Patema Inverted is a fascinating Sci-Fi film headed by Yasuhiro Yoshiura. Using his talents as a director and scriptwriter, his creativity emerges in his intriguing stories and his balance between serious themes with light-hearted directing. Patema Inverted has a recognizable story to tell, one where humanity is split.
This film is expressed by verticality. Viewers explore both the infinite skies and the depths beneath the earth. These differences express themselves in the cultures surrounding these settings: the residents of Aiga (surface dwellers) and “inverts” (a derogatory term coined for those living under the surface).
Further isolating these two cultures are “physical” traits and prejudices. Aptly represented by inverting gravity, residents from each world will see each other inverted--to them, they are right-side up and their counterparts will be seen upside down. At times, this makes for comedic interactions, but what prevents this from being a quirky difference are the characters’ beliefs.
In Aiga, there is religious doctrine and government propaganda against inverts. The former decrees invert as sinners, people who got taken away for having abused their power with science. The latter restricts citizens from leaving their boundaries--from coming into contact with inverts. These divisions and obstacles control people’s perspectives, their view of the world.
When the heroine Patema (underground) meets Age (surface), these conflicting perspectives come together, and the differences start to become less apparent. For the following movies, the focus will be on themes of division/”otherness”, balance/unity, and conflict regarding the physical, social, religious, or cultural difference. Also, as an important dynamic, most of these films will have a boy/girl relationship that represents divisions in the world. As they change, the world changes with them.
Similar Anime to Sakasama no Patema
1. Giniro no Kami no Agito (Origin: Spirits of the Past)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: Jan. 7, 2006
Origin: Spirits of the Past starts aptly after a major event has passed. A scientific breakthrough has allowed Earth to fertilize the barren land, but a mistake leads to aggressive plant growth, destroying the moon and the world soon after. Centuries later, the world has become split into a wasteland and rich forest. Humans struggle to survive while maintaining a shaky alliance with the forest
Between the forest and the military nation of Ragna, is Neutral City, the place where Agito, a village boy, resides. One day, he stumbles upon a capsule, preserving the life of Tula, the daughter of a scientist who started the project to rejuvenate the barren soil. Amidst a new world, Tula becomes the catalyst for an emerging war between the military powers and the forest.
Origin: Spirits of the Past has several similarities to Patema Inverted. The “otherness” is represented by the forest. It is the thing that is inhuman and foreign. The forest is a threat--its newfound consciousness is aggressive and frightening--but without this last bastion of plant life, humans cannot live. This struggle to understand each other is represented by the main male and female character, their relationship parallels the understanding humans must make with the forest. When past unites with the present, only then can we move on to the future.
Origin: Spirits of the Part Trailer:
2. Tenkuu no Shiro Laputa (Castle in the Sky)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: Aug. 2, 1986
Castle in the Sky is a world filled with adventure. Mankind has invented skyships, and with them, the power to explore the world. Hidden within this world is a floating island, Laputa, the target of both the government and nefarious sky pirates. To seize Laputa’s technology, the government has kidnapped Sheeta, hoping to use the power of her amulet. However, when the sky pirates attack the ship she’s on, she falls to the surface, and into the arms of Pazu, an orphan boy, much like herself. Together, they try to escape, all the while learning about Laputa and themselves in the process.
Castle in the Sky is a Studio Ghibli classic. The film easily encompasses the allure of Ghibli movies: the outstanding orchestrated music, the timeless quality of its tale, and the relatable quality of its characters. If you were interested in stories that revolve around the male/female dichotomy, this is an apt example where similarities between the main protagonists unite them against the forces that push them away.
Their growth in identity--from lost orphans to children reunited with their past--makes for a compelling adolescent story, one where they find solace in their skyward journey to reach Laputa. Their physical journey mirrors their understanding of their new identities, as they find their place in a world of endless skies.
Laputa: Castle in the Sky Trailer
3. Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo (Children Who Chase Lost Voices)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: May 7, 2011
Children Who Chase Lost Voices begins with Asuna, a girl whose preoccupies her time by listening to a radio. Upon hearing a mysterious melody, she becomes enraptured by its song, capturing her heart in the process. Soon after, she is confronted by a dashing boy, Shun, who saves her from a creature. Together, they start a journey into a new land where the melody resides.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices is an interesting departure from Makoto Shinkai films. We still have Shinkai’s focus on romance and the visuals are still pleasing, but character designs have changed to seem, for lack of a better descriptor, Ghibli-esque. In some facets, this contributes to the story, the youthful protagonist--far younger than traditional Shinkai protagonists--finds adventure through a fantasy world that sparks with a romantic crush.
