Continuing on with the gimmick for June, today I’m gonna take a look at one of Shinakai’s more popular titles, The Place Promised in Our Early Days.
The Place Promised in Our Early Days (aka Beyond the Clouds, the Promised Place) is an anime film written and directed by Makoto Shinkai and produced by CoMix Wave Inc.
The story takes place in an alternative future where Japan is split into two. With most of the mainland being occupied by American Forces after WWII the Northern Island of Hokkaido is controlled by the Soviet Union. While the two sides are at war, a small resistance group plans to join the two sides together by any means.
The story proper follows three characters; Hiroki Fujisawa (Hidetaka Yoshioka/Chris Patton) a shy and quite student, Takuya Shirakawa (Masato Hagiwara/Kalob Martinez) his popular friend and Sayuri Sawatari (Yuuka Nanri/Jessica Boone) the violin-playing girl who the two share an interest in.
During the films first half hour the plot revolves around the two working to build an airplane. They wish to use the plane to leave the country and see the Union Tower, a large object seen throughout most of Japan that reminds the two countries of their divide. However, the tower seemingly has another purpose, one that pushes the fringes of technology.
While they’re finishing their plane they share their plans with Sayuri who hopes to join the two. Sayuri has problems of her own as she starts blacking out due to her strange dreams/premonitions.
Her dreams become more and more predominate and she eventually stops waking up. Having been moved to a hospital across the country, she disappears without telling her two friends. However, as we soon find out her dreams are linked to the tower they planned on visiting.
Shortly after that the plot jumps forward three years. With Sayuri gone, the two drifted apart moving in different directions. While Takuya starts working with the Japanese/American Government in their research of the tower, Hiroki stayed in school longing for Sayuri.
During this time it’s explained that the tower is the centre of experiments revolving around multiple universes and timelines. While they’re not able to connect with these worlds, a bleeding effect has happened around the tower, destroying anything in its radius.
The rest of the story revolves around Hiroki trying to wake Sayuri up by bringing her to the tower, while Takuya and a crew of resistance fighters try to destroy it.
On the technical side, Place Promised is a good-looking title. While the majority of the characters don’t look that out of the ordinary, the backgrounds and scenery look amazing.
During many of the opening scenes the characters move across lush fields and hang out in an abandoned flooded train station. These set pieces have a great amount of detail that make the locations seemingly pop off the screen.
Several scenes feature some great animation such as a short speed skating segment during the first half hour. Additionally the production team uses some 3D animation for the few flying scenes in the film. The computer animation is use sparring and makes these segments feel special.
Along with the solid animation comes the films soundtrack done by Tenmon. The score features some beautiful violin playing as well as some solid overall orchestral work.
The films closing theme “Your Voice” performed by Ali Kawashima was co-written by Tenmon and Shinkai. While the track is a little paint by numbers for an anime like this, it fits the overall feel of the title.
However, there are still some things that keep the film from being a slam-dunk. Maybe the biggest is it’s plot arc.
With the first half an hour of the film, the story doesn’t really fit the Sci Fi genre and feels more like a coming of age love story. While the additional of the premonitions is an interesting feature it doesn’t really come into play until it’s needed later. After the three year jump the story changes drastically. It adds the alternate dimensions side-plot and dives deeper into the conflict of the backstory and the tone of the film shifts drastically.
While these transitions aren’t a bad thing, there’s little tying the two parts of the film together aside from the characters.
Adding to the issue is just how much exposition is dropped on the audience after the jump in such a short amount of time. Scenes featuring drones flying near the tower as well as people typing at computers like their working at NERV don’t connect with the early part of the film, which dealt with two teen falling in love.
Ultimately if the film was done as a OVA or a full series, then maybe the transition would have felt a bit more fluid as the elements could have been drawn out more.
The only thing that holds the story together is, its characters.
While their not as developed as one might hope we do see enough backstory to get an idea as to who these three are. The story then gives the audience bits and pieces of development here and there to help both the plot and the character motivations along. During the final minutes of the film, the climax ends up feeling deserved and was pretty satisfying.
Despite this there were a few moments that took me out of the story. While some of these can be related back to the changes in the plot, others dealt more with some stiff voice acting.
Don’t get me wrong, the majority of the title is good, but at times some of the lines should have been given another try as some readings made me think I was watching a garbage direct to video anime from the early 90s.
This was a bit ironic as much of this story felt like a 90s anime title. Whether it was the simple love story or the way the story progressed, this film reminded me of the 90s anime titles that I feel in love with. The film feels like it’s from another time.
In the end, Place Promise reminded me of why I love anime. It has beautiful animation, solid characters and an interesting premise. While the film could have handled it’s transition between timelines better, it still told a solid story that was easy to understand and follow.
If you’re in the mood for a romance drama with a helping of Sci Fi, then this would be a good way to spend 90 minutes.
The Place Promised in Our Early Days was originally licensed by ADV Films. However, since their closing no one has picked the film up. Additionally the DVD’s are going for an absorbent amount of money on Amazon and other websites, so have fun tracking it down.