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

The Review Written in My Early Days


Written By: Liam Walters

So back when Cybaria was on a different web-host, I wrote a review for Makoto Shinkai’s feature length animated film ‘The Place Promised in Our Early Days’. This was, in fact, a re-review, as I had actually already reviewed the film once… This film, was, my first and second reviews, though with a quite large length of time inbetween the two. The first was written for a friends website. With this being the first review I had ever considered doing, it was, truthfully, not my best piece of writing, and considerably shorter.

So, on May 22, 2009, I wrote and posted the following review:

“Kumo no Muko, Yakusoku no Basho’, translated to ‘Beyond the Clouds, the Promised Place’ is the 2nd project from anime director Makoto Shinkai. Released in 2004, it is quite old, although I myself have only recently purchased the DVD. The reason why I chose this to do my first review on, was simply because Shinkai is a truly excellent anime director and writer, and this Film only helps to prove that theory correct.

This film…Its one of those films that is really simple, yet truly amazing. I watched it for the first time yesterday. I had high hopes for it as I have loved other pieces of anime by Shinkai. 
The story is like a poetic masterpiece brought to life with excellent and beautiful soundtracks. The scores go perfectly well, and although may not be rememberable, fit perfectly well in the time when you watch it. 
The 3 main characters are truly developed over this 90 minute masterpiece, giving you a pleasant warm feeling for the ending.
The English dub of the film, titled ‘The Place Promised in Our Early Days’ is, quite surprising, really good. Having watched the film first in Japanese, then in English, I was able to see that they had kept the script almost exactly the same, and the voice actors chosen did a truly marvellous job and their voices suited the character almost perfectly.

With stunning animation, beautiful music and a story to pull on your heart strings, I am more than willing to recommend this anime to any and all romantics, drama lovers and Fans on Shinkai’s other works, as it takes its place among not only my collection, but my favourites as well.”

The total word count for the review was 276 words, and I believe holds the title of my shortest review that I have posted.

So some time passes, and I eventually decide to give reviewing another shot… So what do I decide to review… Well, I figured that I could improve on the last review I posted, and so decided to review Promised Place again, but this time, for my own blog, currently named Cybaria.

As the review was nearly 2900 words long (possibly one of my longest reviews to date), I won’t post it here, but if you have a few hours spare then click [here] to read it. For now, here is the summary of the review:

“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, it’s a great piece of work with well developed characters with an amazing soundtrack and beautiful artwork.”

So yeah, just over a year later, I end up writing over 10x as much as I did originally. Even back then, I knew I was writing a lot, but it all seemed like it was worth it, even my terrible attempts at humorous reviewing (something which to this day, I still have not mastered, not given up trying).

So… For hopefully the last time (Unless I decide to make this a tradition, which after having made this my 3rd year of doing it, could very well work). I give to you:

The Place Promised in Our Early Days Review

Written By: Liam Walters

So if you did not already know, I am a massive fan of Makoto Shinkai’s work. I originally watched ‘Voices of a Distant Star’, but ‘The Promised Place’ (which I will be calling it for the rest of this review), was the first one I owned on DVD… And I can truly say, it is a fantastic movie, and definitely worthy to stand with ‘Voices’ and ‘5 Centimeters Per Second’, the pieces of work that came before and after ‘The Promised Place’ respectively.

Warning: From This Point Onwards, I Will Be Talking Spoilers. 

‘”I always have the feeling I’m losing something” she said’  We here this quote as the film opens into our main protagonists monologue, one of many that he will have throughout the film.  This has a noticeable difference to the others, as it is Hiroki when he is older, remincising back to the events which happen throughout the films, whilst all of the other monologues are either Hiroki during the events, or Sayuri during her dreams.

Throughout most of the story, we have 3 protagonists who stories we follow: Hiroki, Sayuri and Takuya. The start of the story, which are unofficially classed as ‘their early days’, follows Hiroki and Takuya as they attempt to build a aeroplane, so that they can reach a mysterious tower that lies in Hokkaido, but can be clearly seen , even as far away as Tokyo, on a clear day. Whilst the two boys are building this aeroplane, the two become closer friends with their classmate, Sayuri.

The story is set in another world, where post-war Japan was divided into North and South, with the North being controlled by the Union, who also have control over Hokkaido, and the south, controlled by the Alliance. When the story progresses on 3 years, we find out that one day, Sayuri mysteriously disappears, as the story then takes a focus on the separate lives of Hiroki, who now lives in Tokyo, and Takuya, who is now working with the Alliance at a scientific research base, looking into parallel worlds, and how they are connected with the union’s tower.

