This is the area that seems to be drawing the most contention. Some laud this movie’s story as touching and elegant, while others vilify it as convoluted, leaden and incomplete. However, although the criticisms are definitely understandable, the story is praiseworthy in spite of them (honestly, were you expecting me to say anything else?).
The first thing to emphasize is that, regardless of what the plot summary may sound like, this is not and should not be regarded as true science fiction. While there are definitely sci-fi elements in the show, the approach that the director takes uses them more as a backdrop for the main plotline than as an actual focus to the show. As a result, a lot of criticism is generated because the anime doesn’t “explain enough,” when in fact they’re missing the point entirely. The science-fiction is used to aid a story of love and friendship, not the other way round.
The second thing to bring out into the open is that truly appreciating the storyline requires both a tolerance of a deliberate pace and an appreciation for what at heart is a rather simplistic story. Both of these elements seem to have turned more than a few people off, but for me they only added to the films elegance.
Unfortunately, the narrative admittedly falters when the anime wanders into superfluous details that distract from the main focus of the show. Although such moments are thankfully rare, the times that they occur feel messy and muddled. These flaws in the story can most likely be attributed to the extra length of the movie; in Voices of a Distant Star, the limited running time forced the director to focus on what was most important. Here, however, he feels free (or even obligated) to diverge into places not relevant to his main plotline, and the result is never helpful.
However, barring each of these points, the anime offers a truly moving experience. Essentially, the basic storyline can be distilled to three characters learning the importance of their childhood promises and feelings. While the story is simple, the director is able to gives immense depth and power to it. The message is also relatively straightforward, but at the same time thought-provoking and moving. While it’s not perfect, it’s definitely a cut above what most anime even hope for.
Best. Animation. Ever. I don’t say this lightly; I literally mean that The Place Promised in Our Early Days’ animation easily surpasses everything I’ve seen up to this point.
Pinning down the high point is somewhat difficult, but perhaps the best example of why this movie is the prettiest I’ve ever seen is how the director uses tricks of light to turn otherwise mundane scenes into works of breathtaking splendor. In one scene, two characters talk inside a train, and as they converse, off-scene light sources reflect off of the metal parts in the cabin as they pass by. The result can only be described as a dance of light, a radiant display that magnificently accentuates the actual conversation.
Another example occurs when a girl picks up a violin inside of a school room. As she lifts the instrument up, the scene changes to show her almost silhouetted against the windows. The natural light shining through the windows almost completely drowns out the fluorescent lights attached to the ceiling, and the result is an excellent scene that perfectly complements the organic music that the girl begins to play.
I could rant on this alone for at least a couple more paragraphs, but instead I’ll let the show speak for itself. An excellent screenshot that captures this skill with lighting can be found at one of the AniRec screenshots.
The movie also has some truly amazing backgrounds. These backgrounds are fantastic not only for their artwork (which often approach the detail and quality from what I would expect from landscape painting), but for the fact that they are almost never completely static. Rolling clouds elegantly glide by, wind sifts through fields of grass, and images reflect across shimmering water. From these simple touches, each scene feels dynamic, alive and wondrous.
The movie also incorporates a significant portion of CGI, and the work is pretty much seamless.
Admittedly, the main characters all look somewhat generic. However, they fit well into the overall visual look of the show and are pleasant to look at, and thus the damage done is negligible. Furthermore, the somewhat unmemorable designs may actually be intentional (more about this in the character section).
The overall result of all of these elements is a veritable feast of eye-candy, a monumental work that probably won’t be matched for some time.
The sound is used in a relatively subtle fashion, but works well with the overall flow of the series. When played, the music is always completely instrumental and generally well produced. At times the music will surge and aid in the creation of some incredibly moving scenes, but there are also a lot of times when no music will be playing at all. Voice acting is generally done in a subdued, wistful sort of way, which fits very well with the show’s mood. Overall, the sound is basically flawless, but doesn’t play a large enough role to comment any further on.
I can easily understand why a lot of people are scoring this category so low. Quite simply, there is basically no development to differentiate the characters in the film from any other anime character.
However, because they have absolutely no defining traits, this may not be quite as much of a fault as one would think. By making the characters seem perfectly normal, the anime actually makes them easier to empathize with. Oxymoronic? Perhaps, but bear with me.
Before Shrek was released, just about no one questioned a prince’s “true love” in fairy tales. This was not because the princes in such stories were quintessential examples of good character development, but because they were literally a blank slate for the reader to imagine himself as. The “love” for the princess was made real because one could simply imagine someone loveable.
