Friday, May 23, 2014

The Place Promised in Our Early Days

Kumo no muko, Yakusoko no Basho; animated romantic science-fiction drama, Japan, 2004; D: Makoto Shinkai, S: Hidetaka Yoshioka, Yuuka Nanri, Masato Hagiwara

In an alternate history, Japan is split between two states: on the north, Hokkaido has been occupied by the Soviet Union, while the south is in alliance with the US. Two guys, Hiroki and Takuya, are friends with a girl violinist, Sayuri, and live in Aomori, from which they can see Hokkaido, where the Union constructed a giant tower that is intended as a weapon, since it can replace the matter around it with matter from another universe. Sayuri disappears for three years, until it is discovered that she is in a come, and while she is "sleeping", the power of the tower is kept under restraint because it was constructed by her grandfather. Hiroki, still in love with her, takes Sayuri's body and flies via an airplane to Hokkaido, just as the Union and the US declare a war on each other. Sayuri awakens from her coma, and the tower is destroyed.

"The Place Promised in Our Early Days" is a film with a strange dichtomy: its setting in an alternate history world, that reminds of a Japanese version of the division of Korea or the Crimean crisis (Hokkaido is under the occupation of the "Union"), is more fascinating than the main love story, but deliberately underdeveloped and "held back", while the love story is pushed as the main event, yet it never ignites fully and, it seems, does not have the same potential as the setting. After two excellent anime films, "Voices of a Distant Star" and "5 Centimeteres per Second", hopeless romantic Makoto Shinkai again picked a romance, delivering a touching and proportionally well made film, yet a one that lacks the emotional punch of his two above mentioned titles. The love triangle is not developed enough, the characters are good, but slightly humorless and dry, whereas Shinkai's 'autistic' directing gave the storyline a rather vague feeling of a 'stream-of-consciousness' resembling T. Malick. A better grip and a more articulate story would have been welcomed, obvious in the rushed finale which treats a war between the Union and the US only as a footnote hardly worth mentioning. However, Shinkai still has a lot virtues in his sleeve, from the melancholic mood up to the great animation, and a few moments are poetic, such as the line that "the Universe may be dreaming" as well.


1 comment:

Christopher Sobieniak said...

Just needs a good writer.