Starring: Ryota Katayose, Rina Kawaei, Honoka Matsumoto
Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Running Time: 96 mins
Ride Your Wave is a Japanese film about a woman with a love for surfing who falls for a firefighter on the night he saves her from a blaze. However, their relationship takes a turn after a day out on the waves.
From Masaaki Yuasa, the director of the bold The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl, and the bizarre but endlessly sweet Lu Over The Wall, comes a film that’s once again rather nice, but it’s surprisingly dry given Yuasa’s track record of offbeat storytelling.
It’s a bit of a shame given the strength and memorability of the two films mentioned above, as Ride Your Wave plumps for a fairly one-dimensional romance story with just the slightest dash of fantasy added in.
However, let’s start off by looking at the brighter side of things, fundamentally with the fact that Ride Your Wave, while not a riveting watch, is still quite enjoyable, complete with fun voice performances, good humour and, as you’d expect, gorgeous animation.
We do take the animation style of mainstream Japanese cinema a little for granted, but films like Ride Your Wave prove just how effective and enticing this distinctive brand of traditional animation can be.
With such endearing visuals right from the start, it’s easy to fall in love with Ride Your Wave very quickly, and you then begin to enjoy spending time with the film’s main characters on the sun-baked Japanese coast.
The film strikes up some really lovely humour here and there that makes things all the more pleasant, with a really nice balance between silly, playful comedy and some sharp writing too. All of that makes Ride Your Wave a delight to watch, at least at first.
Inevitably, things take a bit of a turn at the end of the first act, and the atmosphere shifts quite dramatically from a lighter tone to something much more serious.
The problem, however, is that the film hasn’t yet done enough to connect you with its characters on a deeper emotional level, almost bringing in its sucker punch a little too early on for its own good.
As a result, you really miss the light-hearted, playful atmosphere of the film’s early stages, and Ride Your Wave just doesn’t have enough narrative depth to really engage you in the same way.
Couple that with the fact that the fantasy element that the story brings up about halfway through is nowhere near as imaginative nor touching as the film thinks it is, and you have a rather dry and shallow story whose drama really pales in comparison to the fun of the opening act.
It’s a real shame given the talent behind the film and the strength with which it starts, but Ride Your Wave is, for the most part, a disappointment. However, with good humour and gorgeous visuals, there’s still a lot to enjoy here, despite the film falling short of its potential, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.3 overall.