Anime Reporter looks to the sky for Patema Inverted, Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s fantasy anime film which, quite literally, turns its characters’ worlds upside down.
Patema (voiced by Fujii Yukiyo in Japanese and Cassandra Lee Morris in English), the princess of her people, lives in an old network of tunnels and pipes and loves to explore the ‘forbidden area’, an usual area that fascinates the young girl. Despite the warnings of her guardians about strange “bat-humanoids”, she ventures much further than she should and falls down the proverbial rabbit hole, and a much larger, literal one.
Patema finds herself on the edge of a great, bottomless chasm, with nothing but blue below her as far as she can see. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to Eiji, a schoolboy out on his own who’s understandably perplexed when he notices a satchel rising into the air and snagging itself on a fence. Eiji and Patema are brought face to face, each puzzled to meet an upside down, or “inverted” person.
It soon becomes clear that on this world, there are two types of people, resulting from a strange experiment in the past and that, unknown to most citizens on either side, these two groups have entirely opposite fields of gravity. While Eiji’s world is taught never to look up and that sinners were punished by being plucked into the sky, Patema’s people live in fear of exploring beyond the safety of their tunnels.
In many ways, Patema and Eiji are the perfect pair to meet, neither being completely happy with the world they’re told to accept and both willing to reach out to a peculiar stranger. The pair soon find joy in being able to leap great distances together around Eiji’s land, with Patema’s gravity making him almost weightless. Unfortunately, the powers that be aren’t so keen on whimsy and adventure, instead seeing the inverted girl as a threat to their way of life. Big Brother comes crashing down hard on Eiji’s and Patema’s little adventure and it soon takes courage from both worlds to try to save the day.
This magnificent little premise has a lot of potential both for drama and for action and Patema Inverted delivers on both fronts. The poignant tale of friendship between the two central characters is heart-warming, but tinted with just enough humour and oddity to keep from becoming heavy handed. The plot moves at a steady pace, fitting an impressive amount of exposition, action and character development in 99 minutes.
The animation is utterly superb. Environments are positively breathtaking, while action is as sleek and fluid as it would have to be to carry off the twin-gravitational mechanics that are utilised with stellar imagination. Even with sub-par animation this film would have felt like a dystopian fairy tale but the wonderfully rendered world makes it something much more real and something truly beautiful. Fans of Ghibli should find something to love here.
Patema Inverted is quite simply, a beautiful little story with great thought and emotion behind it but with more than enough humour and energy to amuse most audiences.
Patema Inverted is available in the UK and Ireland on DVD and Blu-ray Ultimate Edition on November 24th 2014 with the Collector’s Edition and Standard Edition of DVD and Blu-ray coming out on December 1st 2014 from Anime Limited. For more info, check out the Patema Inverted website and the Anime Limited site.
(All stills taken from Blu-ray Edition.)
88% – “Truly Marvellous”– Patema Inverted is a heart-warming and moving tale, rendered gorgeously and with a well-delivered message about perhaps not accepting everything you’re told. A triumph of anime!