Studio Trigger finally jumps into the field of movies with the release of their first film, Promare. Directed by founder Hiroyuki Imaishi (known for also being a founder of the legendary anime studio Gainax, as well as directorial work on Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Panty & Stocking, and Trigger’s first full series Kill la Kill), Promare oozes his signature style from every pore, being an unapologetic cavalcade of Gainax-isms from moment one. Giant robots, iconic posing, clever cost-cutting methods, last minute game changing twists, pretty much all the spirit of Gainax and Trigger wrapped up into a nearly two hour film, for better or worse.
Promare takes place in a world where several humans known as BURNISH (in all caps) have suddenly obtained pyrokinetic abilities and ravaged the earth with their powers. Thirty years later, the Burning Rescue Fire Department and their gallant front man Galo (Billy Kametz) has finally cornered BURNISH’s leader, Lio Fotia (Johnny Yong Bosch). However, when Governor Kray Foresight (Crispin Freeman) starts unleashing disturbing plans, Galo and his team must uncover a conspiracy that could put the entire world in jeopardy.
So if you’ve been keeping up with recently released anime, the first thing you might notice in that plot description has some vague resemblance to the ongoing series Fire Force, most notably in the “super powered fire fighters combat fire monsters and find something more sinister is underneath this seemingly simple conflict”. Though while that is a weirdly specific thing to have in common, the similarities pretty much end there, as the world and factions in Promare are fewer, though somehow feel more complicated. And while Fire Force has its own unique art style and focuses primarily on combat, Promare’s is even more in your face and pulls everything out of the Trigger playbook, even when it doesn’t exactly relate to what you would typically expect from a fire fighting show.
In fact, there are more than a few times throughout the film that feel more like an excuse to throw all these send ups to Imaishi’s previous works into one place than anything else. It’s not much of a surprise that many of noted a resemblance between Galo and Gurren Lagann’s Kamina, with other eyebrow-raising character designs throughout, though whether this is coincidence or tribute is for the viewer to decide. Gainax, and by extension Trigger, have a tendency to reference their past works in subtle ways, so this might simply be a way of doing that in a less subtle way.
A comprehensive story has often taken a back seat to the sheer testosterone on display in his works, as anyone who has seen Gurren Lagann or Kill la Kill will tell you, but usually the premises of those are so simple that they can facilitate a lot of style to supplement the substance. Promare, on the other hand, has a surprisingly involved plot from the get go and escalates from there, almost forcing the brain of the viewer to switch off and simply take in the madcap visuals. It almost feels like a recap movie for a series we never got, as what seems like a dozen episodes worth of story zoom by over the runtime. And as a result, almost every character suffers from being rather one note in fulfilling a specific archetype, which limits how well one can really connect with them. You can basically look at any character and give a description of their personality in less than a sentence, which is fine to an extent, but can also get to be a concern.
However, despite these issues, I can’t deny that I did have a fun time with Promare, I just wish it was more like Pacific Rim and less like the first Michael Bay Transformers movie. While style does overtake the substance by a wide margin, I think this is a sign of good things to come for Trigger. I still have fondness for the days of Gainax and am glad that their spirit lives on in Imaishi’s work, so hopefully this movie’s success can be the spark that keeps that flame alive for this studio and anime at large.