The home of Critic, Writer and Film-maker: Liam Walters

Review: The Place Promised in Our Early Days

[ Review Written By: Liam Walters ]

[Originally posted: July 11th 2010]

8.8 / 10

[Minor Spoilers]


‘Kumo no Muko, Yakusoku no Basho’, translated to ‘Beyond the Clouds, the Promised Place’, or known in the English dub as ‘The Place Promised in Our Early Days’ is the first full length film made by anime director Makoto Shinkai.
This was the first time Shinkai worked with a full team of staff, since on earlier projects he worked on his own. With a plot involving terrorist bombings, towers, dreams of the universe and a plane made by two young teenage boys, it is certainly unique in its story.
So with that, lets dive into the thick of it, as we search for the promised place.

Synopsis (Taken from IMDB):

“The story takes place in a alternate postwar period, in 1996, where Japan is divided. Hokkaido is ruled by the “Union” while Honshu and other southern islands are under US authority. A tall tower was built on Hokkaido, which could even be seen from Tokyo. In the summer of 1996, three middle-school students make a promise that they’ll cross the border with a self-constructed plane and unravel the tower’s secret, but their project was abandoned after the girl, Sayuri Sawatari, became mysteriously ill and transferred to Tokyo.”


The Promised Place has quite a few note worthy characters.

There are our three main characters Hiroki Fujisawa, Takuya Shirakawa, and Sayuri Sawatari.
Hiroki is our main protagonist, and also occasionally features as our narrator. He tends to be our playful hero with a big heart, although over time he becomes deeper and more serious.

Takuya is the geek of the duo. Sporting a pair of glasses and being the more obviously smarter one, he also tends to be the more serious one. It also seems as though the generally considered the more attractive one, as an opening scene shows us a young girl confessing her love for him, who he ultimately rejects.

Sayuri is our female protagonist. Being friends with both Hiroki and Takuya. They both end of developing feelings for her. She always has premonitions about losing something important. After spending the summer with Hiroki and Takuya, she suddenly disappears from their lives.

Mr. Okabe play the rough and tough employer of Hiroki and Takuya at the Emishi Manufacturing Factory. He holds secrets from both Hiroki and Takuya, and knows more than he lets on, although it is shown that he cares for them both.

Maki Kasahara is the co-worker of Takuya when he goes to work at the Alliance Scientific Facility during his high school years. She does research of the parallel worlds, or ‘the dreams of the universe’. It is shown she has deep feelings for Takuya.


The soundtrack used in The Promised Place is quite simply, beautiful and amazing. Like with Shinkai’s other projects, the music was composed by Tenmon. With a mix between light tracks and heavier tracks, to suit the mood of the moment, it fits perfectly with what we see on the screen. Although you wont find yourself humming these tunes when you go around to the shops, you will find yourself going back and wanting to listen to them again, as I have done many times to draw great inspiration from the melody.


The dub is, actually, really well put together. I have watched both, the Japanese version, and the English version, and there have not been any major changes within the scripts. I believe that there may be a few minor changes, but nothing that would really change the story or how we perceive it.
The voice actors for the characters were well chosen as well, with a lot of the English voices sounding similar to their Japanese counterparts, as well as sounding like the characters themselves look as they should, with slight changes in their voice as we see the characters grow older.
This is one of the many few animes that I actually prefer to watch in the English adaptation.


The artwork in The Promised Place is as with all Shinkai projects, just simply amazing. The characters themselves are typical anime characters, but the real beauty of the artwork is in the settings and backgrounds. There is so much detail and beauty placed within the artwork, that it helps to create the atmosphere of the whole film.

As with Shinkai, we do see some running things, which I will once again pick up when I get around to doing other Shinkai works. The two main notable running themes, are snow, as we see it at the climax of the film, helping to set the cold atmosphere of the impending war.
The other notable theme is sunsets, which may signify that a certain end is coming, such as the when the group watch the sun setting on that summer day, just before Sayuri falls Ill. In fact, that sunset scene is so well done, I currently have it as my desktop background.

[Major Spoilers]

The Whole Story:

“I always have a premonition of losing something, that’s what she told me.”

We see young man as he starts narrating. This, ladies and gentlemen, is our main protagonist, Hiroki Fujisawa albeit an older version of himself. I think this is to set it up as him being the one who is narrating the story as we go through it.
We are then in a classroom, as we see a girl with long brown hair stand up, and start reading off a book. This is Sayuri Sawatari, our main female protagonist of the film.
Next up we see Hiroki’s best friend, Takuya Shirakawa.
Takuya is obviously the geek of the two friends, as he is the one wearing the glasses. Now don’t get me wrong, not everyone who wears glasses is a geek, but in this case, they are.
What’s weird is Takuya seems to be very good at sports as well, as we see him skate around an ice path, passing the other contestants.
3 girls meet up with Takuya afterwards, where one of them confesses her love for him, but he rejects her.

