Many years ago, scientists decided to experiment with gravity. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t end well and a portion of society had their gravity reversed and were forced to live in another world underground. Aiga – the society left behind – labelled these people Inverts, and “sinners” and a totalitarian world was created as a result to try and prevent people from having enough original thought to create another disaster. Aiga is now a clonelike world where students are not even allowed to look out of the window and masked military police roam the land. All is overseen by the leader Izamura who embodies the worst of the anti-Invert ideals and has all the foppish dress and crazed eyes of a classic anime villain.
Teenager Age is weary of living in such a grey, restrictive society, but things change when he meets an Invert called Patema who has fallen into his world by mistake. Both Age and Patema quickly form a bond as she is forced to depend on him in what appears to her a topsy turvy landscape. Their bond is cemented when Age shares the loss of his father with her and Patema consoles him. Patema Inverted shows us that both Age and Patema have really developed from their experiences of pain and loss, Age quietly grieving in a suffocatingly rigid society and Patema also having lost a loved one. Both have had to deal with wanting to see a world beyond their own and having to go against the grain of their society to do so, but their experiences and emotions are never hammed up for dramatic effect and rather quietly resonate through gentle flashbacks and moving imagery.
Patema Inverted shows the viewer what it’s like to have your world quite literally turned upside down with continual 180 degree turns throughout to really put the viewer in the shoes of either Age or Patema who feel that they’re about to fall into the “sky” at any moment and have to place their complete trust in the other person to keep them safe. This is a movie that has fun with its sci fi elements, and the scene where Patema and Age have to flee from military police and Age realises he can effectively fly because his gravity changes when he holds Patema is exhilarating to watch. The landscapes are shown as being both terrifying and exciting at any given moment, there’s no particular bias either way, which keeps the film nicely balanced between the wonders and terrors of a world with two gravities.
The rest of the visuals are also a treat, with incredible attention to light and shadow details during key moments. The music is also excellent, often taking on a pared back mechanical sound but producing more emotional music when required to match up with more intense scenes. I really enjoyed the constant symmetry between the characters from two worlds, and the mirroring of a cold technological state with a mechanical organic one. It’s a shame there wasn’t time for more world building when both worlds were so interesting but it’s possible the four episode series tackles this.
With great visuals, a complementary soundtrack and a fantastic sci fi story, Patema Inverted is definitely one to watch if you’re looking for a great sci fi anime film.