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The Place Promised in Our Early Days – Review June 4, 2009

Posted by Cello in Anime Reviews.

The Place Promised in Our Early Days

In an alternate timeline, Japan was divided after World War II, with the northernmost island of Hokkaido being annexed. Toward the end of the 20th century, a giant tower was constructed on the northern island, and while its purpose remains a mystery, tensions between North and South grow. Middle school friends Hiroki and Takuya share two common interests: a girl named Sayuri and a plan to build a plane to fly to the mysterious tower they can see across the straits in Hokkaido. Both pledge to fly there with Sayuri one day, but time and circumstances separate the trio before the plane can be finished. Years later, with war looming on the horizon, their paths cross again as the two boys learn that Sayuri has been asleep for years and cannot wake. Somehow her condition is connected to the mysterious tower and interaction with parallel universes, but in her dreams Sayuri awaits for an old promise to be fulfilled—and holds the key to the world’s salvation.

Even though Shinkai Makoto had an entire production team to help him create The Place Promised in Our Early Days, he was involved in almost every aspect of production. Due to this, The Place Promised in Our Early Days still has the same independent feel as 5 Centimeters Per Second despite its production. Perhaps the highest praise of all came when people began referring to Shinkai as “the next Miyazaki”.  A tight, focused work of art, it will not be to every viewer’s taste, but it is difficult to find fault with as a visual and emotional feast.

The Place Promised in Our Early Days2

Unfortunately, I think so much attention was placed on nuance and subtlety that the film stumbles a bit in its final act. When it comes to the answering some of the question that are naturally raised by the plot, Shinkai remains withdrawn. The disrepair of the tools of everyday life is also something of a more subtle ongoing theme. Intentional or not, it evokes the quiet-life nostalgia of lived-in places.

The Place Promised in Our Early Days is a wonderful anime about following your dreams. The ups and downs of the characters following their dreams while sometimes losing sight of who they really are is easy to relate to. This time around he mostly avoids the use of action scenes, keeping the story pure to its characters and crafting a gently-flowing, unadulterated drama which alternates back and forth between present day and three years past. It reaffirms Makoto Shinkai’s status as one of Japan’s most gifted and promising young animators and rates as a worthy view for any anime fan who can appreciate gentle dramatic stories.


1. clementgx - June 4, 2009

hmm… i feel that makoto shinkai should maybe…. just MAYBE, work on a new theme other than separation and reunification. i mean, there are different themes introduced in Hoshi no Koe, Place Promised, and Byousoku 5cm. for example, Place Promised introduces the theme of dreams. but the dominant theme was still separation and reunification.

i am not exactly complaining though. i do enjoy watching all 3 of those movies. i do know that he is trying to relate this theme with his own life because he was trying to express the feelings exchanged between him and his wife during his long hours of work, separated from his wife.. but it’s just that, makoto shinkai has been sticking to this same main theme for 3 movies consecutively, so i thought maybe it’s time to do something different.

this is just my opinion though. i’m sure other people have different opinions than me =)

Cello - June 4, 2009

I agree, this may be why i’m a bit hesistant to review the other movie you mentioned, which I think translates to ‘voices’. This might be my last stop in Makoto’s world for a bit.

Again, thanks for the insight, i knew there was a reason he was going in this direction but i had no idea it was related to his personal relationship with his wife. Great info.

2. Heather - June 6, 2009

The animation in this looks amazing. I love the way it can convey emotion and theme through colors and symbols. It is the greatest aspect of animation in my thoughts.

It sounds like it was a really great movie that built up and let down. That can almost be more frustrating than a movie that is awful throughout. I hate when you can feel greatness lingering below and it never delivers. Nonetheless this still sounds and LOOKS like one worth watching.

3. Leonia - October 29, 2009

This animation was a surprise for me. I love the chara-design, and character.

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