Similarly, the characters here are almost entirely formless, but rather than completely ruining the show, they merely give the film a different tone. The entire project becomes more abstract and universal, and may have even been the correct choice to make.
As a whole, The Place Promised... is a soaring work, a stunning accomplishment that is basically a must-see for this year. As Makoto Shinkai’s debut into the world of film, this is a landmark achievement, and I dream of the day he surpasses this work. No other anime released in 2004 has resonated with me more.
It's really hard to talk about Beyond the Clouds without spoiling (for the record, I feel NFO and AniDB both spoil in their descriptions... as they both use the same description), so I'll stick to what happens in the beginning. What's implied, but not really discussed in detail, is that Japan underwent a split after they lost the war, and Hokkaido became the land of Ezo. A great tower was also built but its purpose was unknown until decades later. In the present, however, three friends enjoy a summer together. Two of them, Hiroki and Takuya, have constructed a plane over the years that they plan to fly eventually, to see the tower and the island of Ezo. Sayuri and the two make a promise that they’ll someday fly to the tower on the plane, but then, Sayuri mysteriously disappears, and life goes on for the two boys. That’s about half of the movie, with the other half being a few years later. Without spoiling, I’ll just say that the movie goes into some pretty scientific stuff and explores physics and other advanced topics.
Beyond the Clouds is not for everyone. It’s not only slice of life, but it’s really, really slow slice of life. In addition, the topics covered are very intelligent and scientific, and probably would be best enjoyed if you have a strong science background. Granted, I didn’t find this to be a bad thing. I enjoy slice of life series, slower series, and things that are intelligent, though I do admit it was a bit much even for me. Still, the story was superb, the execution was good, and the flow was decent, so I still gave it an 8.
As far as genre or mood? Well, it’s definitely slice of life as I mentioned above. Furthermore, there’s a subtle but very moving romance that occurs, which will definitely remind you of Hoshi no Koe. There is essentially no comedy, no action, and very little that happens between characters except talking, but it’s a great quiet ride nonetheless.
So for the story? Good, but definitely not for everyone.
If you saw Hoshi no Koe, you surely were awed by how beautiful it was. Expect no less from Beyond the Clouds (created by the same person), and be assured you’ll be in for an even more beautiful treat this time around. Everything about BTC’s animation was stunning, from the beautiful panning background shots, to the close-ups, to the odd camera angles and character designs. Attention to detail was superb, lighting was amazing, and colors were rich and vibrant. Though this section is short, I really can’t say much else about the animation because it’s virtually flawless. The only reason I knocked down half a point is because the plane scenes did look a bit fake compared to the rest. Great animation all the way around.
Music was orchestral and incredibly moving, or non existent. Due to this being very slice of life, it’s ok that music was devoid a lot of the time, and the music the rest of the time made up for it. Not much else to say about the soundtrack, since it was superb in most ways. Voice acting-wise, they all did a good job.
The only low point of the movie would be the characters, but not by much. Because this was a slice of life film that was very quiet and moody (and focused on the visuals), the characters suffered a bit. They weren’t developed basically at all, and we only knew about the thoughts and feelings of one of the male characters. The romance between two of the characters was definitely the strongest point of the character interactions, but nothing else hit me very hard. This is a movie you watch for the intelligent plot and (more so) the visuals, anyways. I would have liked to know a little more about the characters, though in the context of slice of life, maybe it wasn’t terribly necessary.
Beyond the Clouds definitely reached my expectations as something amazing. I guess I just wish it would have been a bit shorter or had better pacing, so I wouldn’t have been as occasionally bored. The transitions also really should have been fixed. In between each scene there would be several seconds of pitch black, including after a major buildup complete with booming music. The visuals are fantastic, music is great, and story is interesting, so what can you lose by watching this? As long as you don’t hate slice of life, Beyond the Clouds is great for a viewing.
