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Patema Inverted (2013)

What if your world was turned upside down.. literally? That's what happens to the titular princess in Yasuhiro Yoshiura's sci-fi feature, as she "falls" up into the threatening world of the surface. Years ago, experiments trying to harness gravity lead to much of the population being sucked up into the sky. Patema's ancestors were able to take refuge underground, able to eventually adapt to life on the ceiling. Luckily Patema finds one friendly face, in the form of teen boy Age, who helps her hide from the fearsome forces of the surface world of Aiga.

Patema Inverted's central conceit- that Patema and her fellow Inverts live their lives upside down- is certainly interesting. It's also, let's face it, pretty silly and for some people it might be a step too far. In reality, though, the world of the film is so well realised and the story so absorbing that you'll barely give it a moment's thought.

Visually the film is an absolute treat. The character designs may not be anything out of the ordinary- they have a fairly typical anime look- but are appealing and smoothly animated. The worlds both above and below ground are fantastically designed. From the sumptuous green vista of Age's hideaway, to the oppressive cityscapes of Aiga, the backgrounds are simply stunning, and help create a believable world.

A lot of the film's success is riding on the central relationship. Despite their exceptional circumstances, if you were not able to connect with the friendship between Age and Patema, the film would not work. Luckily, the pair are easy to warm to and their growing affection for each other is very touching. Out of context, the image of them desperately clinging to each other to prevent Patema being sucked up into the sky may look daft. But in the film, it's nothing but adorable, and you'll be rooting for them the whole way.

Outside of the main concept, the film treads some pretty well-worn sci-fi ground. The authoritarian society of Aiga, with its imposing towers and storm-trooper lookalikes is much the same as many a sci-fi dystopia that have come before it. The story of people from two different worlds meeting is also a long established sci-fi trope, even if it's given a fresh spin.

This in the grand tradition of family-friendly adventure anime, and builds up to an exciting, edge-of-your-seat climax. Anything in this vein will inevitably find itself compared to Studio Ghibli, and while it might not be quite up to that standard (but what is?) it's hardly a million miles away either. If anything at times it recalls a kind of twenty-first-century version of Miyazaki's classic Laputa: Castle In The Sky. That is a compliment indeed- and marks out Yoshiura as a talent to watch.

Gorgeous to behold, exciting and utterly heart-warming, Patema Inverted is a film well worth seeking out.

PATEMA INVERTED is available on Blu-Ray, Ultimate Edition (DVD/Blu-Ray + CD soundtrack + Artbook) and DVD from ANIME LIMITED in the UK and on Blu-ray and DVD from GKIDS in the US.