Makoto Shinkai's The Place Promised in Our Early Days takes place in the late 1990s in Japan in an alternate timeline. The story follows two boys (Hiroki and Takuya) who both like the same girl (Sayuri). At the beginning of the film, they areall 8th grade students. The boys find the remains of a drone plane, which they have named the Bella Ciela. They take part-time jobs at a factory, where their boss helps them scrounge for spare parts to rebuild the drone plane. The boys promise Sayuri that after the plane is rebuilt, they will take her to visit the mysterious tower on Hokkaido. However, before this happens, Sayuri mysteriously disappears.
It's three years later, and the boys have stopped working on the plane. One of them is now a student in Tokyo, while the other is working as a physicist. Meanwhile, Sayuri has been hospitalized due to an extreme form of narcolepsy. It is believed her condition has something to do with the tower on Hokkaido. Both of the boys learn what has happened to Sayuri, but have very different ideas what needs to be done. They need to decide whether it's more important to save Sayuri or save the world.
The animation in the film is lush and very realistic-looking. And the music perfectly portrays what happens in the film. This is a very touch and moving coming-of-age story. I recommend this film to anyone who enjoys character-driven anime drama.
This review is not intended as the final word on this film -- but primarily just a quick note to say that reviews making comparisons with Miyazaki should not mislead you into thinking this film will be as well-appreciated or understood by children as Miyazaki's films. Obviously, there are several fans of anime who love this film, and I can see some of the reasons why. I got this film, though, mostly for my children who love everything they have seen from Studio Ghibli, and did so on the strength … more
I'm a freelance writer whoserves as the Anime editor at BellaOnline; I have also had work published at Associated Content. I also maintain two blogs: AeschTunes and Lesley's Musings... on Manga. … more
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Makoto Shinkai made an impressive debut as a writer-director inVoices of a Distant Star(OVA, 2002);The Place Promised in Our Early Days(OVA, 2004) is his first studio work. In this alternate world, Japan was divided after World War II: Hokkaido, renamed "Ezo," belongs to "the Union;" the rest of archipelago is an American dependency. Ezo is dominated by the Union Tower, a seemingly topless needle. Middle school students Hiroki and Takuya dream of visiting the Tower, and start building an airplane. They're joined by Sayuri, who nurtures a crush on Hiroki. As the characters move into high school, Sayuri falls into a coma. Hiroki and Takuya learn that her dreams are linked to the Tower and to experiments in contacting parallel universes. Shinkai fills the screen with sun-drenched landscapes that recall the films of Hayao Miyazaki, but the story rambles and falters. Although his understated style is often effective, Shinkai needs to learn to pace a longer work. The narrative often feels choppy, and the ending weak. Serious anime fans will want to watch the progress of this talented young director. (Unrated, suitable for ages 13 and older: alcohol and tobacco use, minor violence)--Charles Solomon