Kumou no Mukou, Yakusoku no Basho (Beyond the Clouds, The Promised Place)
Plot: "At the end of World War II, Japan was split and a great tower was erected that reached the skies. For three friends, Hiroki, Takuya, and Sayuri, memories of their summer spent together would stay with them forever. During that precious time, the three promised to one day travel to the tower in the skies on the wings of a white plane -- to finally see its brilliance and the surrounding land of Ezo -- but when Sayuri suddenly disappeared from their lives, the promise that once was made was broken. Though time continues to pass, will the three ever meet again some day?" (site synopsis)
Story: Before i begin with the analize of the story i need to say a few words as an introduction for this anime. I really need to say, and i really mean it, this anime is probably one of the best i seen this year, and one of the few anime that gets a 10/10 from me without hesitation/second thought.I blame myself because i knew stuff about this anime from like 1 year ago, i also marked it as a "must to watch" but i completely forgot about it, if i knew that this anime would be as briliant as it is i would have watched it long ago. However fate (i think this is the only reason why i did not manage to watch this piece of art until now) spoke and i got to see this movie today, which stunned me, not only the story was captivating and astonishing but it exceeds in other aspects as well, a true masterpiece and i mean it. Back to the story telling, at the end of WW II, Japan was split (from what the anime described the island Hokkaido was separated from the rest of Japan and was called Ezo) and a huge tower was construced which reached the sky. Hiroki Fujisawa and Takuya Shirakawa were two students who were obsessed by that tower and they were eager to fly to it. However one thing was connecting this two, Sayuri Sawakura a girl that both of them admired. Hiroki and Takuya were planing to construct a plane so they can fly to the tower, but to do that they needed to work so they could get their materials. Hiroki, Takuya and Sayuri spent a summer toghether and the memories from that summer would follow them forever. During that time the three promised that one day they will travel toghether to the tower in the skies. However when Sayuri disappears without leaving a trace, Hiroki and Takuya parted ways, and were not able to fullfil the promise that they had made. What i have to say here is that this anime has a very very slow slice of life aspect, infact in this movie there is no comedy, no action, only discussions. It has a very touching romance aspect, something that i seen in other movies made by the same studio which made this movie CoMix Wave Inc. (the same studio that made Byousoku 5 Centimeters and Voices of a Distant Star). This anime does not apply to everyone, the topics that are discussed in this anime seem rather intelectual, scientifical, kinda hard even for me to fully understand, i recommend it especialy for people who have some science knowledge.
Animation: Hands Down, i got nothing to complain about the animation of this anime, probably, only praises i can make because i cannot even describe the briliance of the animation quality and definition, and as well the character designs.I was truly impressed about the animation, infact this was the first thing that attracted my atention in the first time, i started watching this anime mainly because it seem to have a great animation quality and so it did.While watching it of course i immediately thinked about Voices of a Distant Star or 5 Centimeters per Second (in terms of animation this movies are the same).I don't even dare giving a lower mark than 10 for the animation. The sound was also impressing, fitted the anime environment and background 100%. I heard orchestral music, classic types that realy were touching, especialy when Sayuri plays the violin, that was the moment when i "fell in love with this movie". The soundtrack also is excelent and the voice-actors were also great.
Characters: Even so in terms of characters this anime is abit low but not by far. Since this movie had a very slow-paced slice of life aspect, and was more like centered on the visuals the character development suffered abit. We only know the feelings and thoughts of one of those boys (Hiroki) and Sayuri's feelings towards him were only revealed somewhere at the ending. Personaly i would have liked to see the other characters developed but even so since this is a slice of life show, probably it was not needed. The love relationship between Hiroki and Sayuri is like the only thing that impresses in terms of character interractions.
Overall: As i said above this anime does not apply to everyone, because i know many people that cant stand slow-paced/slice of life animes even though they are true masterpieces. In my opinion this anime is a masterpiece, what i seen in it was beyond my expectation, never thought that it could get that good after watching the first 30 minutes (another proff that you should not judge an anime at the begining). This anime is one of the few that exceeds in like most of the important aspects, briliant animation, captivating story and plot, enjoyable sound and decent, touching characters thoughts and their relationships, i doubt that you will need more reasons to watch this anime.
~Enjoy and Cya Around~
‘Beyond the Clouds’, also known as ‘The Place Promised in Our Early Days’, is a movie by Makoto Shinkai. I wanted to watch It for some months, and when I finally found It I wasn’t been disappointed. It’s just masterpiece. Catching plot, strong characters, awesome animation and a kind of mystery – It has it all. Maybe people’s animation is not that perfect, but I’ve never seen any anime with more beautiful landscapes. And as I know, not everybody likes Sci Fi, I wasn’t the exception. But thanks to (or because of) Beyond the Clouds I changed my mind.
The Place Promised In Our Early Days is one of that movies that I want to watch again and again, and I hope that you too.
I feel stupid for putting it off for so long. I thought it was amazing. I was wondering whether I should watch it or not because I saw 5 Centimeters Per Second, and I wasn't impressed. 5CPS had amazing art, but I thought it was incredibly boring. I'm not going to just say that 5CPS was a bad movie, because I can tell it was good. It just didn't fit my tastes. Well PPIOED had the great art, but I thought this time it was actually really interesting.