Review: Promare

Poster for Promare featuring a colourful group of anime characters from the film

***½

The first feature from Trigger, the animation studio behind anime television series such as Kill La Kill and Little Witch Academia, Promare is a sci-fi actioner following a group of high-tech firefighters 30 years after a mysterious event lead to a subset of humans (known as the ‘Burnish’) gaining the ability to control fire. When Burnish terrorists attack the city of Promepolis, it is up to Burning Rescue to take them on and bring peace back to the city. But not everything is as it seems…

The animation itself is easily Promare’s biggest selling point. Colourful, stylised, and making use of an innovative blend of 2D and 3D animation, the nearest touchstone perhaps isn’t an anime at all, but 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Trigger’s stylish character design, however, is 100% anime. It is great to see that Promare will be getting a UK cinema release, however limited, as this is the kind of glorious animation that deserves to be seen on the big screen. Sure, it can sometimes feel like the animators are just showing off, especially in the frenetic action scenes, but as the tone of the whole movie is crazy and over-the-top, the showiness somehow fits, and doesn’t distract from the story.

On the other hand, the story itself is nothing original or profound, and the characters are consistently underdeveloped. With the dramatic character introductions in the opening scene, it feels like Promare is to be an ensemble piece following the members of Burning Rescue, but with the odd exception, they are relegated to bit-parts that have little impact on the plot.

The character with the strongest characterisation is Galo, a charismatic and fame-hungry member of Burning Rescue who pilots mecha (robots) and can’t stop talking about his ‘burning firefighter spirit.’ Most of this characterisation, however, comes in the form of a rather cookie-cutter backstory, and though he goes through numerous revelations and life-changing experiences during the course of the movie, he never changes or has anything resembling an arc. He’s a likeable enough lead, but he feels less of a fleshed-out character as a second-rate copy of Kamina from writer Kazuki Nakashima and director Hiroyuki Imaishi’s 2007 collaboration Gurren Lagann. He even has the spiky blue hair.

The lack of depth in the script is most disappointing because had the story matched the quality of its animation, Promare would have been in must-see territory. Instead, it is a fun, if unoriginal, over-the-top action movie. Though it does have a tendency to feel like a showreel for the animators, Promare is an entertaining feature debut from a studio with style to spare. Let’s hope future ventures have the substance to match.

Promare opens in select UK cinemas on 26th November 2019.