It should be noted that first of all, I’m writing reviews for both The Place Promised in Our Early Days and 5 Centimeters per Second at the same time (and as such, I’ll be including the same opening paragraph). Both of these series, feature films, animes, whatever you want to call them hold a special place in my heart/head, again your call. Not because they’re overly interesting or because they’re extremely entertaining but because they make me sad. Strange, right? Well, I’m willing to bet that any anime lover will instantly favorite (no, not add to their favorite list or anything grand) any anime (or anything for that matter) that can hit a cord within him or herself. Anything that can resonate with our frequency or run parallel to our curves; anything that can make us think about our own lives or make us grow as a person; anything that brings a new light to our eyes or makes us hold our breaths; in short: anything that changes our lives if only for a moment is something we’ll remember forever. Shinkai Makoto is one of the few directors/writers to have done so to myself.
Let’s get to it shall we?
The Place Promised in Our Early Days begins simply enough. Without going into too much detail (I’m sure you can find a summary if need be), we’re thrown into the rather mundane lives of Fujisawa Hiroki and Shirakawa Takuya. Both are rather normal; attend school, participate in club activities and hang out. What strikes with us is that they’re rather normal. Hiroki is a regular teenage boy with a crush on a cute girl Sawatari Sayuri. As the world they live in is slowly unraveled and we see the differences between ours and theirs we also see how Hiroki and Takuya are different from normal boys. It is during this first part that we get to see watch the key scenes of friendship between Hiroki, Sayuri and Takuya. Despite the differences in their setting we get to see that they’re, in fact, just like us. They have dreams and aspirations – Shinkai Makoto has truly created characters we can relate to and understand. This sets us up for the later parts where as the story delves closer towards the two male protagonists, we can clearly understand their current actions as influenced by their early days.
The story plays a significant part in how the characters are developed. Without the given setting or ramifications of the war, we wouldn’t have this story. At first, the viewer is fed a slice of life drama that depicts the three main protagonists. This is our humble introductory into a much larger scheme. As the story shifts past the early days, a more sci-fi approach is given through Takuya’s eyes while Hiroki experiences a saddening drama. Finally, through our female heroine’s eyes, we see the surreal visions she trudges through. All this goes back to our characters and how we perceive, sympathize and care about them. Our three views collide at the end in a climax much akin to the beginning – with our protagonists united and their (current) aspirations coming to fruition. The Place Promised delivers a story you want to succeed because you’re emotionally tied to these characters and their situations. If not for the narrative voice, we’d be in the Stone Age of passion.
Art and Sound:
As expected from Shinkai Makoto, our eyes and ears a treated to some of the best the industry has to offer. The art work will blow any anime series out of the water thanks to the high budget. As mentioned before, the entire experience of character and story must be unified and what better way to do so than imagery and sound?
I wrote this review first (i.e. before 5 Centimeters per Second) because I watched it first. It was also one of those anime’s I didn’t give a second thought to buying. I said it before and I’ll say it once more (I didn’t mean for that to rhyme >_<) The Place Promised in Our Early Days provides a fusion of character depth and a surreal view of how friendship and love know transcend all obstacles. Given the characters and situations they’re placed in, we can all sympathize with one of them and that’s what strikes home. Shinkai Makoto does this well thanks to the combination of amazing narrative voice and beautiful imagery – something you’ll rarely see done well.