The Power of Three Minus One: Promare

The movie Promare came around a while ago and I missed it. I read the previews and said, “Meh. Mechas,” which is about what I say about any sort of mecha, with the exception of the original mecha story, Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. The BOOK, not the movie.

But it was so popular in first run that they brought it back, and since I needed something to do more exciting than writing exams I said, “Okey dokey.”

Yeah, I liked it despite the mechas. You know it has Kill la Kill in its genetic structure, since it was written and directed by the same guys, and if there are two things I like about Kill la Kill, they are the frenetic directing style – Hiroyuki Imaishi never met a camera move he didn’t like – and the plotting. That would be Kazuki Nakashima’s department.

Promare is new enough that I might get spoiler-y so BE WARNED. There may be spoilers. But I’ll try to keep the discussion vague enough to not give it away, and one character has a BIG SECRET I will NOT repeat NOT tell you, okay?

From a writing standpoint what Promare shares with Kill la Kill is a shifting dynamic of protagonist and antagonist. Boy, that sounds high falutin’, doesn’t it? But let’s face it: in Kill la Kill you have a whole new story when Satsuki changes sides, right?

So that goes on with Promare. Our main man is the fire fighter Galo. He is imbued with the spirit of fire fighters, has the soul of a warrior, er, fire fighter. He even has a matoi (a flag carried by medieval fire fighters to send each other signals).

Promare - Galo

Our Hero: Galo

Matoi? Ryuko Matoi? Is this an inside joke? Anyone know?

As a fire fighter in the city called Promepolis Galo’s ultimate boss is the Governor, Kray. Galo also worships Kray as a hero because Kray saved Galo from a house fire when Galo was a kid. So at the start of the narrative the two are closely allied on what we presume is the Protagonist side.

Promare - Kray

Galo’s Hero: Kray

Their Antagonist is the terrorist – you want to let everyone know who the antagonist is? Call them a terrorist – Lio. Lio is a Burnish: a mutant human able to control fire. Yes, the natural enemy of a fire fighter, literally. (It’s a joke on the same level as Ray Bradbury calling Guy Montag a “fireman” in Fahrenheit 451 because he burns books.)

Promare - Lio

Our boy Lio. You can tell how new Promare is that I couldn’t get an image of the three of them together.

So it’s Kray and Galo against Lio to start with.

Stuff happens and it’s revealed that the Burnish are actually an exploited minority and Lio is actually a freedom fighter instead of a terrorist.

What happens then is that Galo’s role slides. Instead of being allied with the (we assume) Protagonist Kray or the Antagonist Lio, he becomes a third force, telling Kray he won’t let him exploit the Burnish and Lio he won’t let him burn down Promepolis.

I’ve mentioned the Third Force before, and that the function of a Third Force is to keep protagonist and antagonist apart for the purpose of creating dramatic tension. In Promare, though, Galo acting as a Third Force is narratively unstable because a) Galo is clearly the central character and that means HE has to be the protagonist, and b) the movie has to end sometime.

So it comes out that Kray is a Very Bad Man. No! He’s not the Protagonist, he’s the Antagonist! It’s Lio on the Protagonist side, and since Galo’s the Hero he goes over there, too, finishing his slide from one side to the other.

See what’s happened? The dynamic has rotated 180 degrees. Where have we seen that before? Oh, yeah, Satsuki 🙂

What I like now is the trick Nakashima pulls: Even fighting on the same side Lio and Galo aren’t strong enough. To win this, they have to combine their powers into a single entity, called Galo de Lion.


There’s an old way of looking at reasoning that says, “Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.” It’s the idea that new ideas emerge when you put old ones together.

In this case Galo and Lio are literally thesis and antithesis: fire fighter and fire user. So the combined being, Galo de Lion, is synthesis.

That’s really a tricky twist. Just having two (Galo, Lio) against one would be too simple, and too easy plot-wise. But to form them, at least briefly, into a new character, now that’s the sort of trick we’d expect from Kill la Kill.

It’s also a very Japanese statement about teamwork when you think about it.

That works. Kray is defeated, and Galo de Lion splits up. Now best buds, Galo and Lio make all happy happy nice nice. Fin, as the French say.

I don’t like mechas but Promare was a lot of fun, and it was a lot of fun for the spectacular visuals and a slippy-slidey dynamic between the main characters. Now, where have I seen that before?

Oh, yeah, Kill la Kill.

Now, there’s a whole lot more going on in Promare than just the character roles. I will say there was one moment when the entire theater broke into applause, and no, it wasn’t the end. But I really don’t give a damn about Galo kissing Lio. OOPS! I didn’t say that! I take it back! Never happens! I mean, they’re both guys, and guys don’t kiss each other…But beyond THAT there’s a whole lot going on in Promare. I may come back to talk about the animation if I get the chance to watch it more carefully sometime.

Cool flick. Too bad about all those mechas.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

4 thoughts on “The Power of Three Minus One: Promare

  1. I have to admit that some of your comments real felt off putting here. Especially your dismissive Mecha comments.

    Also the Lio and Galo ones where annoying too. I know that’s not the point of this post, but come on. The world is so different then it used to be.


    1. Fair. There are certain genres, mecha and supernatural especially, that I don’t care for, but you’re right, that wasn’t what I was trying to look at here.

      At the same time that contextualizes what I wants to say, so I put it in.

      As to the kiss, well, I was just surprised by the audience response. The writer had set it up nicely, so to me it was something the story called for at that point.


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