Japanese Title: Kumo no Mukou, Yakusoku no Basho
Similar: 5 Centimetres Per Second (same creator)
Voices of a Distant Star (same creator)
Watched in: Japanese
Length: 1 hr. 30 min. movie
- Great use of lighting and pleasant music.
- Vague lore.
- Lacks foundations.
- Meandering script.
The Place Promised in Our Early Days feels like director Makoto Shinkai’s second attempt at Voices of a Distant Star now that he had access to a bigger budget. Early Days takes Distant Star’s core of two young lovers separated by a grand conflict, each event pulling them further and further apart as they work to reunite, all wrapped in a sci-fi world. Where Early Days differs is in the first two acts; rather than leap straight into the separation, we have the opportunity to meet these characters before life clubs them across the jaw.
The first act already makes Early Days better than Distant Star, for the latter presented us with little to work with in regards to character. They live in a world where Japan was divided in two after WW2 – the Soviets annexed the north while the US kept the southern islands. To the north stands a mysterious tower visible from the south, where our protagonists reside. These three high-school students acquire an old aircraft and promise to reach the tower and unravel its mystery. However, the girl falls into a coma, putting a halt to the project. During the first act, before the coma, all seems normal, these three friends optimistic at life’s prospects, fun times abound without a conflict in sight. We buy into their friendship.
That is a good foundation, but where the characters have time to establish themselves in our minds, the lore does not. Just as in Distant Star, the science fiction elements enter too late in the plot, raising only questions rather than solutions. The third act is most egregious with several new elements thrown at us without explanation. “What…? What is that supposed to do, supposed to add?” I kept asking myself. The lore does little to elucidate the science fiction side. At this level, I feel it would have been better to remove the higher concept science fiction, instead focusing on a grounded finale where the characters and emotion can shine.
The Place Promised in Our Early Days comes across as a halfway point between Voices of a Distant Star (sci-fi separation) and 5cm per Second (growing up and facing reality) – melancholic inner monologues included – another draft in the Shinkai’s learning process to become a great director later in life.
Art – High
The Place Promised in Our Early Days has good animation and environments, but the characters still show the roughness found in Voices of a Distant Star. Not until 5cm per Second would Shinkai’s works reach the top tier.
Sound – Medium
The actors do a fine job, but the script is a little dull. Nice music.
Story – Medium
A trio of friends wish to reach a mysterious tower in Japan’s north controlled by the Soviet Union. An unusual concept that lacks the foundations for proper execution – too much is left unanswered or vague. High concept, medium execution.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: For fans of Voices of a Distant Star – if you didn’t like that, you won’t enjoy this. The Place Promised in Our Early Days lacks the engagement for easy recommendation.
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