The Place Promised in Our Early Days plays a lot like what Voices of a Distant Star could have been had it been a full length film as opposed to a 23 minute short. Set in an alternate world where Japan has been split in two after the Second World War, the US controls the southern end, while a mysterious government known as the Union controls the north. Located in the north is the mystical Union Tower, an enormous structure jutting into the sky like a beam of light, a symbol of love and hate for those who gaze upon its magnificent height. This is the coming of age story of three middle school children Hiroki, Takuya, and Sayuri, who grew up their whole lives dreaming of visiting the tower and spent their time building an airplane in order to do just that.
The first thirty minutes of this film are very stunning, both visually and emotionally. It plays out almost exactly like Voices of a Distant Star does, with stunning animation, peaceful and touching music and the characters relationships with each other being the focus of the film. although the story itself doesn't stand up to scrawny and seems as if it were hacked together without much thought put into it, the combination of the visuals and the musical score are very moving. Few animes have actually wowed me with their animation, Spirited Away was one such movie; this took the cake. This movie has the most stunning animation I have ever seen in an animated film, bar none. its hard to explain with words just what I mean, the sun setting behind the glow of the Union Tower, far off streaks of light shining off an airplane, a small white dove flying in a cool breeze as trees sway around it, its all done with such dedication and detail that it left me speechless. Combined with one of the best soundtracks ever composed for a feature film and this movie have the power to bring people to tears on its sheer beauty alone. Could this be the new Miyazaki? I said no in my Voices of a Distant Star review, but if this is what this new director is capable of then he may be.
Unfortunately, this movies story is very hacked up, as if during many points of this film the director intended to end it and just decided to add more later. This movie has more endings then The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King (Widescreen Edition). While I love the ending this movie had, the rest of the film didn't flow the way a feature length film should, it didn't transfer smoothly from one scene to the next; instead it simply ended a scene with a black screen, and started up somewhere else completely without setting up the next shot. This caused the story to feel clumsy, as if the director didn't know where he wanted to go or what he wanted to do once he got there. The middle part of this movie just sort of plods along without any real sense of direction. It's like he wanted to make a short film, like Voices of a Distant Star, but decided to stretch it out as far as he could. The movie really could have been half and hour, or more, shorter then it was. Not to say that most of it is filler, but if he managed to fit a story the size and scope of Voices into 23 minutes, then I'm sure he could have fit this movie into 40. Also, a lot of the movie is never really explained. What is the Union Tower exactly? What is the Union? Why is there such a desire for the two nations to go to war? All these questions are left unanswered at the end of the film. It is only when this film focuses mainly on the story instead of on creating beautiful images and developing its characters that it gets dull. there really isn't much story to hold this movie together during its slower and less grand moments, which becomes a problem 3/4ths of the way though when the story takes front stage in all its hacked up glory. Fortunately, the director seems to know this and keeps the story in the background as much as possibly, only bringing it into focus when he needs to get the characters from point A to point B.
What saves this movie from being nothing more then a good looking and sounding mess (Akira (Special Edition))was the relationships between the characters involved. Much like in Voices, this story is a romance of sorts but doesn't fall into the "chick flick" category. It's about the love three friends have for each other, and the length they were willing to go for each other in order to fulfill a promise they made while still little kids. It's very interesting to watch how each slowly fell into depression and felt like their lives were losing meaning when they weren't with each other. When one of themes disappears, they lose their dreams, ambitions, and slowly drift apart. Like any good piece of fiction, the characters are what make this movie so touching.
If you enjoyed Voices of a Distant Star, then you will enjoy The Place Promised in Our Early Days. Its visuals, characters, and soundtrack make this movies a must see for sure, but its hacked up story prevents it from being a truly great film. If this director can learn how to write a story that can match up with his amazing animation, then watch out world, anime might very well have a new director to take the place of the great Miyazaki when he finally retires. I look forward to seeing more movies by this upcoming guineas.
Re-watch value; high.
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About the reviewer
Jonathan J.D. Lane (A1CJonathanLane)
I am a member of the US Air Force and presently serve overseas at RAF Mildenhall about three hours north of London. I grew up in Pappilion Nebraska and Crestview Florida, but since joining the Air Force … more
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