The Place Promised In Our Early Days (2004) – By Duane L. Martin

The
Place Promised In Our Early Days is the creation of Makoto Shinkai, and
tells the story of three friends who…actually, I guess I should start
with a little back story. In 1974 Japan split into the north and the
south. The north is still called Japan, while the south is now known as
the Union Territory, which included Hokkaido. Families were split, just
as the country split. No one was allowed to cross from one side to the
other. Some time shortly after the split, a physicist in the Union
named Ekusun Tsukinoe proved the existence of parallel universes. He
began construction on a massive tower that was so tall, it could be
seen from incredible distances. In 1996, the tower was completed. The
Union was far ahead of Japan and the rest of the world in this multiple
universe research, and the Japanese and the Americans were desperately
trying to catch up, as they felt it might be a way to look into the
future, so they could make decisions now based on what the current
timeline’s future showed them.

Two middle school aged friends, Hiroki Fujisawa and Takuya Shirikawa
have watched this tower for years, and had become quite obsessed with
it. Both of them were extremely advanced for their ages, and began
construction on a highly advanced two-seater aircraft that they would
fly into the Ezo Territory so they could finally have an up close look
at the object that has possessed their very souls as far back as they
could remember. During the years they spend constructing the plane, a
girl named Sayuri Sawatari entered the picture. Hiroki secretly loves
her, and she ends up coming with them to the abandoned hangar where
they’re building their plane, the Bella Ciela. Hiroki promises her that
someday when they’re finished, he’ll take her to see the tower.

Time passed, and eventually Sawatari disappeared, and neither boy knew
what had happened to her. Eventually they go their separate ways
without ever completing the plane they had obsessed over for years.
Sawatari in fact had fallen into a deep sleep, and now three years had
passed without her waking up, and the two boys went off to different
high schools.

Eventually it’s discovered that Sawatari’s sleep and her dreams are
related to the tower somehow. Every time she starts to wake up just
slightly, the tower activates and a small amount of the area around it
is replaced with matter from an alternate universe. The scientists keep
her asleep to keep this from happening, and it’s only later, after
Hiroki begins to meet Sawatari in his dreams, that he finally begins to
understand what’s happening. She’s recieving information from alternate
universes and her brain can’t handle it, so she sleeps. Stuck in one of
the alternate universes, seeing the dreams of the universe. Hiroki
knows that the only way to get Sawatari to wake up is to get her to the
tower. Unfortunately, taking her to the tower and waking her up will
cause the tower to activate and potentially destory the world.

During the years that passed, Shirikawa had joined a research facility
that was working on the multiple universe theories. They discovered
Sawatari’s link to the tower and understood what would happen if she
were to awaken. Also during these years, Shirikawa became involved with
a group called Uilta. They had one goal and one goal only, and that was
to destroy the tower. The rest of the film revolves around Hiroki and
Takuya trying to get Sawatari to the tower to wake her up, and then
ultimately destroying it.

While this movie does have beautiful animation and artwork, I found the
story considerably lacking. It kept jumping forward in time, covering a
span of over three years, while failing to provide some very needed
back story details that would have helped the whole thing to make a lot
more sense. When taken as a whole, it does eventually make sense to
some degree, the lack of details throughout the first half of the movie
leaves you feeling like something is missing.

The way the story jumps around from time to time and the way people
change over the course of that time makes you wonder why they changed
the way they did and what events shaped them. None of this is really
covered in depth, if it’s ever covered at all. With the multiple
universes thing and the whole thing with Japan splitting into two
separate entities back in 1974, I was wondering if this whole thing was
actually taking place in a parallel universe. The story would have been
much better served if it had taken place in the future where such an
occurrence would be possible. Setting the split back in 1974 makes you
feel like it’s not taking place in our universe at all. And truth be
told, it may not be, but they’re never really clear about that.

In a way, this is actually a coming of age story between the three
friends. On that level it works pretty well, as you get to watch them
in their early years when their dreams were like a ripe fruit, ready to
be tasted if they only had the courage to reach out and grab it. Then
as time passes, you see how jaded they’ve become with the disappearance
of Sawatari and the loss of the dreams that filled their hearts with
joy when they were younger.

This leaves me somewhat torn as to how I feel about this film. The
coming of age story and the relationship between the three friends
worked, while the whole story with Sawatari being linked to the tower
and the whole thing with Japan splitting and Japan and the Americans
going to war against the Union Territories didn’t really work all that
well due to lacking details. We do find out late in the film that
Ekusun Tsukinoe, the man who built the tower, was actually Sawatari’s
grandfather that she had never met. Yet still nothing was explained
about why or how she was linked to it. These lacking details hurt what
could have otherwise been a very enjoyable film.

Did I like this film? Well now that it’s over and I understand a little
better what was going on, I’d have to say that I did in fact like it,
although it’s not going to rank up there as one of my all time
favorites. The voice acting was quite good, the artwork and animation
were both great, but the story just left me wanting. The film was 91
minutes long, but I feel as though a considerable amount of that was
wasted on unimportant events rather than telling the details of the
story that would have made it more enjoyable. I know a lot of people
absolutely love this film and will probably accuse me of just not
understanding it or not being able to appreciate what a great film it
really is. Maybe that’s the case, maybe it isn’t. But my job as a
reviewer is to tell you all what my reaction to a film is, and to be
honest about it. Some will agree with me, some won’t. Such is the way
of the world. I did like this film. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t,
but I had a hard time following the story, and in the end I just ended
up feeling like it could have been more than it was.

If you’d like to find out more about this film or check out some of
ADV’s other releases, you can head on over to the ADV website at http://www.advfilms.com. The DVD is available through all the usual outlets.