Three years later, Takuya is working as a scientist on parallel universe applications while Hiroki is a high school student in Tokyo where he wanders around as a melancholic, unfulfilled husk. The approaching outbreak of war and the rediscovery of Sayuri trigger a chain of reunions and a plan to visit the tower before it is destroyed forever.
Though the setting (excepting the tower that overlooks many a scene) is realistic, one must admit the lighting tends to be magically idyllic and conspicuously rapturous at every hour of the day. The use of lighting effects (particularly with sunlight) dominates the film in the way that material properties (specular shine, reflectivity and transparency) dominates “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence” (2004). “The Place Promised in Our Early Days” in virtually a crash course in pretty lighting phenomena. Here are some of the many effects you’ll be treated to:
1) Filtered shafts of light.
I’ll stop talking about the graphics in a second, but I did want to mention that the character design is not nearly on the same level. The characters aren’t off-putting or drawn badly, they just lack much originality and detail. They are a bit too stereotypical (cartoon uniformity of color, big-eyes, etc.) to draw us in through verisimilitude or individuality and so I feel Shinkai misses a chance to make us identify with and remember his characters.
The film deals with plenty of other motifs too, although I hesitate to probe too deeply. Is the Miyazaki-esque lesson about keeping your promises at all costs that interesting? Should one bother to dig up the obvious phallic potential of the rising tower or the equally obvious connections between the atomic bomb and the climactic explosion? There seems to be less point in doing so the further it gets away from the scope of character development.
One certainly can’t claim that the film does not offer up enough food for thought, however many would argue that the real meat of an anime is the action scenes and plot twists and those are quite utterly lacking. If you can’t tolerate drama and dialogue without a giant robot or a samurai showdown, this film probably won’t go over well with you. For me, it was a pleasant alternative to your typical anime clichés and compares well with “Wings of Honneamise” (1987), though somewhat below the ingenuity and originality of Satoshi Kon.
If the film has a major flaw, I’d say it was the difficulty reconciling the tight-focus character drama and the wide-focus “big picture.” Shinkai keeps the camera far back to soak in the masterfully-painted settings (often leaving the subject matter completely behind) when he should be keeping us grounded to the characters and giving them enough facial detail to distinguish some expressive nuance.