The Place Promised in Our Early Days


The Place Promised in Our Early Days

Infobox animanga/Header
name = The Place Promised in Our Early Days


caption = © Makoto Shinkai / CoMix Wave
ja_name = 雲のむこう、約束の場所
ja_name_trans = Beyond the Clouds, the Promised Place
genre = Drama, Military, Romance, Science Fiction
Infobox animanga/Movie
title =
director = Makoto Shinkai
studio = CoMix Wave Inc.
released = 20 November 2004
runtime = 91 min
Infobox animanga/Novel
title =
author = Shinta Kanō
illustrator =
publisher = Enterbrain
first = December 26 2005
last =
volumes = 1
Infobox animanga/Manga
title =
author = Makoto Shinkai (Story)
Mizu Sahara (art)
publisher = flagicon|Japan Kodansha
demographic = Seinen
magazine = Afternoon
first = February 2006
last = ongoing
volumes = 1

Nihongo|"The Place Promised in Our Early Days"|雲のむこう、約束の場所|Kumo no Mukō, Yakusoku no Basho|extra=lit. "Beyond the Clouds, the Promised Place" is a 90 minute Japanese anime film created and directed by Makoto Shinkai, following his previous work "Voices of a Distant Star". As in the previous film, the soundtrack was composed by Tenmon. Unlike the previous film which was largely created by Makoto on his own, "Kumo no Mukou" was a full scale production as reflected by the better animation quality and the longer overall length. It has been broadcast across Japan by the anime satellite television network Animax.

The film was licensed for North American release by ADV Films.

Synopsis

The setting

"The Place Promised in Our Early Days" takes place in Japan during the late 1990s in an alternate timeline. Though it is not directly explained in the film, the world in the anime apparently diverges from Japan's in the decades following World War II. In 1974, Japan underwent the Separation: the southern part, including the main islands of Honshū and Kyūshū, were occupied by the United States, while the northern island, Hokkaidō (or Ezo, as it is called in the anime), was occupied by the "Union" (presumably referring to the Soviet Union). Also in that same year, the Union began the construction of a strange tower on Hokkaido designed by a scientist named Ekusun Tsukinoe. On a clear day, the incredible height of the tower makes it visible from as far away as Tokyo.

By the 1990s when the story begins, the U.S. occupation of southern Japan has ended, and the two nations have formed a pact called the Alliance. Hokkaido remains under the control of the Union; contact between the North and the South is all but suspended; and border clashes are common. An underground group committed to reunifying Japan known as the Uilta Liberation Front exists in the South. Covertly supported by some Alliance government officials, it makes incursions into and executes attacks on Union territory.

The early days

The anime follows the story of three friends living in Aomori on the northern end of southern Japan: two boys, Hiroki Fujisawa and Takuya Shirakawa, both child prodigies; and one girl, Sayuri Sawatari. In 1996, the three are in eighth grade, their last year of middle school, and they are fascinated by the Hokkaido Tower visible across the Tsugaru Strait to the north.

On the last day before spring break, one of Sayuri's friends, Kana Matsuura, confesses to Takuya that she has romantic feelings for him, but he does not return her feelings. Takuya tells Hiroki that he should date Kana instead, but Hiroki declines, as he is actually romantically interested in Sayuri. Hiroki stays after school for archery practice while Sayuri stays after school for violin practice; they ride the train home together and get to know each other, and Sayuri becomes close friends with the two boys.

The two boys have found a crashed Maritime Self-Defense Force drone plane. Naming it the "Bella Ciela", they work on rebuilding the plane, scrounging parts from their workplace, the Emishi Manufacturing factory, with the help of their boss, Mr. Okabe. The three teenagers promise to one day fly to Hokkaido to visit the Tower. However, before they can do this, Sayuri mysteriously disappears during the summer.

Three years later

Three years later, Takuya and Hiroki have stopped working on the plane, having taken different paths after the grief they suffered at Sayuri's disappearance. Although only in high school, the brilliant Takuya is working as a physicist at an Alliance scientific facility sponsored by the United States National Security Agency, researching parallel universes (per the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics) alongside Ms. Maki Kasahara under the supervision of Professor Tomizawa. They know that the Hokkaido Tower, which began operating in 1996, replaces matter around it with matter from other universes, but they do not yet know why it does this for only a 2-km radius. Takuya becomes involved with the Uilta Liberation Front after he learns that Mr. Okabe is its leader; his factory workers are the other agents of the organization. Okabe was originally motivated to form the group when his family was trapped in Hokkaido by the Separation, and he signs Takuya on for an excursion to Ezo with Uilta.