Parallels to Patema Inverted are there. The boy/girl dynamic, like in previous films, remains a catalyst through which the story unfolds. Divisions, although they focus less on human prejudice than others in this list, are abundant. Death/rebirth, fantasy/reality, deities/mortals are but some of the juxtapositions the film unveils. Also familiar, government entities want to hush the existence of Agartha, a mystic land, the eventual goal to take it under control.
This film is a mashing of multiple ideas, an experimental new direction for Shinkai. While the pacing is a problem with so many ideas to explore, the comparisons to Patema Inverted and the new boundaries of a fantasy world and Shinkai’s directing make it a fitting recommendation.
REEL ANIME 2012: CHILDREN WHO CHASE LOST VOICES TRAILER (English Subtitles) [HD]
Any Anime Like Sakasama no Patema?
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: May 26, 2001
In the city of Metropolis, a huge tower reigns over the human citizens and worker robots. Detective Shunsaku Ban and his nephew Kenichi are in search of Dr. Laughton, a scientist who they suspect is unlawfully experimenting and violating human rights. Deep into the city, they find a factory has caught on fire, and from its remains rests a girl whose mysterious manner attracts the eyes of the detective and Kenichi. However, they aren’t the only ones to find her, and soon the powers of Metropolis come to take her away in their struggle to control the city.
Although Rintaro’s Metropolis shares a similar name with its predecessor, it isn’t a direct adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s manga. This film version has some noticeable differences, primarily in the layers of the city. By expressing the film’s verticality, Rintaro divides the film into layers--the higher class of the surface, the humans beneath, and the working robots at the very bottom of the city.
Divisions between social status are apparent--a noticeable similarity to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) where the working class are the “cogs and wheel of society.” Ideologies around the treatment of robots become conflicted, with rebels seeking their demise despite their humanizing portrayal throughout the film.
Easily, this movie has a wealth of analytical readings, and if your main interest in Patema Inverted was “otherness,” divisions in society, questions of humanity, film techniques, or expressions of verticality, Rintaro’s Metropolis is an amazing recommendation.
Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis - Trailer
5. Eve no Jikan (Time of Eve)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: Mar. 6, 2010
In the future, Japan has grown accustomed to androids in society. With the daily use of robots, Japan’s Ethics Committee warns of becoming too attached to them--to become a dori-kei (android lover) is dangerous, their warnings stem from a historical accident involving machines. One day, Rikuo notices an interesting anomaly. His android has been returning at peculiar times of the day, its behavior log proving his suspicions. Following his android, he encounters a unique cafe where the number one rule is to treat humans and robots equally.
Time of Eve is perhaps the most exemplary piece of Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s writing and directing. The major division in this story revolves around ideology: how does one treat androids? The common perception of them treats them by their physical components--they may look the same, but they are metal on the inside. To be a dori-kei is commonly seen as a joke: that anyone would love their android must be out of their mind.
Similarly to Patema Inverted, Yoshiura directs this film with a light-hearted guidance. The camera at times imitates the views of a shaky robot view, comedic timing is abrupt and sudden, aptly fitting the faster pace of this movie adaptation, unique film-only scenes help you empathize with characters further, and the whimsical use of music creates an interesting contrast to some serious themes. If you found Patema Inverted’s script or directing fascinating, or you’re interested in further questions of humanity, Time of Eve is a fine introduction.
6. Kumo no Mukou, Yakusoku no Basho (The Place Promised in Our Early Days)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: Nov. 20, 2004
The Place Promised in Our Early Days takes place in an alternate reality. In 1964, Japan is split into two halves, the north controlled by the Soviet Union and South by America. Marking this split is a tower, a structure so big it looms in the sky’s horizon. This tower captures the eyes of three students, Hiroki Fujisawa, Takuya Shirakawa, and their love interest, Sayuri Sawatari. Together, they share an interest in one day creating a plane that can let them reach the tower’s heights. As plan nears completion, Sayuri vanishes suddenly, her disappearance coinciding with this mysterious tower.
One of Makoto Shinkai’s earliest films, The Place Promised in Our Early Days is a movie that characterizes Shinkai’s growth and style as a director. Unlike previous films, the boy/girl dynamic is split into three, paralleling the three divisions: America, the Soviet Union, and the tower.
Similarly to Patema Inverted, Shinkai’s focus on skies also takes centerfold in this love tale. The journey towards the tower coincides with the journey to find Sayuri. Just as in Patema, division helps segment this story about dream and consciousness. As these characters reach the center, the truth emerges, and their youthful romanticism gets put to the test.
Patema Inverted is a movie that asks viewers to compare differences. Divisions between ideologies, culture, characters, and religious belief take the spotlight. As a movie that ties its visuals to contrasting elements, a lot of these recommendations seek to do the same. If you’re interested in the dynamics Patema Inverted introduced, I hope you enjoy the recommendations on the list.