Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Depending on your perspective you will find this fantastically stupid or stupidly fantastic - there isn't much of a middle ground." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

Welcome to the future. Civilisation has collapsed under the onslaught of a virus that transforms ordinary citizens into pyromaniacs who shoot fire from their eyes and mouths. A tide of magma is welling up and threatening to sweep across the Earth. Just two sources of hope remain to humanity: a giant spaceship which might carry them to a new world, and a legion of firefighters determined to keep the blazes at bay.

This is the world of Promare, the latest no-holds-barred animé action spectacular from Studio Trigger. it belongs to the jumping up in the air and sprouting improbable weapons whilst the background changes colour school of animé and much of it resembles a classic beat-em-up arcade game. There are several lengthy fight sequences which constantly up the ante in terms of danger and destruction - and that's before we get to the part about aliens, alternate dimensions and threats not just to humanity but to the Earth itself. Depending on your perspective you will find this fantastically stupid or stupidly fantastic - there isn't much of a middle ground.

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The story focuses on hero firefighter Galo (voiced by Billy Kametz), and nobody can say that he's not stupid, but his determination to do the right thing after years of being manipulated is quite endearing. When we meet him, he has quite a reputation not just for putting out fires but for putting those who start them out of action - permanently. But when, after a particularly complicated fight, he sees young firestarter Lio (Johnny Yong Bosch) without his armour - or his shirt - everything changes. It's not quite love at first sight. Female characters are provided to make sure we don't get the wrong impression over the course of a film in which Galo and Lio spend quite a lot of time topless and gazing at each other - but something has definitely changed. Galo begins to question why he has been fighting people who don't seem very different from him. He begins to suspect that something differently sinister is afoot.

"We need to burn things to live," says Lio angstfully, and one can imagine how that would go down in a Tokyo police station on a busy Friday night, but the world is not what it was and he and Galo find themselves drawn together in a strange alliance as the awful truth about what is happening to Lio's people emerges. Both our heroes are essentially teenagers and there's lots of big emotion to compound the high drama of the plot, which lines up sharks in a row just to show you how many it can jump only to change its mind halfway through and set them on fire instead. The laws of physics are treated more like guidelines as the pacing gets increasingly crazy but there's still room for revered old genre staples like secret bases, regretful scientists and monsters who didn't really mean any harm. The good guys are noble and the bad guys are all about power and money. At its core it's simple heroic fantasy.

Promare is in your face like an early morning TV programme for three-year-olds. It demands a certain amount of energy and staying power but if you're a dedicated fan of this kind of animé, you're high on cocaine or you are actually three, you'll find it a treat.

Reviewed on: 26 Nov 2019
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Promare packshot
A futuristic firefighting mecha service is created to protect the world.
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Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi

Writer: Kazuki Nakashima

Starring: Arata Furuta, Nobuyuki Hiyama, Tetsu Inada, Kendô Kobayashi, katsuyuki Konishi

Year: 2019

Runtime: 111 minutes

Country: Japan


Fantasia 2019

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