Sayuri is revealed to have been hospitalized over the past three years, having developed an extreme form of narcolepsy; she has been sleeping continuously for most of the three years. Her mind is trapped in an unpopulated parallel universe, where she is all alone. Tomizawa has discovered that she is somehow connected to the Union's research into parallel universes and the Hokkaido Tower's ability to change the surrounding land into alternate possibilities, but Tomizawa keeps this information, as well as her whereabouts, secret from Takuya initially. Tomizawa is secretly working with the Uilta Liberation Front and lets Mr. Okabe know about Sayuri, while Mr. Okabe reveals that the Uilta Liberation Front plans to bomb the Hokkaido Tower to incite war against the Union, hoping that this will lead to the reunification of Japan.

Hiroki has moved to Tokyo where he attends high school. He is haunted by frequent dreams of Sayuri and suffers from depression, leading a miserable and lonely existence. A letter written by Sayuri before she became completely comatose eventually reaches him and he reads it in March 2000, giving him a lead to go looking for her. Though in separate universes, the two manage to make brief, temporary contact, and Hiroki realises that the only way to wake Sayuri is to fly her body over the Tower, to take her to the "promised land of our childhood". Sayuri's body, however, has been taken to a secure hospital ward at the Aomori Army College.

Climax

Tensions continue to grow between the Alliance and the Union, as it becomes apparent that the Union is attempting to use the Tower as a weapon to replace the existing world with a parallel universe. Things are further complicated when it is discovered that Ekusun Tsukinoe, who constructed the Tower, was Sayuri's grandfather, and that the only thing preventing the Tower from activating is Sayuri's coma (the closer she comes to wakening, the greater the radius of the area affected by the Tower), forcing Hiroki and Takuya to choose between saving the world or saving Sayuri. After fighting over the decision, Hiroki convinces Takuya that Sayuri is worth risking the world.

Takuya steals the body of the still-comatose Sayuri from the military hospital. The boys finish building the "Bella Ciela" just hours before the United States plans to declare war on the Union. The plane only seats two, so Takuya leaves Hiroki to pilot the plane and fulfill their childhood promise. Hiroki manages to fly the plane across the strait to the Tower carrying Sayuri and a missile provided by the Uilta Liberation Front. When Sayuri finally awakens while the plane circles the Tower, the Tower activates and immediately begins to transform the surrounding area; the area under transformation grows to encompass much of Hokkaido. In the last few minutes of her coma, Sayuri realises that when she awakes she will lose all her memories and dreams as a child, and thus upon waking she weeps because, unknowingly, she lost the memory of her love for Hiroki. Flying back, Hiroki fires the missile, destroying the Tower and stopping the matter transformation. The film ends with Hiroki vowing to Sayuri that they will start their relationship anew.

Analysis

Allusions

The Separation between southern Japan and Hokkaido hints at the real-world Cold War separation between South Korea and North Korea.

Literary references

* The poem that Sayuri read in class is "Eiketsu no asa" (永訣の朝 [http://home.ix.netcom.com/~kyamazak/lit/_Jpoet/miyazawa_eiketu.htm] , "Morning of the Last Farewell") from the poem collection "Haru to Shura" (春と修羅; "Spring and Asura") by famous Japanese writer Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933). It's written on the occasion of the premature death of his sister, Toshi Miyazawa (1898-1922). This is depicted in the anime "Spring and Chaos".

Cat references

* During production of the movie, the staff picked up five stray cats and alternated who took care of themFact|date=February 2007. In the film, Mr. Okabe owns several cats.
* More obvious reference to "She and Her Cat" can be noticed when Takuya and Hiroki meet again at the station. They see a cat which Takuya calls Chobi, which is the name of the cat in "She and Her Cat".
* More reference to cats can be found in the book store where Sayuri and Takuya first met. The labels on the shelves and on one of Sayuri's books bear a cat icon. Sayuri also owns a stuffed cat in her bedroom.

Other references

* The main characters are using fictional Velaciela Operating System on their computers, which resembles real Unix-like systems used today. During the movie, the use of ls command, shell prompt, BIOS loading sequence, and GPS navigation application are being showed in realistic way. Also when the Unix-like system is started the console prints "Hello World !" as a reference to common Hello World program.

Themes and motifs

Dreams are one of the major motifs of the film. During the summer, early on, Sayuri is seen reading a book titled "The Net Involved in a Dream". The dreams of people and animals are said to be visions of parallel universes. Alternate realities are described as the dreams of the universe.

While the theme of alternate realities/universes is not uncommon in anime, its use here is a bit unusual. In most other anime shows which happen in alternate realities, it's seldom explained why their reality is different from ours, but here our reality is actually one of the alternate realities relative to the one that the main characters inhabit, and the connection between the two are supposedly explained by some version of quantum gravity. This explains why the world in this movie looks familiar to ours yet also different.

