The Place Promised in Our Early Days is a character-driven drama anime film, directed by Makoto Shinkai (director of Voices of a Distant Star). The film was the winner for Best Animated Film at the 59th annual Mainichi Film Awards, as well as the winner of the Award for Technical Excellence at the 2nd annual Tokyo International Anime Fair.
The Place Promised in Our Early Days is set in Japan in the late 1990s, in an alternate timeline. It is not explicitly said in the film where exactly the timeline of our world and the movie diverges. However, from some information given during the film, it can be assumed it takes place at some point after World War II.
In the film's timeline, Japan underwent a separation in 1974; the southern part (including the islands of Honshu and Kyushu) was occupied by the United States, and the northern island (Ezo, which is a re-named Hokkaido) was occupied by the "Union." Also, in 1974, construction began on a large tower on Ezo; the tower was designed by a scientist named Ekusun Tsukinoe.
By the time the film takes place, the United States has ended its occupation of southern Japan, and the two countries have formed a pact (which is called "the Alliance"). The Union retains control of Hokkaido, and contact between the two regions is suspended.
The film starts in 1996, and follows three eighth grade students living in Aomori, on the northern end of Japan. The two boys, Hiroki Fujisawa and Takuya Shirakawa, are both interested in Sayuri Sawatari. The boys found the remains of a Maritime Self-Defense force drone plane, which they have christened the Bella Ciela. They take part-time jobs at the Emishi Manufacturing factory, where they scrounge for parts to rebuild the Bella Ciela (with the help of their boss, Mr. Okabe).
Sayuri learns about the plane. The boys promise that after they finish rebuilding the plane, they will take her for a ride to visit the tower on Hokkaido. However, before this happens, Sayuri mysteriously disappears without saying goodbye.
Three years later, the boys have stopped working on the plane, and have gone their separate ways. Even though he's only in high school, Takuya works as a physicist at an Alliance scientific facility. Hiroki has moved to Tokyo where he attends high school and is frequently haunted by dreams of Sayuri.
It is found out that Sayuri has been hospitalized over the past three years, due to an extreme form of narcolepsy. She has been sleeping continuously during that time; her mind is trapped in an unpopulated parallel universe, where she is all alone. It is discovered that Sayuri is somehow connected to the Union's research into parallel universes and to the secrets of the Hokkaido tower. At the same time, the United States and the Union are rapidly headed toward war.
Both Hiroki and Takuya learn what is happening to Sayuri, but they have very different ideas of what needs to be done. They need to decide whether it's more important to save Sayuri or to save the world... or can they save both?
The DVD includes interviews with Makato Shinkai, as well as with three of the voice actors (the voices of Hiroki, Takuya, and Sayuri). There are also DVD credits and previews of other ADV releases (three of the six are anime properties; one of the previews is for Voices of a Distant Star).
The animation in the film is lush and very realistic-looking. The music perfectly evokes the mood being portrayed in the film. The story, animation, and music all come together to make The Place Promised in Our Early Days a very touching and moving coming-of-age story. I highly recommend this film to fans of character-driven anime drama.
In order to write this review, I checked out a copy of this DVD through the King County Library System. I later purchased a copy as a gift for my husband.