Makoto Shinkai is unique in his directing style in that he often places more focus on a character's inner thoughts rather than his or her dialogue and interacting with the environment. While this style has its own set of strengths and weaknesses, Shinkai uses it to his advantage to often show a emotion driven story. Such as is here in "The Place Promised in our Early Days." It is not a good as some of his other efforts, but it is still worth the watch nonetheless. The story is about three friends living in a alternate reality Japan. Japan has been split in have by America who controls the south and "the Union" controlling the north. There is a tower that goes beyond the clouds and the three friends make a promise to go fly up to it using a plane that they salvage and start to repair. One day, one of the friends disappear and story follows the other two friends and how they cope and ultimately try to find and help her. Like I said, the setting is in a alternate history and there are some science fiction influences in the world. However, it does not detract from the highlight which is he story. The first part of the story involves the three friends enjoying their summer. It is so genuine in terms of emotion and the bright lighting and beautiful drawn environments really brings the story to life. The character animations is not the best and the voice acting is OK at best, but the environments themselves are so beautiful that you'll easily forgive the previous complaints. Shinkai excels at portraying emotions of lost and isolation, especially when it involves old friends and lost lovers. It is no exception here. The main character is the most developed here as we hear his inner thoughts the most and his desire to see his lost friend again is interesting. As much as I like this movie, it is hard not to compare it to another Makoto Shinkai film, "5cm per Second." The reason I like that film better is because there was nothing that distracted the main story. It was clear and to the point with nothing distracting. Same can't be said for this movie. There is a lot of background here involving politics and a weird dream/ parallel universe science that gets convoluted and messy and at times, it can get distracting. That being said, if you want a movie with genuine emotion, this is not a bad watch. In a age where anime tends to focus less on story and more and cutesy hi jinks and everyday nonsense of high school students who can't get a girl, "The Place Promised in our Early Years" is a refreshing, emotional, and occasionally beautiful film that won't leave and tears in your eyes, but might leave you staring at the screen even after the credits start rolling.