AKA: Sakasama no Patema, Upside Down Patema
Year Released: 2013
Running Time: 98 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: PG
Related Films/Series: Patema Inverted: Beginning of the Day
For Fans Of: The Place Promised In Our Early Days, Upside Down, Planetes, Your Name, Chrome Shelled Regios, Howl’s Moving Castle, ID-0
-The Japanese language track was used for this review.
-Creator/Director Yasuhiro Yoshiura was a designer for Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance. His additional directorial credits include Mizu no Kotoba, Time of Eve, and the Patlabor Reboot.
-Hilarious in Hindsight: I don’t know how many anime fans are in Nigeria, but if there are any, then I’m sure they were laughing when they heard there was a character Lagos. You do know that’s also Nigeria’s biggest city in that country, right?
-Voice actor Nobuhiko Okamoto has also voiced characters such as Bell from The Dragon Dentist, Karma from Assassination Classroom, and Katsuki Bakugo from My Hero Academia. Interestingly enough, he’s also done dubbing work for two different characters played by Freddie Highmore in Bates Motel and The Good Doctor.
Okay, I gave in. I watched another anime movie that was hyped about for a time. Granted, it was during a time when I wasn’t focusing on anime, but I heard that there was so much noise going on about this particular flick. Having the distribution from GKIDS certainly gave it more notice since you know, that company is known for being the animation tastemakers they are and they’ve dipped their fingers into Japanese animation from time to time even to the point of rescuing licenses or straight up buying out multiple works from various studios (see Ghibli and what they’re doing now with the upstart Ponoc).
Maybe they got the rights to a film to turn my views of anime films upside down, so to speak?
Patema Inverted takes place far into the future. In the year 2067, there’s a freak accident where parts of the Earth’s gravity reverses which causes people to literally float out of the planet which causes deaths and a restructuring of societies. One such society is underground and there’s one curious teenage girl named Patema who discovers another world despite being told not to do so. Once she visits the surface, she automatically becomes upside down. On the other side is the society called Aiga which is on the surface where laws are iron-rigid and lead by dictator Izamura. There’s a teenage boy named Age (or Eiji if you prefer) who discovers Patema who is considered a pariah in this community because she is an “invert”, a person who’s gravity is upside down compared to those living in Aiga. Both of them develop a friendship and learn to survive despite being hunted down by Izamura’s forces.
This film does some semblance of unique things which I will certainly credit. The concept of polarizing gravity in different locales were certainly original with characters being right-side up in one part of the world and upside down in others. The physics of it become creative where people can fly by holding onto someone of an opposite gravity upbringing (see the DVD cover). The world-building was good and the 2D animation was certainly top-notch. The flying scenes and the reveal of the planet from outside both societies needs to be seen to be believed. The level of detail in the backgrounds and the skies was certainly breathtaking and I do give props to Purple Cow Studios to make everything so fluid. There was even a good amount of humor like how shortly after Age meets Patema, he hides her in a shed. As he’s leaving, there’s dramatic and quasi-romantic music playing, but it gets cut off every time Patema asks Age something which I thought was pretty funny. Izamura was certainly a threatening villain and I did find it interesting with how he viewed flying as a form of eternal damnation as there’s a Bosch-like painting in a room that shows condemned souls rising up to Hell itself which was a nice inversion (no pun intended) of what’s thought of about the afterlife. I even thought the voice acting was good in the Japanese version with everyone being well-cast in their respective roles.
Patema Inverted certainly sounds like a recipe for a movie to get some of my highest marks possible, right? Maybe a 9 or 10?
Well…I’m going to have to be THAT guy as I’ve been known to be with the more hyped up movies I’ve covered on here.
While I stand by everything about the unique elements about the gravity, not everything was so unique or original going on. If Children Who Chase Lost Voices was Makoto Shinkai trying way too hard to be Hayao Miyazaki, then Yasuhiro Yoshiura is trying way too hard to be Makoto Shinkai when he made this film. The concept of distance and separation being a motif for lovers and friends is totally there and even the scenery looks like it could pass as backgrounds for one of Shinkai’s films. Patema being told to not go to the surface gave me some Little Mermaid vibes and I half-expected her to sing “Part Of Your World” early on. Speaking of Disney movies, Izamura is totally an anime clone of Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Think about it, he’s a politician who wears purple and black robes, has a sick obsession with the lead female protagonist, has a hypocritical religious bent, and has bigotry against other cultures (okay, it’s based on gravity and not race, but still…). I’m not crazy, even my friend Jeannette pointed that out in her review of the same film. The only other time I noted this many comparisons between an anime villain and a 90s Disney villain was my observations about Claw when I reviewed Kimba the White Lion and Jungle Emperor Leo: Hon-O-Ji. You know that’s not a good sign when I’m comparing that situation with the only anime antagonist who has a literal Disney copycat (that’s Scar for those of you who don’t read my reviews or know about that controversy). Besides that, I thought the CGI used was mediocre and hasn’t meshed well, the characters didn’t have enough spark to them, and there were plot holes with the world itself like how people don’t just change their gravity status when they’re in the other society they’re not from. How does that happen? I just thought those elements really hampered that film for me.
Patema Inverted was just a good film, but I didn’t buy all the hype especially after watching it with my own eyes. There are likable things which I certainly can’t deny. The 2D animation was certainly high caliber and the concept of gravity affecting people and their cultures was certainly a fantastic thing to pull off in a movie like this. However, the things that were unique were hindered by the obvious unoriginal aspects such as the characters and motivations. I thought the Shinkai fanboying was too obvious for Patema Inverted since I’ve watched and reviewed his entire filmography so far on this blog. I wished the originality would’ve been more consistent and for Yoshiura to find more of an artistic voice in this film. While I’m not going to complain if I were to watch this again, I thought this story of gravity-crossed friends/lovers could’ve soared much higher.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 2 points if you love star-crossed lover stories.
Add 1 point if you’re a fan of Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s works.
Subtract 1-2 points if you want your anime to be more cerebral.
-Nice 2D animation
-Unique elements with the gravity aspects
-Nice usage of light humor
-Shinkai fanboying among other copycat elements
-Plot holes and some wonky world building
-Characters can be lacking
Final Score: 6/10 points
Content Warning: Patema Inverted got a PG rating which I mainly agree with. The biggest issue would be Izamura’s obsession with Patema. Thankfully nothing happens, but trust me, this older man wanting to keep this teenage girl as a trophy is very creepy. There are some deaths by falling up and one character gets shot, but nothing that gory really happens.
All photos used under US “Fair Use” laws. Patema Inverted is property of Purple Cow, GKIDS, and Cinedigm. The DVD cover is from Amazon and is property of GKIDS and Cinedigm.