Patema Inverted follows Patema, a young girl from a civilization that resides in deep underground tunnels. While exploring one day, she gets herself trapped in Aiga, an inverted world, and teams up with a resident to escape and return home. Instantly having the appeal of its unique world set up in the opening minutes, Patema Inverted will make you curious to seek answers. Once the film ends, you’ll end up almost exactly where you started in your understanding of the world. The origins are explained, and some of the aftermath on the creation of opposite gravitational pulls, but other details like the changes that might occurred after the film events, and the new discovery from our main characters are left unanswered. The effect of a device that created a shift on Earth’s gravity is also vague implying it does whatever the story demands it, like shifting the weight of characters when traveling. Without proper world building it’s uncertain how the Orwellian dystopia of Aiga would change at all from the events in the film. Furthermore, it’s distracting with the lack of proper world building will make you wonder what exactly happened to the Earth itself since twice in the movies Patema, and her friend reach the highest point of their respective civilization, and there’s no stars to speak off. Adding onto this issue is the lack of explanation of what happened to the first people that fell into the sky given a specific revelation at the beginning of the third act. That revelation leads to more questions that aren’t answered, and some plot holes while the ending also does the same adding to the list of plot holes.
Aspects of Aiga civilization are very broad, and one dimensional in its portrayal. Being a civilization rule by a over the top evil leader Izamura. From the onset, having a villain who thinks he’s doing good in order to maintain order isn’t bad, but it becomes downgraded when the portrayal is over the top. The villain of the film has little motivation to act the way he does, and the religious like mindset to punish sinners isn’t delved into enough to make up his shortcomings. There’s also the unanswered question of how he obtain so much power despite him clearly not being in the right state of mind for it. Given how dead set Izamura is to keep order the only protection he has to prevent outsiders from entering is a fence. More leap in logic includes Aiga being surrounded by cameras, and later implied in the film to be under constant surveillance makes it baffling how the security in Aiga didn’t catch Patema crossing the boarder sooner. I could also bring up the fact the Aiga has students shown to be given points with the implication of worth, shown strict regulation on how people can act, and no parents to be found. However, the film chooses to gloss over these functions of its society, and simply speculating on them will do the film no favors.
At the center of it all is Patema, and Age both teenagers who bond is rushed in the film. Patema dreams of seeing more to the more, and Age likes looking at the stars. These two characters eventually meet each other only to have what should be the emotional anchor of the story to be left shallow. The most effective scenes the quiet moments where Patema, and Age simply talk about their lives. It’s doesn’t sound exciting, but it works in creating good drama. Unfortunately, the quiet moments are sparse throughout relying mostly on a comedic back, and forth between the two. Yet, because of how rushed their bond is there is little time they spent together before one of them gets captured, and has to be rescue. On top of that, because Patema, and Age got separated so early in the movie it renders their eventual reunion ineffective. There is also some kind romance building, though that’s hard to buy since it was rushed, and accepting both characters fell in love after spending like three days with each other mostly apart with everything else going on might be a little too much to accept.
As separate characters, Patema is the stronger of the two. She gets more development, and has more lively personality compare to Age who is simply nice guy. Patema backgrounds get delved into, and getting to see her absorb the beauty, and harshness of a new world she hasn’t seen. Her enthusiasm, and expressed wonder in seeing this new world for the first time helps in providing the film a sense of adventure. Age on the other hand just accepts whatever happens. This changes later on when he becomes more proactive, but lacks growth, and any sort of pay off for following him. Patema eventually gets a rewarding emotional scene when she discovers the fate of her father like figure, but Age is not given that same luxury. When alone Patema is a character that’s somewhat worthwhile to follow, and sadly Age isn’t lending to the uneven nature in the film.
Supporting characters remain simplistic, and stay one dimensional. They don’t serve any greater narrative purpose other than what a certain scene requires them. Either be hesitating to shoot Age, have a side character provide comedy, or helping Age in breaking out Patema from a tower. They are functional since in Patema’s home there is an attempt to depict some kind of everyday life for the people, and some world building. Aiga, I already mentioned glosses over its world building. One side of the world you have some fleshed out characters, and a lead character who experiences a satisfactory growth on her journey. On the other side of it you have a major character, and a world who are glossed over during the film. It’s odd, one half of the movie knows what makes a good story, and the other half is that bad movie. Sadly, it’s the bad portions that eventually become victorious as the weaker aspects of the writing overwhelm the good parts the longer it goes.
When it comes to voice acting I would say neither the Japanese, and English track have a clear winner. The Japanese cast has two better lead actors in Yukiyo Fujii, and Nobuhiko Okamoto with a more heartfelt performance. Especially Nobuhiko Okamoto performance helps mask the shortcoming of Age bad writing through his more emotional delivery. In the English dub both Cassandra Lee Morris, and Michael Sinterniklaas are okay in their role. Only Cassandra Lee Morris of the two is able to make Patema captivating. On the other hand, the English dub has a better supporting cast keeping in line with the film overall tone. In Japanese, some of the supporting voice actors can be prone to overact their parts creating tonal whiplash in a scene that isn’t found in the English dub. Dialogue is underwhelming in both version either being fluff, or clunky in places. Regardless what you choose to go with, neither the Japanese, or English voice track will impress.
The animation is handled by Purple Cow Studios Japan (yes, that’s the studio name), and it’s nice looking at times. Character designs are uninspired, but make up for it by having them be very expressive. Background are also simple, but during night sequences the background will be given more details to display its beauty. The underground city where Patema live is brittle with detail as well. Anything outside, or inside during broad light though is unimpressive. There’s a few time where the cinematography would have scenes animated upside down. Making for a few unique looking sequences. In rare usage, the camera will also turn sideways, or upside down to show the perspective of the other character. It’s obvious the animation studio abilities are limited since these type of usage of the camera are in short supply. The music is composed by Michiru Oshima making some wondrous tunes. His music elevate certain sequences giving them a sense wonder where the writing lacks in creating. My favorite pieces of his music are for creating a foreboding mood providing a sense of danger, or mystery that severely lacking.
Patema Inverted is fascinating conceptually while the actual movie ends up being less than it could have been. The world is more fascinating to me than the rushed character bonding it’s more focus on showing. If it wasn’t rushed in developing it central relationship than I would have engaged despite the half baked world building in place. All around interesting, and all around somewhat disappointing. It had high goals that it couldn’t grasp fully.