We see Hiroki practising archery, something, like with Takuya’s skating, that is something that is never once again mentioned in the film. Maybe they just decided that school activities are dumb and gave up.
Anyway, Hiroki sees Sayuri waiting at the train station, as it turns out she was practising violin. Gee, I wonder if that will come up again.

Now do a lot of Japanese students take a train to their school? Maybe its just me, but surely there are closer schools they could be going to. I don’t know, maybe the north/south division left them with very little schools.

So Hiroki talks with Sayuri about how he and Takuya have a job. She is impressed, saying all she has is her club activities. Now, can anyone guess what their job is… BUILDING MISSILES!
I mean, I know that a war could happen at any time. But seriously. They’re like what, 15, and they’re making missiles for the military to use.

Anyway, we find out the reason why they wanted that job is so that they could build an aeroplane… That’s right. Two 15 year old’s are going to build and aeroplane… Well, if they can make missiles, then why the hell not. Where are they going? To the mysterious tower that overlooks them.

We then move on to see Sayuri dreaming. She is running through an empty place. This will have more significance later on.
Anyway, Sayuri and Takuya happen to run into each other at a book store. Takuya is buying a psychics book, because apparently he is a stereotype. We find out that Sayuri’s grandfather was a physicist, although she has never met him because of the North/South divide.
As the talk goes on to Takuya and Hiroki’s job, Takuya ends up letting his libido get the better of him, and invites her to come along.

After they visit the factory, they take Sayuri to go see the Aeroplane they have been building. She is quite obviously impressed. We skip to later in the day, as Sayuri asks to two boys where they are going to fly to. Hiroki tells her they are flying the tower, even though he and Takuya both decided not to tell her, just earlier that day.

They invite her along, and she happily accepts the invitation to go flying on an aeroplane that two 15 year olds built. There and then they make a promise, that they will fly with her to the tower. This is where we are interrupted by the voice over.

Not much in the way of plot happens for a while now. They have apparently found a jet engine, as you do, to use with the plane, and so go to Okabe, their employer, to buy some jet fuel. They go to Sayuri, asking her to play something on the violin for them.
We then move on a few days, as they are working on the plane, trying to find a way to get around the radar systems as Sayuri reads a book outside.

She goes off on her own, going into an large empty shed that sits before a small lake. She sits on the open edge, looking at the tower. It suddenly goes black and white as the tower explodes, causing shock waves to collapse the part she is sitting on. This seems to be part of her dream. She grabs a hold with one hand and is left hanging there, as Hiroki’s spider sense tingles and runs off to save her. He grabs her just in time, but in true comedy fashion, they both end up falling in.
More hijinks happen when Hiroki pulls Takuya into the lake as well.
Sayuri then goes on to explain her dream to them.

The voice over comes in again, and says that he hasn’t seen Sayuri for 3 years since that day.
We skip ahead 3 years as we are I’m some kind of government building.
Who just happens to be working there but Takuya. Now in high school, he is apparently smart enough to be working for the government. It is about here as we get away from the silliness, and get more into the serious business.

Anyway, they are trying to connect and replace the parallel worlds. They manage to do this, but only replace several inches of the parallel world. We then meet our second notable female character, Maki. Maki and the boss start to talk about how they have found ‘The Key’ in Tokyo.

General chit chat happens between Maki and Takuya, we see that Maki seems to have feelings for Takuya, though Takuya seems to be obvious, though does she he ‘Thinks she’s kind of pretty though’. We then see Maki and Takuya go visit Okabe, as Maki explains her job. She looks into the dreams of the universe.
The parallel worlds are supposedly the worlds dreams. And these parallel worlds affect the dreams of living beings on earth, leading to premonitions… Right… So your telling me my dreams are affected by the dreams of the universe which change depending on the choices we make?

Sure, that makes a ton of sense.

Anyway, we learn that Okabe is going to Tokyo tomorrow as well… That seems quite a funny coincidence. And they just keep coming. It turns out, Sayuri is the key, and that she has been sleeping for 3 years, and is having a dream. Wow, If I stay in bed too long I start to get aches, but sleeping for 3 years, that must make one hell of ache. Anyway, it seems before Sayuri fell ill, she wrote a goodbye letter to Takuya and Hiroki, addressed to Okabe.

