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The Place Promised in Our Early Days (雲のむこう、約束の場所 Kumo no Mukō, Yakusoku no Basho?, 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 ninth 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 Velaciela, 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 Velaciela 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 realizes that when she awakes she will lose all her memories of her dreams of the past 3 years, 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.

Production

File:JR Type 701 @Aomori station.jpg

Aomori Station was featured at the beginning of the film.

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 [1]

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 Collection

Disc 2 (DVD)

  • The Place Promised in Our Early Days (Animated Storyboards, 90 Minutes)
  • Interview with Makoto Shinkai
  • Animated Gallery 2002 — 2004

Disc 3 (CDROM)

  • 35 Still Images
  • Sheet Music

Book

  • 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

Your voice (きみのこえ Kimi no koe?)

Voice actors

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

External links

ko:구름의 저편, 약속의 장소ru:За облаками (аниме)

sv:Kumo no Mukō, Yakusoku no Basho zh:雲之彼端,約定的地方

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