The Place Promised in Our Early Days
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Makoto Shinkai made an impressive debut as a writer-director in Voices 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
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As much as I enjoyed Voices of A Distant Star (Hoshi no Koe), I found it too short. His animation style, the colors, the computer effects were all amazing...and even more so that he did the whole thing by himself.
Then he comes up with this masterpiece. Voices had an okay plot, but wasn't too terribly developed or interesting. This one is spectacular. It everything that Voices should have been...full length, proffessional looking, same beautiful use of computers to enhance colors, Shinkai's little trick of using real places in Japan to draw out buildings...it just blew me away.
Any anime fan looking for something fresh and beautiful should check this out, it is well worth the small amount of cash it will cost you. And if you are fortunate enough to live in one of the cities where its being shown in the theaters, I highly encourage you to see it there on the big screen.
The story is about three children and their quest to greater know the world they live in. This alternate universe takes place after WWII, except here the island of Honshu (the main island of Japan) and all southern islands came under US occupation, and the northern most island Hokaido came under control of the mysterious "Union", who in 1974 erected an enourmous tower for an unknown purpose. The two boys, and the one girl they both loved, Sayuri, promised each other that some day they would fly to that tower in the plane they built.
But then Sayuri falls into a mysterious coma, and the promise is delayed... I won't spoil the story, but needless to say its quite terrific and the ending quite satisfying.
Enjoy this one for yourself, trust me when I say its worth every penny.
Every single frame of this piece looks as though it could be framed on the wall as art. It looks amazing. The attention to detail is astonishing.
But Promise is not just eye-candy. There is a story, told in subdued tones, and supported by a rich, lovely score.
A complex blend of romance, drama, and science-fiction, the narration on both the Japanese and English tracks is perfect.
This is a film that will change anime the same way that Akira did, but for vastly different reasons.
As the story unfolds we learn that the tower links dimensions and is somehow threatening to destroy the world as we know it. Erupting warfare also occurs but all this is handled like a background story - for the main characters are still intent upon reaching their "promised land" (the land essentially surrounding the tower, encompassing the tower as well).
The bulk of the story takes place after the children have grown up and mysteriously the female character that one of the main male characters was attracted to in his youth suddenly falls into a coma. Without giving any more away, this story is about reaching her in much the same way Voices of a Distant Star was about the communication between two young loves across a war and worlds.
Thematic elements are similar between Voices of a Distant Star and The Place Promised in Our Early Days. Both movies feature innocent love, the battle of love lost, and a supportive art style which contributes to Shinkai's film's emotionally engaging story.
Shinkai does it again this time out-doing himself with amazing animation, soundtrack, and excellent captivating and emotional storyline. Between Voices of a Distant Star and The Place Promised in Our Early Days, Makoto Shinkai proves himself as one of the greatest Japanese animators. Extras show his transition from working solo to working with a whole team... his transition also marks a transition in his work from simply amazing to downright unparalleled.
In my opinion the plot was not all that confusing, what was slightly confusing was the order in which the older versions of the young characters appeared in the story. When the progression in time was made I mistook various characters for what I thought was their older counterparts, this was a mistake on my part but one which I think would be common since the real main male character (Hiroki), as an adult, was introduced much later than I expected.
There was one review in which the reviewer stated how the subtitles in the American DVD version of the film were off, this is incorrect... there are no flaws on the DVD whatsoever, and simply to make sure I triple checked the subtitles on the copy of the DVD which I own (a simple task for me), not a single error. Either the reviewer was not referring to this edition of the DVD or a later revision of the DVD was released after his review was posted.
This is a great film I think all fans of anime would benefit from seeing (and enjoy quite a bit), I highly doubt there is any difference like some reviewers suggest in a Japanese audiences opinion compared to the American audiences opinion - love, innocent love is innocent love - I think that the intelligent viewer and anime enthusiast will enjoy this film just as much as I have.
Remarkable work of art!
The problem with philosophical movies is that one person's "Oh my, wasn't that deep and mysterious" moment is another person's "Good grief, this is boring, tedious, and inane", and sometimes there's just no rhyme or reason to it besides differences in character, history, and experiences between the two people. And then the person who didn't like the film goes on Amazon and explains why they didn't like it in order to aid people in their purchasing decisions, and inevitably comes off looking like a jerk for 'hating' on someone's favorite movie.
