Place Promised in Our Early Days (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, August 01, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, July 12, 2005
What They Say
Set in an alternate universe, this sci-fi story centers around three teenagers, a rip in the space-time continuum, and the perseverance to keep a promise against all odds. The film captures slice-of-life beauty between three friends, while epic events threaten to drive them apart.
Promises made become ties that bind worlds together in the latest work by Makoto Shinkai.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The included 5.1 mix is very nicely done and is well mirrored by the English 5.1 track that's also included. The mix isn't very heavy with a lot of material going to the rear channels but it does use it when needed, such as aircraft flying past and certain music cues that raise up the feelings and emotions of the moment. I barely recall any real dialogue being thrown there and it's not a constantly used area but it does enhance the film overall and well done. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2004, the transfer for this OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. In watching this film, there are very few areas that really stand out as problematic and when they do they are so minor as to barely warrant mention. A little cross coloration sneaks into a couple of lines for a few seconds or an area of solid gray isn't quite as solid as it should be and you see some movement in it. Beyond that, it's a gorgeous transfer. Shinkai's visual style, which we saw quite well in Voices of a Distant Star, is only raised up several notches here and is beautifully rendered. I've watched this on three different types of monitors before writing this and I can't imagine not watching it on anything but the largest canvas possible. This is a beautiful piece of work and the transfer captures it perfectly for the most part.
The cover artwork is an attractive piece that's got the very difficult job of selling a show that's very hard to sell since it's hook is pretty much a mood more than anything else. The artwork is nicely done here with the two main leads playing violins against each others backs while the backgrounds shift across numerous venues and time of day. It's a simple piece all told and it's filled with a lot of neat little detail to it but it's definitely not the best piece to grab someone but I can't imagine a piece of artwork that would be that wouldn't be less than honest about what the show is about. The back cover provides a few shots from the film and tries to win over on style as well but has the advantage of a lengthy couple of paragraphs that go over the films premise. The discs features are clear and easy to find as is the technical information that's well laid out along the bottom. The reverse side of the cover is done with the top half across it providing text that's related to the show while displaying a gorgeous illustration along the bottom of one of the settings from the show. The insert has a text piece describing Shinkai's project on one side while the other provides something of a teaser about the show.
The main menu is a nice and almost elegant piece that has one of the stills from the show looking into the distance and has added to the top and background some moving clouds that when played along with the instrumental music really works nicely. The navigation is simple and quick to access and the layout overall is very nicely done. Access times are nice and fast and the disc correctly read our players' language presets without issue and played accordingly.
Spread out a bit, there's a good healthy selection of extras here for the Japanese language fan. There are three separate interviews with the main characters from the show and Shinkai himself gets an interview as well. In addition to that there are three varying length trailers that were used in different areas to promote the film. The extras feel weak compared to Shinkai's last piece but this time around he's much more focused on the content and the acting as opposed to his technical achievement and it's reflected in the choice of extras presented. We're not supposed to look under the hood of how it was made but to just take in the performances and visuals and leave it at that.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After putting out a release like Voices of a Distant Star, it was unsurprising to see that Makoto Shinkai and those who he gathered with him to work on his next project would be anything less than ambitious. He had a lot to live up to in terms of expectations based on what he could do by himself, but now with a project with more money and creative staff behind it, could he equal or go beyond his very personal project? Based off of the manga story that he and another had written, the Place Promised in Our Early Days took form.
Taking place in a world parallel to ours, history has taken an interesting course over the years and technology is vastly different. Sometime in the 1970's, Hokkaido split off from Japan and formed its own country known as Ezo. They began a massive project that the world had no clue as to what it was about but it was visualized in a massive tower that sprung up into the sky, almost touching the heavens themselves. You can see it from practically anywhere in Japan and it serves as a constant reminder of the tensions and potential for war. Ezo formed up a Union with other countries while Japan deepened its relations with the U.S. in order to have their technology and bases on hand to help deal with anything that could happen. Families were split along the way, lives lost and time marches on.
In 1996, we're introduced to a pair of high school students who have a very specific goal in their lives. Living somewhat close to the northern edge of Japan, they had come across one of the aircraft that was used in the brief separation war and have kept it hidden in an abandoned warehouse where a section of rail was ended prematurely. They've spent their time rebuilding it as best as they can and now that they're old enough, they work their vacations, summers and free time at a missile plant nearby in order to get money, parts and advice on rebuilding the aircraft. Their goal is to some day be able to launch the two seater into the air and head towards the Tower. Something in their guts has been calling to them from there since as long as they can remember and this is their plan to do just that.
The other important thing in their lives is a fellow classmate named Sayuri Sawatari. She's someone that they find attractive and sort of the life and love of their class, so it's not surprising that each of them have feelings of different sorts for her. When she asks to come along with them to work at one point, they're surprised but let her come along. They even go so far as taking her all the way out to the warehouse where they're building the aircraft and fill her in on their plans. She's fascinated by all of it and the trio continue to form a strong bond through all of this. Sayuri even says she feels something similar to what they do about the Tower and being drawn to it, but she feels like she's already lost something.
At this young age, a promise is made though to carry things through and to take her to the Tower as well. But when Sayuri falls ill to a strange sleeping disease and the relationship between the two childhood friends falls apart as they each go their own way in life, they find themselves unable to carry through with the promise. As the story shifts forward and we see where everyone is a few years later, the plot becomes entangled with the background story about Ezo and the potential for war which is now nothing less than a reality about to happen. While this becomes important in things that are happening and it allows for the characters to change, it doesn't overtake things and is still left largely a mystery for a number of areas. This can be frustrating in some regards since you want to know more but at the same time it keeps the focus squarely where it belongs, on the lead characters.
This show is hard to talk about in some ways because it's trying to tell an interesting story and uses some interesting science and science fiction in order to do it, much like how Voices of a Distant Star worked by dealing with a relationship over the span of time and space, this one does it across parallel worlds and how the human mind may work with it. But it doesn't fit into the context of talking about the way the show moves and feels most of the time since it's considered a background piece, a device to tell the real story itself and nothing more.
I hate comparing works to other things but it's hard not to do sometimes. This film has a very similar feel in terms of animation and pacing to his previous piece but this one comes across as even more polished due to the people he brought in to work on it, taking things as his already stunning backgrounds and detailing them even more. Shinkai has such an amazing eye for beautiful backgrounds that this piece is simply filled to the brim with them. There are enough movies where you see some pretty backgrounds and some impressive pieces but here it's throughout the entire show. From the lighting, the layout and placement, all of it, it's simply stunning. I'd love to see what he could do with a live action piece in the same terms. In watching something like this, particularly the colors used for the skies and clouds, I can't help but to feel that Shinkai has exceeded just about all of his contemporaries, Miyazaki included, and is simply on a level all of his own now.
The Place Promised in Our Early Days is a fascinating work and one that merits repeated viewings not only just for the story but for the visuals and the potential underlying all of it.
Get it. That's it. Just get it. It may not be to everyone's tastes, but it's something that should be seen for its wonderful pacing, sense of presence and stunning visuals. Highly recommended.
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Interviews with the Japanese cast and director,Original Japanese trailers
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: TV PG
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 90
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Place Promised in Our Early Days