Let's talk briefly about Promise, the Japanese animated film by the authors of Coo Lagann and La Kill Kill. Why Promise teaches us that animation must dare?

After the release of Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse at the end of 2018, I thought that it would be still a long time before I could see an animated film with a different style than usual at the cinema.

If in the film world of Miles Morales we find ourselves infected by the typical graphics of American pop comics, the Trigger Inc. studio has instead decided to modify the final result of the frames from another point of view. Digital colors, the use of 3D and framing as far as possible render Promise a movie that comes to experiment withvisual excess.

Promise is a Japanese animated film manufactured by Trigger Inc. and XFLAG. Both the director, Hiroyuki Imaishi, and the screenwriter, Kazuki Nakashima, come from the experience of two graphically avant-garde souls, such as Coo Lagann e La Kill Kill. Released in Japan in May 2019, Promise he arrived in our rooms for only three days, from 3 to 5 February 2020, therefore receiving very little attention.

This short article wants to talk about why Promise is a film to watch absolutely, to understand how important it is that animation, both in 2D and in 3D, continues to dare and experiment. As Promise is not yet particularly known in Italy, this article will NOT contain spoilers!

Lio Fotia and Galo Thymos, the protagonists of Promare
Lio Fotia and Galo Thymos, the protagonists of Promise

The plot of Promisein short (and without spoilers!)

Set on an Earth where half the population died of spontaneous combustion during the Great World Blaze, Promise tells the story of Galo Thymos and Lio Fotia.

Gallic is part of a task force dedicated to fighting terrorist attacks by burnishthat is, people who survived the Great World Blaze have acquired pyrokinetic abilities. Instead, Lio he is a Burnish terrorist who wants to thwart Kray Foresight, the governor of the city of Promepolis, who appears to have shady aims.

Both Lio and Galo will have to investigate this matter thoroughly, as an even greater danger is awakening in the earth's core. Who are Promare and how are they related to Burnish?

Realistic fights? Also no!
Realistic fights? Also no!

Graphic experimentation

How much brightness and saturation can we add to the colors of this scene? How many turns can the camera make before stopping on the final object of the frame? How much can we deform bodies and shapes with lines and polygons, to go beyond the simulation of the movement of our reality?

Yes, these are things the anime world often gives us, but the beauty it reveals Promise is that of a team and a direction that fully know their skills and shape the result in full awareness of their limits. And when you know your limits, you also understand how to overcome them.

There would be so much to talk about in detail, such as the attention to detail of the mechas, the design style that plays with quotes, Japanese tradition and graphic experiments. To better understand the animation of Promare, however, it is more useful to compare it with the traditional one of Pixar.

The difference between Promise and "traditional" animation

So what makes it Promise unusual compared to equally commercial titles, such as those that participated in the Oscar 2020?

"To dare”Would be the easiest term that would come to mind. And it's actually the exact opposite of this year's winner, Toy Story 4. Pixar continues to experiment with its own 3D rendering engine, the world-famous RenderMan, and that's what everyone expected. In Toy Story 4in fact, examples of realism incredible. However, I always find the recent Pixar films always less creative, and more focused on bringing an advertising demonstration of the latest 3D techniques to the big screen.

Thus, Disney continues to perfect what it has always done with its products in an almost maniacal way within its "incomplete monopoly". But in the meantime, Sony, with Into the Spider-verse, won the 2018 gamble showing that with 3D there isn't only Pixar hyperrealism, but you can reach a unique style, close to the drawing, being inspired by the stippled textures of old American comics and by graphic elements such as explosive writings or baloons.

Similarly, the Trigger Inc. firm gives us today with Promise an experimentation that turns to modern digital, choosing oversaturated colors e fluorescent shades. The drawings are sometimes simplified and sometimes distorted to better adapt to the moment he wants to tell. A few seconds of surreal visual storytelling they communicate without barriers and instantly a flood of information which, with an internal monologue, would be reduced to the worst of explanations.

To better understand the animation of Promise, the images are not enough!

Promare's self-deprecating narrative

Promise it is a story that plays against what is old, obsolete, fictitiously innovative, and with what should replace it for a better world. IS it never takes itself seriously. When the Deus (E) X Machina, there is the confirmation of a narration that wants to tease (and make fun of), without great demands, but remaining concentrated in providing a show with a very current message. To look back, but also forward.

The story is a continuum growing of absurd moments, thread one after the other. The few short moments of breath often do not give time to prepare for the next scenes, and this is perhaps the only real flaw to report. But when it comes to the end credits, what remains are two hours in the company of a film that is so commercial, but made with such love that it prevents me from thinking about it.

Note the color saturation of Promare
Note the color saturation of Promise

Some conclusive words

Promise is an innovative title that would have deserved much more attention in the western world. With his surreal animation and self-irony, he manages to create a powerful narrative. His images help to give strength to the narrative, without reducing itself to a pure hymn to realism, but instead exploring a communication that with realism made at Pixar it would be impossible to have.

Also for this reason, Promise can be combined with masterpieces such as Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. While waiting for Blu-Ray to be distributed in Italy (in stores and Japanese sites from February 5th), I recommend mark this little gem on your wish list.