And yet, here we are. I wanted to like "Place Promised", I really did. Firstly, and while this shouldn't *matter*, it's still very impressive, the movie is absolutely gorgeous. Seriously, this is some of the prettiest anime I've ever seen - there's a scene where a ladybug alights on a girl's hand, and it's so lovely I just want to cry. And, really, I *love* the plot premise - the horror of being totally alone in an alternate reality that you can't wake from is exactly the kind of plot premise that messes deeply with your mind for weeks on end. As well as the dual persona of the two boys - do they save their friend and risk the world, or do they sacrifice an innocent for mankind?
So why two stars? Honestly, despite all this I just didn't enjoy the movie. The characters are so bland and badly characterized that I couldn't get into it and just ended up being frustrated. The boys in particular stand out for me - their characters are so poorly fleshed out, and so superficially similar, that I actually thought a Big Reveal was going to be that they were both two personalities for the same person, a la Fight Club, but no - it just turned out that they were poorly characterized and I wasn't supposed to notice.
The horror angle, also, which seemed so promising, was badly botched for me by the handling and execution. I don't demand complete realism in movies, but it would be nice to have SOME kind of Applied Phlebotinum to explain why all this is happening, outside of a bland, "Well, her grandfather worked on the tower...", explanation that explains nothing. Not to mention that the horror fell kind of flat when the researchers discovered so quickly and blandly what was going on - it's hard to feel that she's isolated and alone when everyone in the outside world knows her situation (even if that distinction doesn't make a difference to her).
Indeed, so MUCH of this movie just seems to be a "Simon says" of narrative acceptance. The populace at large regard the tower to be little more than an uncomfortable reminder of war or a lovely piece of scenery, which is so inhumanly bovine as to hurl you out of the movie on a catapult. I mean, imagine if we had a brutal war with Mexico or Cuba and then afterward they built a tower that stretched as far as the eye could see and could, oh I-don't-know, be used to stage long-range attacks against us at any point in time. I'm pretty sure the population's overall feeling towards it wouldn't be 'oooh, it's so shiny today!'. That's not even getting into the whole parallel universe thing - why would you want to overlap our world with a parallel universe? What's the goal? The point? Why is the government funding this operation? How did the tower sync up with our poor, beleaguered girl? We don't get answers to these things and while some people are going to find the lack of answers to be "deep" and "meaningful", it just rubbed me wrong in this particular case.
And, really, my intention is not to troll. If you loved this movie, good on you. But if you haven't seen this movie yet and are considering buying it at full price, take this review as a recommendation to rent first. That's all.
~ Ana Mardoll
To start off, "The Place Promised in Our Early Days" is not a science fiction film. Rather, it's a simple story with sci-fi elements. Yes, the parallel universes plot device sort of comes out of nowhere, feeling a bit tacked on to give validity to the events that happen later on, but it works in the end since it re-enforces what the movie is trying to say: The greatest promise friends can give, is the promise that they will never stop loving.
While the story is not without its flaws, the movie succeeds in the end. What most people don't get is that there is no real "enemy" here. You can't pinpoint and say "Ah ha! I see a bad guy." There isn't one. The real antagonist is the loss of innocence and what people have to do to reconnect to that simplicity that was once in our childhood. So when people say that there isn't any action in the film, I think that they aren't really looking at what the film is really trying to convey.
But the little action that is in here is still pretty to look at.
The animation here is top-notch and it harkens back to Shinkai's first work "Voices..." but on a much grander scale. Everything is bright and colorful without being saturated in hyper-vibrancy. It juxtaposes well with the intimacy that these characters have for each other.
The music just adds to this rich palette. The solo violin piece played through out the film creates this warmth that actually accentuates the colors of the film. It's hard to describe, but the piece adds its own color to the beautiful animation.
Overall, this movie made me realize that a story, as simple as this one, could resonate to anyone that is willing to see the bigger picture. Friendship, love and the dreams of childhood, transcend the difficulties and realities of life.