- Mangaka : Shinkai Makoto
- Publisher : Yen Press
- Genre : Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi, Seinen
- Published : November 2020
After World War 2, Japan has split in half; the Honshu is under the United States-Japan alliance, and the Soviet Union controls Hokkaido. A strange, mysterious tower was built in Hokkaido, reaching up and out of the atmosphere, visible from the northern tip of Honshu. Three teenagers, Hiroki, Takuya, and Sayuri, made a vow—build an airplane that cannot be detected by surveillance technology, cross over Hokkaido and learn the tower's secrets. Their dream never happens as Sayuri was sent to Tokyo for treatment after she fell into a coma. For three years, their youth are slowly fallen apart, but their promise remains undeterred. This is the story of how a single promise can impact everyone’s life.
In case some of you don’t know, this light novel is written by Shinkai Makoto, who is also the writer and director of Kimi no Na wa (Your Name), Tenki no Ko (Weathering with You), and other major Shinkai films. If you have watched these films, including Kumo no Mukou, Yakusoku no Basho (The Place Promised in Our Early Days), you might be want to read their light novels because they provide a lot of grounds and context to the story that wasn’t in the movies.
Kumo no Mukou, Yakusoku no Basho (The Place Promised in Our Early Days) takes place in Aomori prefecture, the far northern territory of Japan’s main island. The story focuses on Hiroki Fujisawa, Takuya Shirakawa, and Sayuri Sawatari in a first-person view setting and their perspectives. The light novel contains aviation, internal and external conflicts, quantum physics, military and romance. The story setting and progression is done in a three-arc format, excluding the prologue, and the writing style can make readers feel like they are watching a movie that has no time limit as you can take your time to read and understand what every character thinks of the situations and relate their hardships and issues to themselves.
1. Engineering and Psychology
As mentioned in the introduction and discussion sections, the trio dreams of building an aircraft that could bring them to the tower. Hiroki and Takuya were interested in aviation before their middle school days. Hiroki deals with the hardware while Takuya handles the software, so both need each other to build a complete product. This is where physics, fluid dynamics, and programming applications. Don’t worry. It will fly. Maybe.
Aside from engineering, another element under Sci-Fi is the study of the human brain that links to the tower's existence that connects to the parallel world. It is more than just the tower if you know the truth that is.
2. Internal and External Conflicts
The relationship between Hiroki and Takuya are like brothers; they have similar interests and know things that others don’t. But when Sayuri comes in, both of them harbour special feelings towards her. Hiroki is evident because he is the main character in the story, while Takuya remains subtle about his feelings. That one promise she suggested to the boys and soon later disappear on them made a significant impact on their lives, and they lost the motivation to work on their dream and breaks their friendship as collateral damage.
Hiroki and Takuya never speak to each other again for three years of high school days. Hiroki’s regret and guilt slowly manifest inside him, trying to go to a new place to find a purpose of his existence until he met Rika. Rika reminded Hiroki of himself and decides to redeem himself to help her, but alas, that wasn’t enough. That is the point where he realized that the promise still haunts him and tells him to fulfil it to move on. It is more about closures.
3. Life Lessons
The people we met in life may become acquaintances, friends, best friends or lovers, but someday, we have to part ways and go on with our lives autonomously. This is where the characters have to go through. You have to understand that everyone has things that require their attention and it is not like they will be there for you 24/7 unless they are your husband or wife, and that doesn’t mean they are not your friend. People come and go, which is part of the journey in life, and it is important that sometimes it is best to handle things by yourself and other times you need help from others.
This may sound odd to some readers, but get ready to experience every little detail of the character’s thought process. Trust us. You might need some time to process them. It isn’t about the science side of the story, but also the norm. As for the locations mentioned in the report, you might need to prepare Japan’s map to know where the characters are heading and where the story unfolds.
Overall, Kumo no Mukou, Yakusoku no Basho (The Place Promised in Our Early Days) is a fun but disheartening experience related to what we humans have gone through in life in the right way. It reminds us of how important it is to appreciate every memory made, going through the ups and downs and the process of creating and using aircraft, along with how the human minds work. Other than those, if you are not a fan of a large number of small details and confuse about actual locations you can find in Japan, you may not like it. Remember, be nice to your friends and family, you never know when you will meet them again in the future.