'Patema Inverted': Film Review

Patema Inverted Still - H 2014
Courtesy of GKIDS

Patema Inverted Still - H 2014

This imaginative and visually stunning animated effort offers myriad pleasures

Two youngsters living in opposing gravitational worlds form a connection in Yasuhiro Yoshiura's anime film

Anyone who saw 2012’s Upside Down starring Kirsten Dunst and Jim Sturgess may experience a feeling of deja vu while watching Patema Inverted, Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s anime film that trades on a similar concept of gravity run amok. Despite its familiar elements, this visually stunning if occasionally confusing film should well please its target audience with its imaginative flights of fancy. The film opens Friday at NYC’s IFC Center in both Japanese and English-dubbed versions, with purists obviously advised to catch the former.   

The post-apocalyptic storyline concerns two youngsters separated by opposing gravities. Princess Patema (Yukiyo Fujii) lives in an underground world of tunnels, the abandoned ruins of a former industrial complex. Although forbidden to enter the “Danger Zone,” the headstrong young girl does so anyway and, startled by a strange bat-like creature, falls into a pit and flies up to the surface world where the reverse gravity threatens to pull her into the sky.

Fortunately she’s rescued by the gallant Age (Nobuhiko Okamoto), a teenage boy living in the above-ground repressive society. Despite warnings not to consort with the “inverts” living down below, he befriends Patema who literally clings to him for dear life.

It’s but one of the many haunting images in this colorful, gorgeously drawn effort that eventually gets bogged down in its overly familiar storyline about the two youngsters fighting the evil forces of the surface world’s tyrannical ruler Izamura (Takayi Hashi).

The film’s poetic visuals, including the sight of the two youngsters clutching each other in an upside-down position as they perilously navigate the bizarro laws of physics, well illustrate the metaphorical themes of Yoshiura’s screenplay. At once a touching adolescent love story and a visually evocative portrait of society torn apart by literally competing forces, Patema Inverted is an uncommonly ambitious animated effort that beautifully illustrates the need for both physical and emotional connections in a topsy-turvy world.

Production: Purple Cow Studio

Cast: Yukiyo Fujii, Nobuhiko Ikamoto, Shintaro Ohata, Sinya Fukumatsu, Masayuji Kato, Hiroki Yasumoto, Maaya Uchida, Takaya Hashi

Director/screenwriter: Yasuhiro Yoshiura

Producers: Michiru Ohshima, Mikio Ono

Executive producers: Takanori Aki, Kei Hiroki, Tsutomo Nagae, Yoshifumi Nakano, Masao Teshima

Composer: Michiru Oshima

No rating, 99 minutes