Place Promised in Our Early Days
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Languages: Japanese, Cantonese (dubbed) 粵語配音 / Subtitles: English, Traditional Chinese 繁體中文字幕 / Synopsis: In an alternate timeline, Japan was divided after losing World War II: Hokkaido was annexed by "Union" while Honshu and other southern islands were under US sovereignty. A gigantic yet mysterious tower was constructed at Hokkaido and could be seen clearly from Aomori (the northernmost prefecture of Honshu) across Tsugaru Strait. In the summer of 1996, three 9th-graders had made a promise that one day they'll build an aircraft and unravel the tower's mystery, but their project was abandoned after the girl, Sayuri Sawatari, began experiencing sleeping sickness and transferred to Tokyo for better treatment. Three years later, Hiroki Fujisawa accidentally found out that Sayuri had been in a coma since then, and he asked Takuya Shirakawa to help him finding a way to revive her. What they don't know yet is that Sayuri's unconsciousness is somehow linked with secrets of the tower and the world.
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Voices of a Distant Star was an epic in miniature, a tale of love between the stars expressed through time and space on a cell phone (literally!). It struck a chord with myriads of fans across the globe by making the epic extremely personal, making us wonder if the love between two teenagers in the end might be more important than a war across the universe. No Shinkai again creates a deeply personal epic, but of a slightly different nature. Both films create an enormous feeling of lonliness as star-crossed loves drift apart and a quiet desperation sinks in, Voices was highly tragic, while the feeling this film conveys is more one of triumph and salvation, through the belief that there is still time to fulfill life's promises, and there is always the chance to start again.
At its outset the film introduces us to a world where Japan is divided much the way German once was, with the two sides locked in a cold war. On one side are two friends working to build their own aircraft (and the girl who fascinates them both). On the other side lies an immense tower that they want to reach with the plane they are building. It's a peaceful, beautiful, tranquil world, but flashes of future events fill one with a sense or foreboding, just before we fast-forward to a time of impending destruction...
The friends grow up and drift apart. One enters into research and the other goes to the city to study at a university. Here the differences in their personalities which were at first subtle now seem like night and day, as the more stoic and studious one is getting involved in the razer-edge political climate and the daydreamer finds himself in danger of completely losing his grip on reality. And that's where the real drama kicks in.
You see that mysterious tower is a weapon of mass destruction, capable of rewriting the world with an alternate one...one where there are no people. And somehow that tower is connected to the girl, who has fallen into a deep sleep. But like in Voices of a Distant Star, the real story is one of the connection between two people across time and space, and dimensions. Not long before I saw this film I had an idea. What if our dreams were really a portal to other dimensions? While the two friends are pursuing their destinies, the idealistic one starts to hear her calling to him from far far away, from the dimension where her mind is trapped while her body sleeps. She is all alone and desperately searching for him to save her. And the thought that speaks to me most, is one I see again and again in Japanese stories. Often those who seem weakest are really the strongest. This girl who is so mild, soft-spoken, sweet, and fragile. And the only thing between the world and total annihilation is her will holding back the tower...
As she starts to wake up, and the nations head toward all-out war, the friends must reunite, and decide the ultimate fate of the world, as one tries to save the girl he loves, and the other tries to save the world.
This film is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen in my life. Voices of a Distant Star was gorgeous, with orange and purple hues over everything making it a world of perpetual sunset. But that short film was made by one man on his iMac. This film was made by a team of animators with a real feature film budget. And it certainly shows. The animation is much higher quality, with less sill shots and more natural-looking characters. Each and every frame is a work of art, with everything bathed in a perpetual sunrise pallet of colors. On a good TV, particularly if you have a progressive-scan dvd player. The music too is quite beautiful, with the main violin theme being perhaps as memorable as the piano them from Voices. Even with the greatly upgraded visuals, you can still very clearly see the director's tradmark style. Often you see objects in close view or tremendous vitas, and the characters are part of the world rather than standing out from it.
There are shots where you seem to focus on some small detail such as reflections on a ceiling or glittering lights, the passing of shadows. It gives everything a very dreamlike storybook quality, and I have often thought that Shinkai has to be trying tell the story completely with the visuals, as if we should still understand the feelings, thoughts, and emotions of the characters even without words.
Some people might be turned down by some of the more hard sci-fi aspects, such as the talk about alternate dimensions, and the technobabble about building the plane. And doubtless some will grow bored with the slow pace of the film. But the narrative power of Shinkai's creations is hard to ignore, and the visual splendor presented is unsurpassed. This film is nothing short of a masterpiece. I can't wait for Shinkai's next film.
It's three years later, and the boys have stopped working on the plane. One of them is now a student in Tokyo, while the other is working as a physicist. Meanwhile, Sayuri has been hospitalized due to an extreme form of narcolepsy. It is believed her condition has something to do with the tower on Hokkaido. Both of the boys learn what has happened to Sayuri, but have very different ideas what needs to be done. They need to decide whether it's more important to save Sayuri or save the world.
The animation in the film is lush and very realistic-looking. And the music perfectly portrays what happens in the film. This is a very touch and moving coming-of-age story. I recommend this film to anyone who enjoys character-driven anime drama.
This is the backdrop against which people live their lives and against which children go to school, with that silent, shining tower standing above them all. It's where three friends struggle towards adulthood, and see their struggles crushed under forces they can't control - but maybe ...
You'll have to see this for yourself. Science fiction elements contribute to this movie, but only as background. The story really revolves around the human need for a little beauty, friendship, and personal challenge in a world where such things become increasingly hard to find Although emotion gets a little overheated in one or two places, it's the personal drama that pulls the viewer in.
In truth, this may not necessarily be accurate. The art has fantastic detail, the pace DOES feel slower than Miyazaki's works. That being said, I think in order to draw out the kind of feelings the viewer gets from seeing the work, the pacing is part of the design, and probably intentional.
My only complaint is that we need MORE anime like this, to a wider audience. You want to prove anime is not just the cartoon network or saturday morning stereotypes, but can engage the viewer on many levels, with a emotionally deep story, this is the movie.
A side, and somewhat humorous argument could be that this sort of anime may be the ultimate answer to making geeky guys watch the equivalent of a chick flick and LIKE IT. (yes, silly I know, but the focus is really the emotional attachments of the characters over time moreso than any other element)
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