Welcome to my blog, there will be nothing but movie reviews and film related content here. I try and review a wide variety of films, from old to new, and throw in film reviews from the current year as well. All comments are appreciated here, I will reply as soon as possible, and feel free to follow!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Place Promised in Our Early Days - 2004

This is a review I have been meaning to write for some time now, and I am happy to announce that it will be my last review before I begin watching and reviewing Sergio Leone's works, a director I have been needing to learn more about. But that is not what I am here for today. Now, at this time I am here to bring to you one of the most overlooked animated films in history, as well as one of the best I have ever seen. In fact, if Jesse P. had not reviewed and recommended this film, it is likely that I never would have come across it, so all thanks goes to him. The Place Promised in Our Early Days is filled with emotion, and with Makoto Shinkai's directorial debut, he has created the most beautiful animated films ever seen by me.

The Place Promised in Our Early Days is set in Japan during a postwar period where it is completely divided. Honshu and certain other places are ruled by U.S. authority, while Hokkaido is under the authority of the "Union". There is a very tall and mysterious tower that has been built in Hokkaido, and middle school friends Hiroki and Takuya have the same desperate need to travel over the border and see the tower. They both agree not to tell anyone else about their mission to the tower, but when a girl named Sayuri from the same school hears of their plan, things begin to change. The two agree on allowing her into their plan, and over that summer Sayuri, Hiroki and Takuya all become very good friends. However, when unfortunate events set them in three different places, no one knows if they will ever be able to keep the promise that was once made.

The key to having a striking animated movie that gets the attention of viewers quickly is the actual quality of the animation itself. Movies like How to Train Your Dragon, Toy Story, Spirited Away and Up clearly have this concept beaten into their heads, as they all have some of the best works in animation that I have ever watched. With that being said, and it is not always easy to compare traditional animation to computer animation, The Place Promised in Our Early Days probably grabs the title for best overall animation in any film at any time. I am sure you can understand somewhat of the beauty in this film just by looking at the pictures I have here, but listen to my words, the pictures do not at all do the film justice. Watching it (on my computer oddly enough) was like nothing I have experienced before, and I can assure you the animation aspect of the film will not disappoint you, it will only leave you wanting more than an hour and thirty minutes of this beauty.

I honestly have had a very hard time deciding on how I should rate The Place Promised in Our Early Days, because I definitely feel like there were things that could be thought of as flaws. For instance, it clocks in at exactly one hour and thirty one minutes, which to me is really pushing the time limit for the proper amount of character and story development, along with the relationships between the three kids. But before I go any further, just as a note Shinkai does an absolutely brilliant job with developing the film, so that is not at all where I am headed. But I think the problem is that in such a short time, many viewers will not feel the film had quite the emotional impact that it should have, even though I don't agree, I am sure others will feel that way. Even so, the film hit the emoitonal level extremely hard, and in my opinion did an excellent job with it.

Makoto Shinkai's direction was absolute perfection. Even with the very brief runtime, his pacing is incredible all the way through the film. Honestly, other than the visuals, nothing particularly interesting goes on during the main focus of the story. There is hardly any action at all, it is only filled with dialogue. Previous animated works, or any works for that matter, that have tried to fill a movie with nothing but dialogue tend to fail in my opinion. And that is something that continues to amaze me about how well Shinkai has worked with this film, yet hardly anyone has seen The Place Promised in Our Early Days, and the people who have find it average at best. It is a shame that a director of his talent has not been recognized for his work, but if you care for excellent pieces of artwork and animation, look into his works immediately.

The story, and I know I should have discussed this earlier in the review, but I think it might have been the one aspect of the film that I most enjoyed, other than the visuals of course. The relationship and characters of the three kids were so strong that it entirely boosted the effect the story should have on the audience. It baffles me how critics actually complain about this story, because to me the whole idea of it is about as intriguing as any story will be. Yes, you could say the second half of the story it may have a bit of a blemish, but in my opinion Shinkai's story is nothing short of magnificent storytelling, achieving more than almost any other animated film has before.

I suppose that the acting was not just phenomenal, but if I am being real here, it didn't matter at all. The Place Promised in Our Early Days is a character driven film, that only needs strong characters to succeed. Clearly, as I mentioned earlier, it has this, and as long as the actors do a good job with their parts then it does not make a difference whether they are good, great or fantastic. The characters are there, the acting is solid and the movie moves on just fine.

Overall, The Place Promised in Our Early Days is one of the most unique, creative, beautiful films ever viewed by me. To make that even more funny and interesting, I read that Shinkai had a low budget for the film, and if you lay your eyes on these visuals you will know why that is so incredible. But before I so strongly recommend the film, if you are not a big animation fan, skip, it will be average at best to you. Though for animation fans, you may find it the hidden gem of a masterpiece that you have been waiting for all these years.

Rating: 10/10


  1. terrific review matt! sounds like a great film! Also I wanted to comment saying welcome to the list and I'll need your email to invite you to be an author in the group. Also, your comment you left at my cars review was in my email, but i we to the blog and it wasn't there. then i took disqus there and it was there. I have disqus on now, any help please? You've had disqus longer than me :)

  2. pretty thorough review. it sounds excellent and i'm going to have to see it now. thanks matt.

  3. Awesome review Matt, looks like I'm going to have to check this one out soon.

  4. Great review. I'd never heard of this but it sounds truly amazing and the pics show some brilliant animation.

  5. Thanks Thomas, and sure that's fine.

    Hmmm i'm sorry but I have not experienced any of the same problems yet :/

  6. Thanks Toby, hope you like it!

  7. Don't have too high of expectations and you'll love it, thanks!

  8. Thanks Daniel, it's on Netflix, check it out!

  9. Sorry i'm slow (School). Nice to know you liked it and it gets a 10/10 from me as well easy. Overlooked Yes... More people need to view this creative epic that just never leaves your mind.

    I would suggest anything else from the same director and VERY NICE REVIEW!

  10. Thanks Jesse, as you can see I am two months behind...