After watching three animated films by Japanese director Makoto Shinkai, two of which (Your Name & Garden of Words) I absolutely loved, I decided to watch all of his creations. So I started with his feature film debut, the 2004 flick ‘The Place Promised in Our Early Days’.

The story is set in Japan, but with an alternate history, according to which Japan has been divided into two feuding parts, one under the union’s control, while the other is backed by America. Two school students Takuya and Haruki are enamored by a high-rising tower on the other side of the border and start building an aircraft in the hopes of travelling to the other side and uncovering the secrets of the mysterious building. The boys make a promise to their friend Sayuri that the three of them would go there together some day. But they abandon their plan after Sayuri transfers to another school and disappears from their life.

While at the core of it, ‘The Place Promised in Our Early Days’ is a tale about friendship, love and promises; Makoto Shinkai throws in some sci-fi stuff which includes ‘alternate universes’ and the possible dangers of two worlds colliding. Both sides of Japan are shown to be working towards cracking the mystery of parallel dimensions and somehow – Sayuri is connected to it. So amid a technology race between two sides, will the three friends who are children no longer, be able to still fulfill their promise of flying to the other side? That’s really what the story is about.

The film felt a bizarre mix of a simple love story with sci-fi, and it just doesn’t blend well. The animation is not great and the story-telling is slow, overtly emotional and not very convincing. As a viewer, one might feel compelled to press the ‘fast-forward’ button multiple time or even lose interest completely. There is really not much to say about the film, except that it might turn out to be a disappointing experience if you have watched ‘Your Name’ by Shinkai.

It’s a 5/10 from me. You can find the film on Netflix.

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