Thursday, April 18, 2024

Anime Impact: Promare remains a visual masterpiece – but is it queerbait?

Are you ever in a mood to watch something a bit artsy? A bit different from the slice of life or fantasy anime, with character designs that sort of blend together because they kind of all look the same? I do too. On my long search for whatever anime’s visualization of a modern art gallery might be, I remembered I needed to watch Promare. A beloved anime, with colorful reviews from so many friends, that I’ve embarrassingly ignored for years because I figured I got the jist of the plot from what I see on Twitter and Instagram.

In the anime community, it’d be pretty hard to not know what Promare is. Studio Trigger, the animation house behind absolute hits like Kill La Kill and Gurren Lagann, surprised fans in 2019 with this original movie about saving the planet, while rescuing an entire race of people, all with the help of mecha. With geniuses like sreenwriter Kazuki Nakashima and director Hiroyuki Imaishi leading the making of the anime, I knew big and flashy fights were waiting for me.

(©TRIGGER,Kazuki Nakashima/XFLAG)

Promare, despite being a movie that was released in 2019, is a movie that ends up regularly appearing on my social media timelines, whether it’s a mutual sharing of its soundtrack, clips showing the anime’s intense battle scenes, or a constant stream of fanart being uploaded from the anime community. The movie was so popular when released in the US that it had a second run of showings in theaters, rare for anime films to do. Fans were fond of the similar designs Galo had compared to Kamina from Gurren Lagann, cosplays of Lio were seen every time you opened up Instagram, but something that always piqued my interest was how much fans paired up these two protagonists. 

Without seeing the movie at the time, I figured Promare was a win for the gays with how much its audience wouldn’t stop talking about these two characters being together. “Just a blue haired muscle himbo and his leather-wearing goth boyfriend, good for them,” I thought. Having just accepted this pairing and seeing them non-stop since finding out about the anime, and finally having the interest to see why exactly people are still so much in love with the movie, I sat down to watch the almost two hour ride that is Promare.

(©TRIGGER,Kazuki Nakashima/XFLAG)

Galo, a blue haired boy who proudly lives his life being shirtless, has a heart that spills kindness and good intentions. However, Promare reveals this fiery, happy-go-lucky character was easily taken advantage of, and was unwittingly supporting a development that goes against everything he stands for. Galo works for the Burning Rescue unit with a team of equally interesting firefighters, who band together and save victims caught in the middle of a Burnish accident, and attempting to arrest the Burnish who caused it.

In the world of Promare, Burnish are people who are associated with an unexplainable power of fire, with a leader of the Burnish people, Lio, a mint-haired melancholy boy driven to protect those like him. The two boys’ fates intertwine when Galo learns from Lio that the Burnish people he’s been helping to arrest are being used for experiments. Together, they work to do what’s right, and free the Burnish who were captured – with the fate of the planet ultimately at stake, of course.

(©TRIGGER,Kazuki Nakashima/XFLAG)

I absolutely loved it, though some thoughts on Promare being queer bait-y do exist. Queer baiting comfortably exists in anime – you see it in often between the girls in Love Live!, sports anime like Yowamushi Pedal and Free!, even in the anime giant that is Attack on Titan. As the years go by, my being content with queer baiting, happy with any shred of gay interaction between characters I liked, continues to diminish. With more popular anime, like Yuri!!! On Ice, showing on paper that characters love the same sex, it shows that there is progress in the market happening, but going at a pace I wish would just be a little quicker.

However, I can say the same for western media as well. Having Galo kiss Lio as a way to save him made me understand why so many paired the two outside the anime, but again, having the anime go to strides of “is it gay or was it just to save someone’s life?” made me wish that wasn’t the case. The couch buddies I watched Promare with pointed out at the end that their “mech” let out a heart shaped smoke during a fight, which can indicate the queerness of it all – but reaching for straws shouldn’t be something fans should do, especially in 2021.

However, while Promare shows nothing definitively queer, the visuals give me the satisfaction that it is.

(©TRIGGER,Kazuki Nakashima/XFLAG)

Promare offered such a unique style of animation that was addicting to watch, I can’t remember a moment I took my eyes off the screen. Animating fire in the forms of polygons that looked straight out of a ’90s animation draft, in neon purple and mint colors, gave the anime such a cool and hip vibe. I would gladly watch this over and over.

Promare is now available to stream on Youtube Rent (US only), Amazon (US here, UK here), and Sky Store (UK only), and to buy on Blu-ray (UK, US). Availability in other territories may vary.

Anime Impact is a column from Monti Velez that looks at anime from a queer and critical perspective.

Monti Velez

Monti Velez is a Latinx writer and editor for Uppercut Crit. She covers issues within the industry, indie games, and more. In her free time, Monti likes uploading silly pictures of her dog and yelling about KPop, which you can find on Twitter @friedmonti