Thirty years ago a cataclysmic event destroyed half the world’s population and spawned a new race of super-powered mutants. Known as the "Burnish" they have the ability to create and control fire. Hot-headed hero Galo Thymos (voiced by Kenichi Matsuyama) is an expert at extinguishing such fires at the helm of his "Matoi Tech" vehicle as part of the celebrated super-team "Burning Rescue." His exploits lead him into an epic clash with Lio Fotia (Taichi Saotomi), androgynous super-teen leader of freedom fighters "Burnish Pride" who stage such attacks as a means of protesting humanity’s persecution of their people. Eventually Galo and Lio come to realize they are mere pawns in a grander scheme threatening the future of both races on planet Earth.
Produced by Studio Trigger, fan-favourite outfit behind cutting edge serials Kill la Kill (2013) and B.N.A. (2020), Promare was among the most eagerly awaited anime films of recent times. Bristling with restless punk rock energy and gonzo imagination Hiroyuki Imaishi's wild sci-fi spectacle more than delivers the goods. It is a riot of psychedelic colours and elastic, ever-morphing visuals that start bombastic at a level Michael Bay can only dream of then rapidly escalate into a full-blown candy-coloured apocalypse. Even more impressive it does so whilst weaving a relatively sophisticated story. In the midst of all the full-throttle mecha action the story's core message hat society will tolerate civil rights abuses for certain minority groups in return for general stability rings uncomfortably true.
Between dazzling viewers with bravura set-pieces that more often resemble explosions in a paint factory, Promare wisely takes time out to develop its characters. Although Gal has an implied semi-love interest in sexy pink haired Aina (Ayane Sakura), the real passion here is the simmering homoerotic twink vs. twonk tension between the male leads. The evolution of that relationship purposefully evokes the epic testosterone fueled clashes of Seventies super-robot anime, cranked up to even more absurd levels. Even the conspiracy-centred plot comes across as a self-conscious throwback to the gonzo robot sagas of Go Nagai, Ken Ishikawa, Yoshiyuki Tomino, et al. Especially when a third act plot twist draws the leads to a secret underground base where they share custody of a glowing primary coloured giant robot cheekily named Deus Ex Machina.
Admittedly Imaishi's breakneck style is a double-edged sword. The messaging is unsubtle and speeds by like a blur. Nevertheless Gal's expanding social conscience and Lio's empathy proves a satisfying dramatically as the robot battles are visually intoxicating. Some might feel that beneath the innovative, often breathtaking animation lies a conventional robot anime. Yet the plot breaks from convention with a humanistic twist wherein the idealistic heroes realize saving the Earth means embracing friend and foe alike. Like so much Japanese sci-fi, Promare is about surviving an apocalypse and thriving.