This Week in Anime
Does Promare Still Bring the Heat?

by Nick Dupree & Steve Jones,

Trigger's Promare took to American theaters like a fire storm, expanding to more and more showings. Ecstatic fans of lovable firefighter Galo and his hot-and-cold rival Lio turned out in droves. Theaters eventually offered fan screenings that encouraged cheering along. Somehow among all the fervor, This Week in Anime alum Nick never saw the film. He and Steve hash it out to discover what works and how this movie ignited a fandom.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the film ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Steve
Well Nick, today we're scheduled to talk about that one 2019 anime about the sexy firefighters, so let's get to it!
Nick
Uh Steve, we already covered that one like a year ago. Today's quite obviously the day we make up for our glaring failure to cover the REAL sexy firefighter anime:
Oh wait, you know what, my mistake. We're doing a movie with firefighters in it, right? Here we go.
Hey if somebody wants to put that out on Digital already I'm more than happy to talk more Yuasa. Unfortnately we'll have to make do with a DIFFERENT unique visionary director making an original movie about firefighting. Because somehow there was more than 1 of those in the span of like 6 months:
Yep, goofs aside, we can all buy and own Promare now, and that means it's time to celebrate The Boys and their being Back In Town.
I never actually got to watch Promare during its run(s) in theaters last year, but by the time I finally sat down to watch it this weekend I felt like I already knew 70% of the movie just through the metric fuckton of fanart my Twitter friends retweeted the last 5 months.
It certainly ignited quite the fandom phenomenon! I did end up seeing it during one of its earlier theatrical runs, and I left it understanding pretty well why it would blow up into such a big thing. On a purely visceral level, it was some of the most fun I've had in a theater! And that's a memory I'll probably have to hold onto extra tight now considering the uncertain future of the whole movie industry. Whoops, didn't want to get too dark there, here's a picture of Vinny eating a hotdog:
I will say, as somebody who saw more pieces of fanart of Lio Fotia in assless chaps than I'd seen actual seconds of the movie, if folks want to get the most out of Promare they're best off going in as blind as possible. Go on and watch it before reading the rest of this even, you'll thank me later.
Oh yeah, seconded. And I imagine there are probably precious few of you uninitiated left at this point, but it really is a wild audiovisual ride all the way through.
I say that because, while Hiroyuki Imaishi is many things as a creator, "surprising" is not one I'd really use for him, and that extends to Promare. If you've seen Gurren Lagann or Kill la Kill or even Space Patrol Luluco, you know almost exactly what to expect from this movie and the less you know about its twists or plot the more you're gonna be able to lose yourself in the vaporwave rollercoaster.
Y'know I was gonna make a joke about Promare's color palette being identical to the Macintosh Plus album cover, but it's really not much of a joke huh
Imaishi's gotten the taste for pastel right now I guess.
But anyway, Imaishi is a creator I have a lot of varying thoughts and opinions about, but he certainly has a set of fixations that are pretty well established by this point. Promare doesn't prove to be innovative in that regard (like, at all), but it does prove to be a refinement of the "Imaishi formula" in a way that's nice to see.
OK there is ONE big change, and it's mostly in who this project caught on with. In any other Imaishi joint, the scantily clad anime girl with Attitude(TM) is the breakout character you see slathered across pixiv's front page. But until I watched Promare I didn't even realize there were women in it at all. All I knew was Kamina's himbo younger brother and his leather daddy twink boyfriend.
I see in my notes I referred to them as "a (literally) hot twink and his emotional support himbo," so I guess your assessment is close enough to be acceptable.
Just saying, going by sheer online thirst the actual star of Promare is Galo's nipples.
I think we'd need a proper collegiate-level dissertation to break down the specifics of all known Promare thirst, but suffice to say, the Lio and Galo ship caught on like, well, wildfire. There are a good couple weeks when pretty much all I did was RT good pics of Galo, Lio, and Galo smooching Lio.

It certainly helps that the film's text was thoughtful enough to spell out alternate canonical ship names depending on who you wanted to top whom. That's a kindness so few pieces of art are willing to provide.
TBH that whole distinction seems kind of unnecessary when Lio is such an obvious powerbottom. Even the way he SITS is smug.
Look, it's just nice to have Options.
Anyway, despite what Twitter will have you believe this movie isn't actually a romantic comedy between a sexy firefighter and his sexy arsonist love interest. It's also about using robots to fight fire aliens from the center of the earth.
Watching the plot unfold and unravel is an essential part of the Imaishi experience, and Promare's sense of constant escalation certainly delivers on that front. I love that we go from putting out a building fire at the beginning to setting the entire solar system on fire by the end. That's what I watch anime for.
To be honest I think there's where the movie fell flat for me the most. I said Imaishi's not a surprising director earlier, and that's because his sense of plot progression is just always Make It Bigger - and after the 7th time you've seen a giant robot made out of emotional energy it starts to feel a little repetitive, y'know?
That's fair, and I totally agree in the abstract sense, but I still think that the construction of the film—the synthesis of sound and light and motion—comes together to make it feel like it works, and that's ultimately what I'm looking for in something like Promare. It's total "brain off, heart on" entertainment (not unlike Galo himself), and there's a place for that.
For sure, Promare is still a thrill ride like everything else he's made, but you don't always wanna ride Rock n Roller Coaster, right? Sometimes you want to hit up Big Thunder Mountain or Expedition Everest too. The other thing that holds me back from really loving it is that outside of Galo and Lio there's not much to the rest of the cast. KLK and Gurren Lagann obviously had more time to flesh out their characters, but those ensembles ended up being many of the best aspects of both. Here there's not much to grab onto with the rest besides Trigger's admirable dedication to keeping Mayumi Shintani in work.
Honestly, if that were the only reason for Trigger's continued existence, I'd support them all the way.
She better be in SSSS.Dynazenon y'all.
There's a lot of stuff left on Promare's cutting room floor. I imagine they probably came up with enough conceptually to do a full series, but a movie obviously necessitates a rigorous editorial hand. I enjoyed the side characters for the way they spiced up the overall mood of film, but you're right, there's not much to latch onto outside of Lio and Galo. Though of course you couldn't pull me away from the shark-toothed mad scientist gremlin if you tried.
Then of course there's Aina, who does get her own focus in...certain regards.
Can't have us forgetting we're watching a Trigger movie after all. Tho it is funny that in any other Imaishi property she would obviously be the female romantic lead, but here, uh, not so much.

