|Kumo no Mukou, Yakusoku no Basho|
|Also Known As: Beyond the Clouds, The Promised Place|
|Format: 1 Movie|
|Director: Shinkai Makoto|
|Intelligence Agency Report by: Kuzu Ryu Sen|
|In the future of an alternate universe, defeat in war and subsequent occupation has led to a Japan divided in two: the US backed government in Honshu, and a breakaway state known as the “Union” in Ezo (formerly Hokkaido). However, to two friends in the border city of Aomori, the politics and tension between the Union and Japan are irrelevant. For Fujisawa Hiroki and Shirakawa Takuya, there are only two important things in life: their classmate Sawatari Sayuri, and the mysterious tower that the Union has constructed. Together, they promise to bring Sayuri to the tower with Velaciela, their homemade plane. However, circumstances soon reveal that they had made a promise that they couldn’t keep…|
|Field Agent Report by: Kuzu Ryu Sen|
|(not an average)|
In 2002, the world was treated to Voices of a Distant Star, the project that marked the emergence of Shinkai Makoto onto the world stage. Ever since that initial success, the anime community has eagerly anticipated Shinkai’s next project: his first foray into feature length film. After many delays, The Place Promised in Our Early Days finally hit theatres in Fall 2004. While it definitely had more potential thanVoices of a Distant Star thanks to its longer running length, the execution was somewhat lacking, and several major problems caused this picture to have neither the charm nor the power of it’s predecessor.
The biggest flaws of Voices of a Distant Star were its graphics and character design, and Shinkai has redeemed himself fully in these categories with The Place Promised in Our Early Days. The background art is simply breathtaking, featuring fantastic usage of tones and shades. The character art is much improved, yet still maintains that distinct Shinkai quality. The animation is excellent, and the flight scenes are almost Miyazaki-level in terms of choreography and effects. Tenmon has done a great job once again with regards to the soundtrack (particularly with the ending song “Kimi no Koe”), although the primary track is definitely overused.
However, The Place Promised in Our Early Days has one very key fatal flaw, and it is one that no one expected from Shinkai: an extremely poor ending. The problem is that Shinkai went for a character-centric ending, much like the same one he used so very successfully in She and Her Cat and Voices of a Distant Star. However, this simply is insufficient given how he had spent the previous hour building an intricate and intriguing plot and several notable side characters. The way Shinkai completely and utterly ignores everything he’s built up ruined any emotional response that the ending was supposed to invoke, and just left this viewer with a bad taste in his mouth.
Still, despite this, The Place Promised in Our Early Days is a good movie from Shinkai that can only further his career. There’s no reason to view this film as a failure or as a step back. Rather, it should be viewed as a first attempt from a very good director to put all the pieces of the puzzle together that just came up a little short.