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Place Promised in Our Early Days, The
GKids brings us the 2004 debut feature film from writer/director Makoto Shinkai. Presenting Shinkai's themes of love, friendship, and loss, it's a mild and meditative adventure spanning time, in an alternate version of post-war Japan. Featuring Shinkai's now trademark lush visuals, the meditative story should appeal to those who like to do a little thinking while getting in their daily dose of aesthetic appreciation.
The post-war Japan of 1945 is divided, with the Island of Hokkaido now representing a foreign power. Three teens fixate on a mysterious super-tall tower built by a scientist after the war, so tall it can be seen from the other said of the Tsugaru Strait, on the island of Honshu. Hiroki (Hidetaka Yoshioka) and Takuya (Masoto Hagiwara) are working on fixing up a crashed airplane with parts they scrounge off their boss at a military facility. Their friend Sayuri (Yuka Nanri) is fascinated by the tower, and her friends' work. They vow to fly together to the tower upon completion of their rehab project, but Sayuri disappears before that can happen.
Three years later, the friends have abandoned their aerial rehab project, the shock and sadness brought forth by Sayuri's disappearance being too much. But neither Takuya nor Hiroki have really let go, personally or professionally, of fascination with the tower, an object with cosmic implications for Japan and the entire Earth. Nor have they forgotten Sayuri. These plot threads will all tie together in a way that's emotionally resonant and logistically complex, to say the least.
Shinkai employs hardcore metaphysical science-fiction concepts to craft a philosophical first-pass opus. Gauzy, diaphanous atmospheres dovetail nicely with themes central to Shinkai's oeuvre: love, loss, friendship, memory, wakefulness, and dreams. Like the clouds and setting sun, the meat of the matter may be hard at times to grasp. The plot shifts back and forth in time, and key concepts can be a little hard to wrap a person's head around. In effect, this first full-length effort from Shinkai feels quite ambitious, very personal, and situates itself firmly in a Japanese milieu that can read as 'otherness' to outside audiences. If you buckle in, however, the cumulative effect of watching The Place Promised In Our Early Days is one, not of rollicking science-fiction fun, but rather of resolute melancholy, wistfulness, and in the end, hope. If you're in the right mindset, or a fan of the director's work, this release is Highly Recommended.
GKids brings The Place Promised In Our Early Days in a solid 1080p transfer in a 1.78:1 ratio. Colors are a bit subdued, with an emphasis on pastels, and not as saturated as later Shinkai films, but look true to form, with deep black levels too. The animation is smooth and there are no defects easily detectable. Overall, this presentation appears quite nice.
A Japanese language audio track, and an English dubbed track are both available in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Dimensionality is subtle but effective, music is nicely mixed, and dialog is upfront, if not terribly forceful. The dynamic range is significant, with deep bass tones when called for.
The release comes sleeved in an O-Card, and offers Subtitles in English, Spanish, and English SDH. You get 32-minutes of Interviews with the Japanese cast, a 12-minute Interview with Makoto Shinkai, and a Trailer Gallery.
The Place Promised In Our Early Days is not a rollicking science-fiction film, though it certainly has a strong basis in such. Its tale of young friendship, love, and loss, while metaphysically heavy, is often quiet, melancholic, wistful, and in the end, hopeful. It also looks pretty beautiful. If you're in the right mindset, or a fan of the director's work, this GKids release is Highly Recommended