Patema Inverted (Sakasama no Patema) is a science fantasy movie from 2013. It was preceded by an ONA series called Patema Inverted: Beginning of the Day. It was directed by Yasuhiro Yoshiura, who garnered acclaim after making his debut film Pale Cocoon. The film is also noteworthy for being one of the first major projects by the newly founded Purple Cow Studio.
Patema lives in a hazardous underground society. Everyone wears protective clothing and gas masks on a daily basis. The town is a mechanized industrial ecosystem, like one giant factory. Patema is adventurous and fearless. She frequents the "danger zone" often, despite the warnings of her elders. Some even warn her of mysterious "bat men" who live in the danger zone. On one trip, she finds herself staring into the red eyes of a man hanging from the ceiling (he looks a lot like someone from Jin-Roh). The man attacks her, she runs away, faints, then falls down a giant hole.
When she awakens, she finds herself in the Orwellian world of Aiga, ruled by the tyrannical Izamura. Much to her confusion, everyone and everything in Aiga is upside down! She befriends a young boy named Age. Age has to hold on to her when not indoors so she doesn't rocket up into the sky. At night, Age always looks up at the stars in bewilderment, even though this is forbidden by Aiga's teachings. He has always wanted to fly, something his father tried long ago. Age must now help Patema return home and try to realize his dreams of flight.
The film takes place in an alternate universe on a planet that resembles Earth, but is not the third rock from the sun as we know it. A long time ago, a group of scientists developed an experiment where they tried to extract energy from gravity. The experiment failed drastically and caused gravity to invert for some people. The "inverts" went underground to construct a new society where they wouldn't be subject to the danger of drifting into the sky. This is where Patema grew up.
Many who resisted the change in gravity saw the experiment as a sin and a crime against nature. They then built the land of Aiga in an attempt to preserve the old ways and purify the people. They carry this out through indoctrination in schools. The values of "law and order" matter most in Aiga. Children are taught that it is a sin to look at the sky and thus, some go their whole lives looking at the ground. Classrooms are under constant security surveillance that make sure the teachers are properly affecting their students' minds.
Why It's Awesome
Patema Inverted is a sweeping epic adventure through two worlds and broken physics. The film's two leads have a chemistry together that is enjoyable to watch. The blend of serious emotional moments and comedic antics between the two engage you in the story. The gorgeous background art by Purple Cow and the score by Michiru Oshima transport you to another world, one you never want to leave. While not as speculative as Yoshiura's Time of Eve, it has a greater sense of scope, action, and thrills.
Who It's For
Patema Inverted is for those who like movies that take you on a journey to a sci-fi/fantasy universe and leave you with a sense of awe. It's also for those that like "hero" and "villain" stories that don't have much in the way of moral ambiguity. If you grew up reading Robert Louis Stevenson books, you will appreciate what Patema Inverted is going for. The film offers you high quality, high stakes escapism and doesn't let down for a minute.
Sheeta floats down to an industrial town while wearing a glowing necklace. She meets Pazu, whose father was a pilot and tried to fly to the apocryphal castle of Laputa. Pazu wants to help Sheeta and follow in his father's footsteps. Sound familiar? Patema Inverted clearly has a strong influence from Ghibli, the most notable example being Castle in the Sky. The stories are almost identical. The relationship between the two lead characters is similar. The main villains are similar. Both have an epic orchestral musical score and detailed backgrounds. Tonally, both are high concept adventure films that blend action and comedy throughout.
Another Ghibli title that bears resemblance to Patema Inverted is Nausicaä. A nuclear catastrophe plunged the world into an era of high toxicity. The "Toxic Jungle" refers to a large area that humans must wear protective masks to enter because the air is not safe to breathe. Princess Nausicaä has to fight off the warring Kingdom of Tolmekia who want to destroy the wildlife that has been brought forth from the Toxic Jungle. The concept of hazardous mutation and toxicity is present in both films. The epic sense of adventure and music by Joe Hisaishi also bear a resemblance to Patema Inverted.
Time of Eve takes place in a not too distant future where robots are commonplace. A high school student, Rikuo finds out that his android is a regular at a coffee shop. The coffee shop is the one place of sanctuary for androids, as they are not seen as different from humans there. The film's set up raises some deep and interesting questions about what humanity means. Time of Eve was made by the same director of Patema Inverted, Yasuhiro Yoshiura. Both works feature science fiction settings and have engaging characters.
Eureka Seven was a mecha series that centered around Renton Thurston. Renton was obsessed with a futuristic sport where you surf particle waves. He had dreams of doing it professionally. He also aspired to pilot "LFO" robots with the "Gekkostate" group. One day, a girl named Eureka came to his grandfather's mechanic repair shop to fix her LFO. Renton then followed Eureka and she led him to joining the robot group. Renton's focus on following his ambitions and dreams, even though others tell him not to is comparable to Age in Patema Inverted. Also, the relationship between Patema and Age is similar to that of Renton and Eureka. Not to mention, Eureka and Patema also have pretty similar character designs.
In the year 2046, signs of alien life have been discovered on a distant planet. A team of mecha pilots must now be assembled to travel to the planet and explore the findings. The story centers around two high school students who fall in love. However, they have different plans following graduation. One wants to further their education and the other wants to explore the planet. The main similarity between Voices of a Distant Star and Patema Inverted is the relationship between the two leads across two different worlds.