Starring: Nobuo Tobita, Toshihiko Seki, Yoko Sakamoto
Director: Tomomi Mochizuki
Running Time: 72 mins
Ocean Waves is a Japanese film about a young man who reminisces about his last year of high school and the girl that took over his life then as he returns from his first year of university.
This isn’t quite a typical Ghibli movie. It’s undoubtedly got the calm feel that the Studio is so well known for, but it was made by the younger workers at Studio Ghibli on a slightly lower budget, and was released as a TV movie in 1993. Despite that, it’s a heartfelt romantic drama that’s generally very pleasant to watch, but for one big issue – the characters, which I’ll get into in a moment.
However, I want to start on the positive side of things. The best part about this movie is the way that it plays on the nostalgia of high school and first loves. We’ve seen a lot of other Ghibli movies do the same thing, Whisper Of The Heart, Only Yesterday, From Up On Poppy Hill and, to some extent, When Marnie Was There.
Ocean Waves, however, does it really well, and it’s undoubtedly a touching nostalgic watch for anyone over the age of 16 or so who enjoys reminiscing about those times and those feelings, which everyone can relate to.
As always, the animation here is excellent, capturing the city environment of both Tokyo and Kochi effectively whilst maintaining a strong contrast throughout, which makes it a very atmospheric film, and ties in nicely to our main character’s own thoughts about how he feels in the two separate cities, which was a nice little touch that I enjoyed.
Like I said, this is a really heartfelt film that uses nostalgia well and, had it not been for the problem I’m about to get onto, it would have been a fantastically calm and emotional romantic drama.
However, I found myself continuously frustrated by the movie’s characters. Our main man, Morisaki, is a likeable enough guy, and you can get to know him and empathise with him well as the film goes on (which is no mean feat in a film that’s only 72 minutes long).
But the biggest problem is the two co-leads. On the one hand, Morisaki’s love interest, Muto Rikako, really comes across as a horrible person. The film attempts to justify her behaviour at times by introducing a secondary story about her own family problems, but that’s never really convincing enough for you to be able to understand her, or even like her at all.
And that’s a really big problem when she’s the main romantic interest for our main character. In the end, I felt strongly that I didn’t want them to end up together at all, and if they did, it would be a disappointing ending that would ruin my perception of Morisaki. I won’t say what happens in the end, but the way that Muto is portrayed over the course of this film really isn’t nice.
Finally, there’s another character, Matsuno, Morisaki’s best friend from high school who also liked Muto at the time of the story. Unfortunately, we don’t get anywhere near enough insight into the relationship between the two male leads as the film goes on, which means that the eventually introduced love triangle element to the plot feels completely out of left field, and doesn’t add anything to the story.
Overall, I liked Ocean Waves as a typical calm Ghibli romantic drama. They’ve done better, and the characterisation here remains a big issue for me, but its heartfelt and nostalgic atmosphere was enough to give me a good time in the end, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.1.