So it seems that the the boss, Takuya’s boss, whose called Professor Tomizawa, is holding some kind of power point show. Okabe comes to visit, keeping in the back and watching the presentation. It turns out these two know each other from youth, as they talk about old times. It seems that Okabe was the one who told Tomizawa about Takuya, and so that’s the reason why he ended up getting the job… I guess it does help to have contacts. It also looks like Okabe and Tomizawa may have made a aeroplane when they were younger.

Okabe then asks about what type of bombs to use against the tower. This is where the terrorism plot begins. This is quite interesting, as you don’t get many romances that’s mixed with terrorism.
So, guess who else is in Tokyo. Well, he’s been absent for the last 15 minutes or so. Yes, its our protagonist, dreaming about Sayuri doing the voice over for a change. I guess he got bored of the job. But yes, Hiroki moves to Tokyo for high school, after what happened to Sayuri… And my god, has he become emo. All he talks about is how bad he feels and how alone hes been for these past 3 years.

We find out that they never flew the Bella Ciela (the aeroplane), as they were too upset over Sayuri. Hiroki chose Tokyo as he thought he wouldn’t see the towel, unfortunately, when the air was clear enough, he still could. And on those days, he would be even more emo about it.
We also see that in the memory of Sayuri, he has taken up learning the violin.

We go back to Okabe, who is holding a secret meeting about the terrorist attacks. Their plan is found out about and the forces come after them, and shit starts going down, with Takuya ends up getting shot through the arm as they try to make their escape.

We cut back to Hiroki, who has received a letter. The one that Sayuri wrote when she was in hospital. The Sayuri in the dream world starts running, then stops in horror as she see herself in the hospital bed.
Hiroki goes to the hospital, and the dream Sayuri sees him. He can sense her spirit in the room, and as they go to touch, they are magically transported to the field near their plane, as they once again promise that they’ll go together to that tower.

Takuya finds out that Sayuri is in his building, and goes to visit her. After visiting the terrorist meeting, He then gets a phone call off an old friend who happens to be in town. Its Hiroki of course.
The two catch up on old times, and talk about dreams, terrorist plots and Sayuri. As Hiroki explains his plan, Takuya gets all ghetto, pulling out a gun. My, how people change in 3 years. Anyway, Hiroki and Takuya have a little fight and go their own way.

Hiroki goes to visit Okabe the next day, who puts a gun to Hiroki’s head also. It seems like people who plan terrorist attacks are serious… Well. He would be, if he didn’t give the job of blowing the tower up to Hiroki… I’m not even surprised by stuff like this at this point.

Takuya also has a talk with Maki, eventually turning to the side of Hiroki. He tells Maki that he would like to see more of her when this is over. He then goes to Sayuri, who is naked and only covered in a sheet. And takes her. He places her in the car, and she is now fully clothed. So I can only guess he went and found some appropriately sized clothes, and had some fun playing dress up with a girl in a coma.

So lets wind this down.
Hiroki and Takuya make friends. They finish the plane. Hiroki plays the violin for Takuya. With Takuya’s bad arm, and the plane only having two seats, Hiroki and Sayuri go in the plane and leave Takuya behind. They get to the tower. Sayuri wakes up, but forgets the feelings she developed for Hiroki. And then they fly off and shoot a missile, destroying the tower in flames, before there’s one last voice over of Hiroki, and then the credits roll.

Just one more thing… What about when they’re older. Its implied that Hiroki and Sayuri start going out, but what then. I mean, this is one hell of a story to tell they’re kids.
“Daddy, how did you and mommy start going out”
“Well son, mommy fell into a coma for three years, so to wake her up I went and did a terrorist bombing on a tower, killing many innocent lives.”


So as much as I made fun of it, I actually really love this. Sure the story can be quite unbelievable, but its anime, its suppose to be unbelievable. Hell, I only took the in-depth look for the comedic factors. This is an amazing film still, and I would recommend it to any anime fan. I do believe it is the weakest of Makoto Shinkai’s work, but I have seen a lot worse in my time, and I still like to watch this time and again.
This also is quite special, as not only is this my first review on this site, but it was also my first and only review on another site, although this is much more in-depth.

In the end, its a great piece of work with well developed characters with an amazing soundtrack and beautiful artwork.

Plot: 7 / 10
Characters: 9 / 10
Soundtrack: 9 / 10
Dub: 10 / 10
Artwork: 9 / 10
Final Score: 8.8 / 10


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