Sorry girl but you just can't rock a cravat the way this boy can.
One thing Promare does super well, and consistent with other Trigger shows, is build a stylish and distinct visual language for itself out of simple building blocks. The film looks great overall, but in particular I love the way that Lio and the Burnish in general are associated with pointy triangles.
Which contrasts with the way Kray and Promepolis are built out of blocky squares and rectangles, down to the lens flare. Again, it's simple, but it communicates a clear separation between the two without saying anything.
Oh for sure. I compared it to vaporwave but that's mostly because it builds such a striking aesthetic out of what would seem like banal visual ideas. The distinct colors and shapes of each character become central to the overall storytelling and more than once help keep things readable during Imaishi's sweeping/zooming/360 degree no scoping action. Like god help anyone trying to keep track of some of this stuff without the color coding.
For a big dumb action movie, it's really smart in that regard! On the other hand, there's a juvenile part of me that still guffaws at every one of their stupid diegetic giant block text gags.
My favorite touch was when the Lio De Galon gets its own bisexual tokusatsu explosions.
Meanwhile I respect that they couldn't restrain themselves from throwing at least one drill into the mix.
And it keeps KLK's spirit alive with at least one main character half-naked in space.
In the spirit of innovation, though, I have to give Promare credit for dishing out the least subtle analogy for ICE I've ever seen.

Calling them the Freeze Force is just the cherry on top.
Oh right. In between all the aliens stuff I forgot those guys. That sure was a subplot!
Promare has its heart in the right place in regards to its politics, even if it goes about it in a blunt and muddled way that ultimately takes a backseat by the end. But I'll always appreciate a salient point about how "the law" will inevitably be twisted by those in power to satisfy their own whims and bigotries.
Much like the Fashion/Fascism stuff in KLK it's a super simplified - even cartoony - extrapolation of the very heavy real world topic, and the movie never goes anywhere odious with it. But also the whole thing gets eclipsed by interdimensional alien conspiracies and it all turns out to be the fault of One Evil Dude so it's probably best not to assign much thought to it beyond Mean Cops = Bad, Nice Firefighters = Good.
Lest we forget, this is a film where the deus ex machina is a guy named Deus who gives our heroes a giant robot named Deus X Machina.
And then they immediately redesign it with magic fire powers because who has time for that Baymax lookin ass?
He's right and he should say it.
Hey Deus, Sym-Bionic Titan called. It desperately wants a second season, and also its ugly mech design back.
Luckily, if there's one guy I trust to redesign a giant robot, it's the guy who can synthesize a rad motorcycle out of pure fire.

Damn, this movie is cool.
I mean hot. Very hot.
And speaking of hot, literally the first thing I heard about this movie once it was out in theaters was the climactic scene where Galo and Lio chill in a hot tub 5 feet apart.
And a bro time was indeed had by all.
Trigger can put as much plausible deniability as they want but nobody in the audience is stupid enough to not know what's actually happening.
I was very pleasantly surprised by how seriously and tenderly they played this scene! It's a genuine freaking kiss between the boys, and you love to see it.
I really appreciate the immediate "Yeah we gay, keep scrolling" follow up.
I even appreciate that their jokey way of defusing the tension afterwards is just Galo screaming "I can't BELIEVE you had the NERVE to make me realize I LOVE you. JERK."
He's 3 seconds away from demanding Lio "take responsibility."
In the end, shirtless boy love (and smiley face fire aliens) saves the day.
While I didn't fall in love with Promare the way a lot of folks did, I still thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I imagine anyone reading this far has already watched it multiple times, but if you somehow haven't, give it a shot.
And I'll chip in that it's deffo worth a rewatch if you, like me, hadn't seen it since its first theatrical run. The dub is super good too, and not just because Kari Wahlgren straight-up uses her Haruko Haruhara voice for Lucia (tho that is a big factor for me).
Now if only a certain streaming giant would be so kind as to give us Trigger's OTHER neon-colored sci-fi anime instead of sitting on it for god knows how long...
I'll name names: yeah, that's right, you heard us Netflix!

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