Patema Inverted

“I wear a necklace, because I wanna know when I’m upside down.” – Mitch Hedberg

This is a very special film in terms of British anime history, in that it was one of the first films to be released in this country by crowdfunding. It is not the first, and it is not the first by this company, All the Anime, because they also crowdfunded Mai Mai Miracle as well, but this is not yet commercially available. Thus Patema Inverted becomes Britain’s first anime to be released on DVD and Blu-Ray via crowdfunding – and I was one of those people who helped to fund it.

Patema Inverted is a mixture of sci-fi and fantasy. It takes place after “The Great Change”, where, following a disastrous attempt to harness gravity as an alternative energy source, gravity itself is reversed across much of the planet. Patema is a girl who lives underground, but is always adventuring into the “Danger Zone”. 

One day her adventuring leads into trouble when she falls down a massive hole and finds herself in a strange world where everything is upside-down: our world, upon the surface of the planet. It is there she encounters a boy named Age who helps her out, making sure that Patema does not fall upwards (to him) into the sky.

Age lives in the totalitarian state of Aiga, ruled by the tyrannical Izamura. In Aiga it is taught that it was sinners who were sucked into the sky and the “Inverts” who live underground are also sinners. Even looking upwards into the sky is considered wrong. Age however hates his life in Aiga, partly because of the tragic death of his father who was killed while experimenting with flight, something which the authorities claim was a punishment from God.

Aiga’s Security Police (referred to by Patema and her kind as the “Bat People”) come to arrest both of them, and thus starts an adventure that will see them both challenging the perceptions of all people, above and below the surface.

Patema Inverted is slightly disorientating, and that is even before you take it out of the box. If you look at the back of the “Ultimate Edition” you will see that much of the writing on the back is upside down – or is it the pictures that are upside down? When you play the film there is one major problem at the start. Namely that it lists all the people who helped fund the film’s release, but it only displays the names briefly and you cannot pause the film, so you cannot have a good glimpse to see your name.

The animation itself is great. The mixture of animation that is upside-down and the right-way up, and the simple way the camera will turn around so that the other character’s perspective on the world is revealed. The plot itself is arguably a bit predictable: love story between the two main characters, and a stand-out villain. But the twist of having one of the main characters always being upside-down (or the other way around) is enough to gain anyone’s interest. Plus there are some surprising twists that certainly grab your attention. If there are any problems it would be that there are some slight problems with the subtitles.

In the “Ultimate Edition” you get both a Blu-ray and DVD of the film in a digipack which seems a bit fragile. You also get a copy of the original soundtrack. On the Blu-ray you get an audio commentary from the film’s producers and the original voice actors; trailers from the film; an interview with the director Yasuhiro Yoshiura; the Japanese voice actors who play Patema and Age (Yukiyo Fuji and Nobuhiko Okamura); footage from a promotional screening of the film at the Tokyo International Film Festival; and about half-an-hour’s worth of footage of the film which shows the film as Patema would see it. In other words, it is the film upside-down to us.

You also get some print extras. One is a physical copy of a letter that appears near the end of the film. The other more interesting extra is the Official Design Works, a 164-page book which includes interviews with the director and other crew, a guide to the stories and characters, artwork from the film, and a short story detailing the history of Age’s father and his attempt to fly. The other big benefit of the book is that it displays the names all of the film backers, so you can see your name much easily.

Patema Inverted is a fun film, and with all the extras there is plenty to keep you entertained. Am I glad that I’ve helped to fund the project? Yes, because I would rather see a film released, good or bad, than not at all.

9 / 10

Ian Wolf

Ian works as an anime and manga critic for Anime UK News, and was also the manga critic for MyM Magazine. His debut book, CLAMPdown, about the manga collective CLAMP, is available now. Outside of anime, he is data specialist for the British Comedy Guide, is QI's most pedantic viewer, has written questions for both The Wall and Richard Osman's House of Games, and has been a contestant on Mastermind.

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