Patema is a plucky young girl from an underground civilization boasting an incredible network of tunnels. Inspired by a friend that mysteriously went missing, she is often reprimanded due to her constant excursions of these tunnels due to her royal status. After she enters what is known as the "forbidden zone," she accidentally falls into a giant bottomless pit after being startled by a strange creature. Finding herself on the surface, a world literally turned upside down, she begins falling towards the sky only to be saved by Age, a discontented student of the totalitarian nation known as Aiga. The people of Aiga are taught to believe that "Inverts," like Patema, are sinners that will be "swallowed by the sky," but Age has resisted this propaganda and decides to protect his new friend. A chance meeting between two curious teenagers leads to an exploration of two unique worlds as they begin working together to unveil the secrets of their origins in Sakasama no Patema, a heart-warming film about overcoming differences in order to coexist. [Written by MAL Rewrite]
A world where there are two sides. Sakasama No Patema (Patema Inverted) is more than just inverted but serves as an illustration to how connections are built. But from these two worlds also breeds hatred and struggles. For Patema, a princess of the underground kingdom, fate comes that ties her together with a young boy as the two worlds collide. A journey into this movie will feel like a sci-fi adventure, one that is inverted and surrealistic with its stylistic performance.
The brainchild of the movie falls under the hand of Yasuhiro Yoshiura, who also serves as the director. His previous involvement in projects such as Eve of Jikan and Pale Cocoon labels him as a colorful director, one that can turn a sci-fi story inside and out. And indeed, Sakasama no Patema is such a film that is literally turned but this time from up and down.
To get an experience of what the world is like, one should first be familiarized with how flight works. Literally, the movie has the two main characters, Patema and Age (Eiji) hanging on to each other as they see their perspective world from different points of view. You ever heard of the perhaps humorous joke of ‘don’t look down’ on a suspended bridge? Try putting your shoes into their position in this movie and you’ll get a good general idea. Nonetheless, the movie wastes little time by introducing the two main characters and their perspective worlds. In the underground kingdom, the technology is rigid and desolate. People there relies on scavenged food and crude machines to survive. But as a curious girl like Patema, she’d definitely want to explore what the outside world is like. Of course, curiosity almost kills the cat as she ventures into the danger zone and gets herself into some serious trouble, more than what she had imagined.
On other hand, there’s the surface world. Unlike the underground kingdom, the technology there is sufficient and its strength lies with the superiors. Classrooms are in fact held indoors with dictatorship and authority by the higher ups. Taken for granted, Patema falls into the danger zone and is thrown into danger until Age prevents her from “falling down”. From there on, we get whole scenarios where he must hold Patema in order to prevent her from flying away. It brings credibility to the term of ‘inverted’. But for a movie with this sense of adventure, there’s needs to be more to add on. From an experimental perspective, there’s also a sense of prejudice as the antagonists label certain characters as “sinners”. On the other hand, there’s the way how Patema experiments with her life in the surface world. At first, it’s easy to tell that she’s scared as a new kid in the world of the unknown. Oh and don’t forget the fact that she sees the world differently as everyone else through her inverted vision. It’s a unique gimmick despite lacking strength in crafting its concept of gravity. In fact, gravity is defied and the law of the universe is negated.
They’re not star-crossed lovers but Patema and Age shares a rather unique relationship. Combined with the way they discover each other, the pair brings dynamics, humor, and integrity. It takes guts to fight off governmental control or those menacing looking bat humanoids as seen throughout the movie. At the same time, their connection builds off what little time they share with each other. Unfortunately, this doesn’t transit into any sort of significant development as most of their moments in the sky is reflected by struggles. What we have here is something they contrast in terms of dealing with their families, friends, and relatives. Patema has the love of her people in the underground kingdom. On the other hand, Age shares minimal connection with his professors and friends (or at least so evidenced) in his society. To make matters worse, we briefly witness Age’s past which comes out as more of a painful memory rather than as a treasure.
As thought provoking as the film sounds to be, the antagonist can and should be labeled as rather stereotypical. Although not a mad scientist, he still has similar ambitions such as making Patema a guinea pig of sorts through intimidation. And of course, he doesn’t get the answer he wants to hear. At the same time, we learn that the classes taught in Age’s world serves more as a propaganda rather than education. There’s a conspiracy vibe going on as we find out more about the past involving the “sinners” and experiments. Then, there are interesting concepts involving the world referred to by the characters. One could formulate their own theories and come to conclusions as how they function. It creates interesting and methodical ways of seeing the story from another point of view, perhaps not opposite down but more with thought.
Like I mentioned before, this isn’t love story but it does have some flags going up in the sky. Some moments capture fine details involving how Patema and Age are fated to be together while other times creates a feeling of despair. For Patema’s childhood friend though, he becomes more like a scapegoat to the story. Despite his heroic efforts, he seems to be unrewarded towards the end. At the same time, the antagonist’s obsession to discover the people from the underground world leads to a downfall, even to a point where his own subordinates questions his motivations. Still, action speaks louder than words and during climatic moments, we witness it firsthand. While it is dramatic, it’s also cheesy and unrealistic where one could feel less attached to how it’s presented.
Artwork is handled by the relatively unknown studio Purple Cow Studios Japan. Yet, its craftsmanship decorate the backgrounds with great creativity. It sharply details the contrast between Patema and Age’s world. The steampunk style of the underground kingdom shows consistency while the surface world focuses on its more advanced society. Character designs also makes sense with Patema’s designs matching her curiosity and attractive cyan hair. However, Age’s character design shows little distinctiveness but instead comes off as a rather normal human being. For the antagonists though, they share facial features to demonstrate their intimidation. In particular, the bat humanoids have a design that makes them look like malevolent machinations. It creates the feeling of fear and how hunters can become the hunted. Finally, the camera angles is important to really bring the idea of ‘inverted’ to life. And I’d have to say, it did just that. You’ll have to see it to believe it.
Likewise, soundtrack is strong and demonstrates maturity. There’s no stupidity in its OST as comedy isn’t a main focus. During the more dramatic scenes, the soundtrack systemically follows in rhythm with the mood. On the other hand, we also get tense and sorrowful moments when characters are put into more complex situations. Speaking of characters though, Patema and Age has voices that matches their persona. Patema sounds like a normal girl despite her status as a princess in her world. There’s no egoistic or brash attitude coming out of her but rather as a girl who is just curious. Similarly, Age has the voice mannerism of a normal boy and often worries about the well-being of others, in particular Patema.
If you ever wanted to fly, take this movie as a motivation. Of course, you’ll probably need some aerial experience to ensure yourself that you don’t land in the wrong place. For Patema and Age, they land themselves into an adventure that will be unforgettable for the rest of their lives. As a movie crafted by such innovative ideas, I find it to be well done but not ultra-thought provoking. Sure, the idea is great but the time the characters spent together lacks meaningful development. Whatever the goal the movie was trying to accomplish focuses mostly on its premise with less emphasis on characterization but more on concept. Still, this movie should still be on your watch list especially if you’re in a mood for wanderlust.