If you look at life from a different perspective, it might just turn your world upside down. That is the message Patema Inverted embodies and it does a damn good job capturing the beauty of that sentiment in the most literal of ways. You see, Patema Inverted is set in a post apocalyptic future where the world’s sense of gravity broke leaving half of the world flying off into the sky and the other half planted both feet on the ground, for reasons unknown. What results is one of the most mystifying experiences in recent anime history both in its sense of beauty and intrigue.
Patema Inverted employs some rather intriguing ideas across its 90 minute run time. The topsy turvy gravity makes for some very distinct visuals with perspective changes captured by the inversion of the camera. I found it especially impressive that with a concept such as this, that the director Yoshiura didn’t seem to make any goofs with the gravity situation throughout the movie, keeping well within the foundations he has laid down for this idea. Now while the concept itself is captivating on its own, there needs to be a strong narrative and cast to support it. Unfortunately for Patema Inverted it struggles to build either.
The story is relatively simple fish out of water tale with Patema coming to the world above ground and almost falling into the sky only to be saved by Age a boy who ponders the meaning of this monotonous world and what lies beyond the sky. Soon enough the bad guys above ground look to put an end to Patema’s frolicking with Age and hold her hostage for half of the film’s run time. I found this portion of the film to be severely lacking in substance as we see Age cracking his grand escape plan for Patema. Now while this is all well and good, the film gives us little reason to care about these characters or the situation they find themselves in. Patema and Age are poorly defined to say the least and their bond is forged with about as much subtlety as a punch to the nose. Furthermore the above ground society is so ill defined it is hard to describe them as anything more than ‘the bad guys’. Even then we are hardly given any reason to why they are the bad guys and why they are going to such great extremes.
All of these narrative and character issues ultimately fall on the back burner to the grand spectacle of this film. It is a glorious visual feast, with some phenomenal cinematography work throughout. The image of Patema and Age floating together among the clouds has become burned into my memory. It is these moments of genuine awe that make up for the rather poorly written plot. I mean who really cares why some people fall into the sky and others don’t? The fact of the matter is that there is something engaging about this movie that surpasses storytelling, it is a journey into the nature of perspective and how its affects each and every one of us and for Patema Inverted I call that a triumph.
I’ve stated it countless times throughout this review already but Patema Inverted really is a sight for sore eyes. The aesthetics here rank among some of the best of all time in anime and the cinematic direction by Yoshiura is an accomplishment in and of itself.
It must be said however that the soundtrack for this film is actually quite the opposite of the aesthetics, it is generic, tired and rather ill-fitting for the action of screen. While there are soaring orchestra works, the tracks never feel appropriate for the scene and are far too distracting, making far too much noise in moments that should be quiet ones. On the inverse however the voice acting in both the Japanese and English dubs was simply phenomenal and really makes up for the less than stellar soundtrack.
Hanabee’s release of Patema Inverted is however stellar in every single way. Not only does this Blu-Ray feature an English language dub, it also includes a special featurette of the Hanabee team learning Japanese from the film’s director Yoshiura himself. On top of that the release comes in a gorgeous hardcover box with a special art and information book on the film detailing the world and characters along with some incredible artwork from the movie. There is a lot to do here with this release which adds a lot of bang for your buck.
Patema Inverted is one of the most distinct films in recent anime history. For that alone the film is worth a look in. While it is far from the level of story-telling found in some of anime cinema’s greats, Patema Inverted does wind up being a compelling little play on the notion of changing perspectives in society and the affect it has on the people within it. Its biggest accomplishment however is its unforgettable aesthetics which just about redefines what anime is capable of doing visually. It’s unlike anything you would have ever seen before, it is Patema Inverted and no matter which way you look at it it’s a triumph for anime.
You can see the world through Patema’s eyes over at Hanabee’s online store.