corporate demons of the world are willing to sacrifice the many for their own greed/safety. There’s even one line in the film that I really appreciated, which went something like, “The closer you are to your end, the more selfish you become.” Not to say this is true for everyone, but if you consider the state of the world… yeah. Regardless, the way it’s told is among the most simple, almost naively straightforward fashions I’ve seen that wasn’t a child’s cartoon.

promare 4
Hi, Kamina! Wait.

Envision, if you will, Promare as a raging bull. Every facet of quality and writing embody this—raw, unfiltered energy that demolishes all that get in its way. High off the emotional rush and anxious bloodthirst, whatever nuance is trampled over for the sake of having everything be tossed face-first at the viewer. One wouldn’t be placed in this scenario and think, “Ah, the bull is venting its frustrations over the restrictions that real-world corruption is placing on humanity and their home planet,” they’d probably go, “HOLY SHIT A FUCKING BULL IS CHARGING AT ME WSHKDFJSLJKFDNSKJBFVD!!!!!!!!!!!” Some may experience the latter, then the former, but what seems to be the priority with Promare is the latter. And to ensure that it could happen, they overexplain plot details, make characters as one-dimensional as possible, and do only the bare minimum to keep the story interesting, even if only slightly seasoned Imaishi veterans could predict things from the get-go.

Much of this leads up to the crucial point at hand: I didn’t have fun. I didn’t like it. Its initial twenty minutes, which meant to inspire, invigorate, and energize, only irritated me. Imaishi is doing what he’s always done, and it may be time for me to accept that he won’t change. There are definitely things to like here, but they’ll only matter to those that weren’t alienated by the whole thing. As said before, I don’t really know if I’m just different from before or if Imaishi’s just lost it. All I can say is that if you adore all things Imaishi, you will adore this. You may be disappointed otherwise.

Man, I really wish I could be this detailed with things I liked.

Final Score: 4/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Thank you for your time. Have a great day.

One thought on “Day Twenty-Five: Promare (MotM 2020)

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