Patema Inverted is a 2013 Japanese anime science fiction film by Yasuhiro Yoshiura. It’s a unique perspective-twisting fantasy adventure about two people separated by opposite gravities. When you were a kid, did you ever lie on the floor and wonder what it would be like to walk on the ceiling? Well, this movie is just like that. The way it often suddenly changes your frame of reference will boggle your mind and challenge your point of view.
According to the movie’s introduction, a scientific experiment some time ago went terribly wrong. Part of the earth was destroyed and a reverse gravity field was created near the location of the experiment, which has since been fenced off. Some people in the area were able to survive underground, but due to the gravity reversal if they venture out to the surface, they risk falling into the sky (which for them is an eternal drop).
Above ground, the totalitarian nation of Aiga aims to protect its citizens from the dangers created by the earlier experiment. Aiga’s dictatorial leader, Izamura, demands perfect conformity from the people; for all his ruthlessness he seems afraid of anyone who dares to think differently. Izamura sees the failed experiment as a sin, and those that suffer from the inverted gravity as sinners, and he wants to eliminate the sinful “inverts.”
Patema is a girl who lives in the underground world. Inspired by her friend Lagos, she likes to explore the subterranean tunnels. One day she falls into a pit and out into the wide open world above the surface. Age (pronounced “ey-jee”), a student on the surface world, is lying in the grass daydreaming when he sees Patema hanging upside-down from a tree. He pulls her down to safety, struggling to keep her earthbound.
Together they master the art of working together to compensate for their opposing gravitational forces, and Age offers to help Patema return home to her world. But when Izamura discovers Patema’s presence via security cameras, he has his troops capture Patema and Agee.
Age is reprimanded and released with a warning, while Izamura takes Patema to his towering headquarters. Izamura imprisons Patema high up in the glass-walled top floor of the skyscraper, where she is terrified. As someone who’s afraid of heights, I could definitely empathize with her fear of falling, even with panes of glass between her and the sky.
Meanwhile, Age feels bad for not doing a better job of protecting Patema, and vows to save her. That’s about all I can say without giving away too much. However, by the end of the movie everything was topsy-turvy and I was totally confused, wondering which way was really right-side-up. Maybe I’ll be able to understand it more with the next viewing, as this anime is well worth watching again. There are a lot of details that are easy to miss the first time around.
Although it doesn’t seem plausible to have two different gravities on one planet, if you can suspend your disbelief this is a great concept for a movie. Especially if you like science fiction, steampunk, physics, or even the mind-bending art of M.C. Escher. The anime’s visuals are beautiful, the music is minimal but very cool, the plot is deep, the ending has an action-packed twist, and the quality is comparable to Studio Ghibli. Not to mention it will literally keep you hanging on to the edge of your seat!