Taking a step back for a moment, you would be forgiven for scoffing at some of the plot elements involved with this story, the main one being that two teenage boys are able to build an aeroplane, and plan to fly it across to foreign territory. I mean… Do they’re parents know about they’re little plan? We never actually hear of Hiroki’s or Takuya’s  parents, and Sayuri’s parents are only mentioned in a throwaway line. I know it’s anime and it’s fiction so I shouldn’t really let it bother me too much, but there is a limit to what is and is not believable, which will be a point I will be returning to later on.

I also, at this moment, have to make a special mention of the music scores used in this anime. As with Shinkai’s other works, the music scores were entirely composed my Tenmon, who creates absolutely beautiful scores of background music, enhancing the scene and the overall experience of the film. I could never truly put into words how insperational the music is, how perfectly it fits the scenes and how it could dazzle you with the simplistic beauty of ‘Sayuri’s Melody’, or the bittersweet ending theme of ‘Kimi no Koe’.

Moving back on with the story, Hiroki soon gets delivered a letter, written by Sayuri a few years previous, as it explains that she woke up in a hospital in Tokyo, but since has been in a long sleep, unable to wake up. As Hiroki goes to investigate, finding out that Sayuri had been transferred about a week earlier. During the three years, Hiroki has been having dreams of Sayuri all alone in a world, which Sayuri then explains to Hiroki in the letter. When Hiroki enters the room that Sayuri was in, he makes a spiritual connection with her, where they once again make a pact to keep their promise, of flying to the tower, from their earlier days. (Ha… See what I did there?)

During this time, Takuya goes on many adventures too, such as becoming closer with a girl that he works with called Maki, as well as going on a little boat trip, which ends with him getting shot through the elbow. We see that during this time, Takuya has become aware that his old boss, Okabe, is actually the leader of a small rebel group, working with the alliance, that is ready to fight the union (is anyone else getting slight Star Wars flashbacks?).

After his spiritual encounter with Sayuri, Hiroki moves back home, deciding to continue working on the aeroplane that he and Takuya once built together. As War between the Alliance and The Union becomes more and more of a reality, a discovery is made, that Sayuri is connected to the tower, and so long as she sleeps, the tower won’t be activated. If, however, Sayuri does wake up, then the tower will activate, and swallow the earth into a parallel world. It is this which forces Takuya to pose the question: Save Sayuri, or save the world?

They choose save Sayuri, despite Takuya making you think he has chosen differently for about 5 minutes, before ultimately changing his mind and locking Maki in a room. It is also decided, that if Hiroki is so determined to fly to the tower, then he will be the one to launch the terrorist attack and blow it up… Oh yeah, I didn’t get to that small plot point yet did I?

Yes, time to take another step back, as the conclusion to this spiritual love story, is destroying a tower that many innocent people could be working at. I mean, I’m sure there are a few bad people in that tower, conducting experiments whilst risking the world, but I bet there’s an IT department in the basement which has some loveable characters, among many other innocent workers. It is right that because of a few bad people doing bad things, a load of innocent people should have to suffer as well. I’m just glad that nothing like that happens in real life, I mean, imagine because of the actions of a few people, a whole load of other perfectly innocent people suffered for it… At least in The Promised Place, those bad people probably do die as well, and not get away with it… Not that I’m making any real life parallels to any former editor of a certain newspaper, who still has her job even though she was in charge when a terrible thing happened, and due to that terrible thing, that paper had to stop printing after 168 years, whilst also making a lot of innocent people unemployed… No, nothing like that EVER HAPPENS!.. (Just call me subtle).

So Hiroki finishes the plane, rides with Sayuri on board, makes it to the tower, and even though Sayrui forgets her feelings for Hiroki, he promises that they will now start their relation a new… And what better way of celebrating than exploding a tower that is about to consume the earth into a pararell world… Well, it sure is something to tell the grand-kids.

I do have to make another special mention of the visuals. Because despite some of the obsured plot points, this is one of the most beautiful pieces of animation that you can see, only matched and topped by Shunkai’s own other work. The visual imagery in the film is just beautiful, it really catches your attention, and with that, added with the amazing score, really makes up for what the plot lacks. I would also like to make mention of the dub, which is actually quite good, staying very close and true to the original script, also having voices which seem to match the characters as well as the Japanese voices do.

So what to make of all this. Well, yes, the plot is a little odd at times, but at its core, it is still a quite nice romance story, with some interesting fantasy elements thrown in. I will admit, that The Promised Place seems to be the weakest of Shinkai’s work, but even with that title, it is still a very good anime, and one that I highly recommend.

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