a.k.a. I Can Hear the Sea
a.k.a. Umi ga Kikoeru
Déjà vu can easily bring back old memories. Morisaki Taku finds himself reminiscing about the time his best friend introduced him to Muto Rikako, a newly transferred girl in school and how he was unwillingly mixed up in her quest for belonging. Change is a dreadful word when you are a teenager, and living in the past, although an easy answer, often leads to big disappointments. Love versus friendship, past versus present; winner takes all?
summary by Kjeldoran
Highs: Heartwarming story backed by elegant art; heaving of reality; deep key characters
Lows: Slow moving; underdeveloped secondary characters
Based on a book, designed as a television special and being Studio Ghibli’s first animation directed under someone other than Miyazaki or Takahata, Ocean Waves was an experiment in many areas for this prominent studio. Mochizuki Tomomi (Here is Greenwood), who was personally appointed for the job, used the fast and cheap method… but you can bet the Ghibli quality and feel is still present in every aspect of this film.
Adolescents will easily relate to the themes presented: having to adapt, feeling out of place and the frustrations of youth. All of these are displayed with heartfelt lightness and at a Zen-like pace. It is hard to pinpoint what in this movie keeps you glued to your seat for seventy-two minutes. The poignant reality of the situations and characters is without doubt a weighty factor. Main character development may be strong but time constraints force indifference on the supporting cast; while understandable this is nonetheless a shame.
Artwork may be just a little bit under the standards of a true Ghibli fan but is nevertheless still clean, elegant and detailed. The scenery can be praised for its realism, as well as quality, since they are all inspired by real locations in Kochi and Tokyo. Ocean Waves‘ young crew offers daring camera tricks and effects without going overboard, successfully giving this movie a narrative feel. Nothing groundbreaking in the music department but it sticks to the premise “simple yet beautiful”.
Ocean Waves is as mellow as it gets. When you leave action and excitement on the sidelines, you are left with genuine human feelings… and that is what this movie is all about. If you are heavy-eyed and easily bored you will most likely be looking at your watch every now and then; anyone who has ever been young before will be touched by this “miso soup for the soul” movie.
Highs: Poignant look at a coming-of-age anime; real characters with real personalities
Lows: Will bore younger viewers; some of the romance is a tad far-fetched
Ocean Waves is like a hot cup of tea after a hard day’s work. Perhaps the most easygoing and relaxing anime to come down the pike in decades, this movie exemplifies the traditions of Studio Ghibli but also the inexperience of its fledgling production crew. Good thing tradition won out in this case.
Director Mochizuki Tomomi (the Kimagure Orange Road movies), was brought in to produce a television movie that would be quick and relatively inexpensive. Apparently he must have graduated from the Gainax School of Economics because the project went terribly over budget and took longer to complete than expected. This works out in favor for anime fans everywhere since rushed jobs are usually lacking. The only thing Ocean Waves is lacking is the fine polish that I’ve grown accustomed to when I think Ghibli. Indeed, a few details are rather rough around the edges (I found Morisaki Taku’s growing affection for Muto Rikako towards the end somewhat implausible given her overbearing self-righteousness and other assorted character flaws). The animation and art, while visually crisp, are nonetheless mediocre, especially when taking into consideration the considerable budget involved.
Regardless, that signature Takahata Isao realism shines through bright and clear (not surprising, since he acted as a producer). This is really Ocean Waves‘ most endearing quality; anyone who has gone through the growing pains of teen relationships and experienced a maturation process during adulthood will feel an immediate connection with all the characters, especially towards the end as, after years have passed, they meet up again for a class reunion. The reunion celebration in a Japanese restaurant was one of the most personally nostalgic experiences I’ve ever witnessed during an anime. If you have similar memories, then let this charming movie be your gateway to the past.
Ocean Waves can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.