Anime Film Review: The Place Promised in Our Early Days

The Place Promised in Our Early Days is a character-driven drama anime film, and it was directed by Makoto Shinkai. The film was released to Japanese theaters on November 20, 2004, and it won several awards: Special Distinction (Feature Film Category) at the 2005 Seoul Comics and Animation Festival, Silver Prize on Best Animated Film Section (by audience choice) of Public Prize at the Canada Fantasia Film Festival, Award for Art in Seiun Award at the 44th Japanese SF Convention, Best Animated Film at the 2004 Mainichi Film Awards, and Award for Expression Technique (for Trailer #1) at the 2003 Tokyo International Anime Fair.

The Place Promised in Our Early Days
Directed by: Makoto Shinkai
Written by: Makoto Shinkai
Starring: Hidetaka Yoshioka, Masato Hagiwara, and Yuka Nanri
Run Time: 90 minutes
Rated: PG

The Place Promised in Our Early Days is set in Japan during the late 1990s, but it is an alternate timeline; however, it’s never explicitly said in the film where exactly the timeline of our world and the movie diverges. Some of information given during the film seems to indicate that the divergence takes place at some point after World War II.

In the film’s timeline, Japan underwent a separation in 1974; the southern part of the county was occupied by the United States, while the northern island Ezo is occupied by the “Union.” That same year, construction began on a large tower on Ezo. The film is set in the year 1996; at this point, the United States has ended its occupation of southern Japan, and the two countries have formed a pact called “the Alliance.” The Union retains control of Ezo, and contact between the two regions is suspended.

The film focuses on three ninth grade students living in Aomori, which is located on the northern end of Japan: Hiroki Fujisawa, Takuya Shirakawa, and Sayuri Sawatari. All three of them are fascinated by the tower on Ezo, which is visible to them across the Tsugaru Strait. The two boys find the remains of a Maritime Self-Defense force drone plane, which they have christened the Bella Ciela; they take jobs at the Emishi Manufacturing factory, where they scrounge for parts to rebuild the plane. Sayuri learns about the boys working on the plane, and the three agree to fly to Ezo together one day to see the tower. Unfortunately, Sayuri mysteriously disappears over the summer.

Three years pass, and Hiroki and Takuya have stopped working on the plane and have gone their separate ways. Takuya works as a physicist at an Alliance scientific facility while still in high school. Hiroki, on the other hand, now lives in Tokyo and attends high school; he’s also frequently haunted by dreams of Sayuri.

Sayuri has been in the hospital for those three years, due to an extreme form of narcolepsy. She’s been asleep all of this time, and her mind is trapped in an unpopulated parallel universe. Somehow, she is connected to the Union’s research into parallel universes and the secrets of the Ezo tower. When Hiroki and Takuya learn what’s happened to Sayuri, they have different ideas of what needs to be done. They have to decide whether it’s more important to save Sayuri or to save the world.

When I watched The Place Promised in Our Early Days, I thought the animation was lush and very realistic-looking. The music that was composed for the film works extremely well with the visuals, and it evokes the mood being portrayed in the film. Admittedly, the story can take a little bit to get going; however, once the story finds its stride, you become fascinated by what’s happening and want to know what’s going to happen next. The story, animation, and music all come together to make The Place Promised in Our Early Days a very touching and moving coming-of-age story. I would highly recommend this film to viewers who appreciate character-driven anime drama.

When ADV Films released The Place Promised in Our Early Days on DVD, they included interviews with Makoto Shinkai and the Japanese voice actors for Hiroki, Takuya, and Sayuri. Each interview is done separately, so there are four interviews total on the disc. These interviews, which are in Japanese with English subtitles, run anywhere between nine and thirteen minutes in length. During the interviews, the characters and the film itself are discussed.

Three Japanese trailers for The Place Promised in Our Early Days included: a special preview trailer, the full length trailer, and a web trailer. These trailers run anywhere from a minute-and-a-half to three-and-a-half minutes in length. Also included as bonus features are DVD credits and previews of other properties that ADV was promoting at the time this DVD was released.

ADV’s release for The Place Promised in Our Early Days is pretty decent for an anime DVD release. In addition to the film, you have some nice behind-the-scenes bonus features, as well as copies of the Japanese trailers. If you’re a fan of Makoto Shinkai’s work, or if you enjoy anime films with a lot of drama, then I would recommend checking out The Place Promised in Our Early Days and adding this DVD to your home video collection.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of The Place Promised in Our Early Days that I purchased.

Additional reviews of Makoto Shinkai’s work:

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