Plot Summary: In an alternate timeline, Japan was divided after losing World War II: Hokkaido was annexed by "Union" while Honshu and other southern islands were under US sovereignty. A gigantic yet mysterious tower was constructed at Hokkaido and could be seen clearly from Aomori (the northernmost prefecture of Honshu) across Tsugaru Strait. In the summer of 1996, three 9th-graders had made a promise that one day they'll build an aircraft and unravel the tower's mystery, but their project was abandoned after the girl, Sayuri Sawatari, began experiencing sleeping sickness and transferred to Tokyo for better treatment. Three years later, Hiroki Fujisawa accidentally found out that Sayuri had been in coma since then, and he asked Takuya Shirakawa to help him finding a way to revive her. What they don't know yet is that Sayuri's unconsciousness is somehow linked with secrets of the tower and the world. - from Anime News Network
To be honest, I felt completely underwhelmed watching this movie. I had put off watching it because I am always wary of post war anything, but since The Place Promised has always been so highly regarded I finally decided to give it a try.
The animation is beautiful, and realistic looking. Realistic enough that just watching the scenes that took place during Winter can make you feel chilled. The characters are expertly written and nicely fleshed out--just regular kids (at first) that get caught up in a not so regular chain of events. In my opinion however, they could have used a little more personality.
As for the story itself, the romance aspect was very good. Sweet, honest and very touching. The sci-fi aspect though left much to be desired that the movie almost seems unfinished. Just when things start to get moving concerning Sayuri's connection to the tower, and what seemed to be the intriguing political 'conspiracy' (of sorts) the movie is over. Sure, the romance is great, but I also wanted a better explanation of the parallel universes, how they were discovered, what they were like, why 'the powers that be were doing what they were doing, etc, etc.
Other reviewers cautioned about the slow pacing, but I would like to add that the mood throughout the entire movie is somber, almost depressing. It's so tragic all around that I don't recall any "smile worthy" moments to lighten the mood at any point.
Really, I'm not sure what else to say. I did watch The Place Promised fairly late at night and was kinda tired, so maybe a lot of the story was lost on me due to that fact, I don't know. Looking back though, I really felt rather disappointed afterwards. It is a good movie that's definitely worth renting, but it could have been so much better too.
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The Place Promised in Our Early Days (雲のむこう、約束の場所, Kumo no Mukō, Yakusoku no Basho?, lit. "Beyond the Clouds, the Promised Place") is a 90-minute Japanese anime film created and directed by Makoto Shinkai, following his previous work Voices of a Distant Star. As in the previous film, the soundtrack was composed by Tenmon. Unlike the previous film which was largely created by Makoto on his own, Kumo no Mukou was a full scale production as reflected by the better animation quality and the longer overall length. It has been broadcast across Japan by the anime satellite television network Animax.
The film was licensed for North American release by ADV Films.