For all lovers of Asian films and anime, the mention of the name Studio Ghibli should automatically bring up in their minds colourful images of mythical creatures, epic battles and magical adventures. So I must begin this review by telling you this: while Ocean Waves was in fact made by Studio Ghibli, it features none of the above. So please don’t expect it to resemble a Miyazaki classic, or you will be very, very disappointed. What this well-made little film does offer, however, is a quiet contemplation of love, friendship and growing up, delivered in a most pleasant and gentle kind of way.
The story takes place in Kochi, a country town in Japan. Taku and Yutaka are best friends living there, and their friendship is put to the test when Rikako, a girl from Tokyo, transfers to their high school. Yutaka falls in love with this attractive girl at first sight, and cannot wait to tell his mate that he is in love. So when Taku realises he is also developing an affection towards Rikako, he decides to hide his own feelings, but fate would have it that he will by chance end up on a trip to Tokyo with Rikako…
The central character of Rikako is one that every girl is jealous of but every boy dreams about. She is smart, good at sports, and she is pretty. Once you get to know her though, you realise that she is immature and her actions are predominantly driven by her emotions. The boys, on the other hand, are rather vague a lot of the time. (Or can I just say all 3 of them are typical teenagers?)
The love triangle between Taku, Rikako and Yutaka at the centre of this teenage love story is so familiar that if it weren’t for some wonderful story telling and charming hand-drawn animation, this film would be just passable. While viewers do not get to find out a great deal about each of the characters, director Tomomi Mochizuki has still managed to make them, and what happens between them, incredibly believable. So don’t be surprised if the film brings back memories of someone or some of the things that happened at your school.
The film features beautiful hand-drawn animation. The picturesque rural Japanese setting is a delight to look at. It really is a fine demonstration of the beauty of ‘traditional’ 2D animation, something that is sadly missing in a lot of today’s films featuring fancy 3D computer imageries. It is almost impossible to imagine this film being made in 3D without losing any of its appeal.
Ocean Waves was actually originally made for Japanese television, but it certainly has enough fine qualities to be worthy of a place amongst Studio Ghibli’s best works. It has recently been released for the very first time in Australia, and all fans of Ghibli films really should give it a go. It is as beautifully gentle as soft sea breezes, and ultimately offers a most refreshing viewing experience.