Separation and reunification is one of the dominant themes of the film. Things and characters in the film that undergo separation and reunification include:

* Japan is split into North and South by the Separation, but it is possibly reunified following the war at the end.
* Mr. Okabe is separated from his family by the Separation, and it is why he heads the Uilta Liberation Front.
* Sayuri is separated from her grandfather, Ekusun Tsukinoe, by the Separation. At the end, she is reunited with his creation, the Hokkaido Tower.
* Sayuri is separated from Hiroki and Takuya when she enters her coma. She is separated both physically (the boys do not know where her body is) and mentally (her mind is in a separate universe). The major conflict of the film is to bring her back together with the boys. Even after they find her body again, they still have to bring her mind back.
* Hiroki and Takuya separate after Sayuri leaves them. It takes three years and a mutual desire to find Sayuri again for the two men to come back together, and even then, it is a difficult reunion, in which the two men fight each other at first.

Awards

* Special Distinction (Feature Film category) - Seoul Comics and Animation Festival 2005
* Silver Prize on Best Animated Film Section (by audience choice) of Public Prize - Canada Fantasia Film Festival
* Award for Art in Seiun Award - 44th Japanese SF Convention
* Best Animated Film - Mainichi Film Awards 2004
* Award for Expression Technique (for Trailer #1) - Tokyo International Anime Fair 2003 [http://daike.hp.infoseek.co.jp/About_The_place_promised_in_our_early_days.html]

DVD

Regular Release

*The Place Promised in Our Early Days (90 Minutes)
*3 Video Interviews with Japanese Cast
*Original Japanese Trailer Collection

Collector's Edition

Disc 1 (DVD)
*The Place Promised in Our Early Days (90 Minutes)
*3 Video Interviews with Japanese Cast
*Original Japanese Trailer CollectionDisc 2 (DVD)
*The Place Promised in Our Early Days (Animated Storyboards, 90 Minutes)
*Interview with Makoto Shinkai
*Animated Gallery 2002 — 2004Disc 3 (CDROM)
*35 Still Images
*Sheet MusicBook
*The Place Promised in Our Early Days (Storyboards, 360 pages)

Manga

"The Place Promised in Our Early Days" is also being currently serialized as a manga in Afternoon. Serialization began in February 2006. The story is by Makoto Shinkai while the art is by Mizu Sahara.

Theme song

;Ending
*Performed by (Ai Kawashima)
*Lyrics by Makoto Shinkai
*Music by Tenmon
*Arranged by Tenmon

Voice actors

Japanese:
*Hidetaka Yoshioka - Hiroki Fujisawa
*Masato Hagiwara - Takuya Shirakawa
*Yuuka Nanri - Sayuri Sawatari
*Kazuhiko Inoue - Professor Tomizawa
*Risa Mizuno - Maki Kasahara
*Unshou Ishizuka - Okabe
*Hidenobu Kiuchi - Arisaka
*Eiji Takemoto - Emishi Manufacturing employee
*Masami Iwasaki - Emishi Manufacturing employee, Hospital Director, Train Announcer
*Takahiro Hirano - Emishi Manufacturing employee, Graduate Student
*Tsuyoshi Maeda - Radio Broadcaster, Graduate Student
*Maki Saitou - Female student, Nurse, TV Announcer
*Yuki Nakao - Female student
*Kousuke Kujirai - Male student
*Rie Nakagawa - Female student, Nurse, Hiroki's girlfriend
*Hirochika Kamize - Patrol Boat Warnings
*Brett Coleman - US Military Officer
*Ian O'Neal - NSAEnglish:
*Chris Patton - Hiroki Fujisawa
*Kalob Martinez - Takuya Shirakawa
*Jessica Boone - Sayuri Sawatari
*John Swasey - Okabe
*Andy McAvin - Professor Tomizawa
*Kira Vincent-Davis - Maki Kasahara
*Illich Guardiola - Arisaka
*Adam Jones - Emishi Manufacturing employee
*Andrew Love - Emishi Manufacturing employee
*Jacob A.Gragard - Emishi Manufacturing employee
*Hilary Haag - Female student
*Lesley Tesh - Female student
*Mariela Ortiz - Female student
*Matthew Crawford - Male student
*Ian O'Neal - NSA
*Carl Ruthers - additional voices
*Chris Nelson - additional voices
*Jacob Jones - additional voices
*John Gremillion - additional voices
*Rob Mungle - additional voices

External links

* [http://www.kumonomukou.com/ Official Japanese Website]
*
* [http://www.animepodcast.org/2006/04/05/anime-episode-006-3008/ "The Place Promised in Our Early Days" Review] at Anime+ Podcast


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