Can younger viewers (pre-adult) fully enjoy this movie? Maybe by its very nature, it’ll resonate with anyone past a certain age… I’ve seen most of Studio Ghibli’s movies by Hayao Miyazaki, but only a couple of the studio’s other, non-Miyazaki movies (the beloved Whisper of the Heart and the fun The Cat Returns). It was about time for me to finally see Ocean Waves.
Going into the movie, I barely recalled reading about it years before. Something about a new student and a love triangle. I’ll try to avoid anything I’d consider a blatant spoiler (beyond the early portion of the movie), so some of what I write might end up confusing for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie. My apologies for this!
The initial concept interested me: After a junior high school field trip is called off, student Taku Morisaki is unsatisfied with the reasons given for it. At an assembly, the speaker at the podium asks all students who want an explanation to raise their hand. Morisaki hesitates for a moment, then raises his hand, afraid of the reaction, but he finds no one is looking his way. Instead, they’ve turned their attention to the student body president, Yutaka Matsuno, whose hand is up. As the only two with their hand up, Morisaki and Matsuno find friends in one another.
At this point, I foolishly let my expectations of what would happen get in the way. I thought, “These boys only have one thing in common: they both raised their hand.” Surely we’d come to find that that isn’t enough to hold a friendship together. Granted, there are a number of scenes that show how awkward things can be between the two, but their interactions as friends are skipped over, putting the focus instead on the involvement with the new transfer student from Tokyo, Rikako Muto.
This is where things started to reach a level of boredom for me. Things were building up to something, but it wasn’t very attention-grabbing for me. It went through the high school trip to Hawaii, and Muto’s request from Morisaki, and I still found myself stuggling to pay attention.
Then came the plane scene, and an increase in Morisaki’s involvement with Muto’s affairs. Things shown up to this point were piecing together, and the interest level started to rise for me. Because of Muto, Morisaki’s put through difficult times, and the interactions between the two continued to escalate. (I even found myself cheering Morisaki on after he returned Muto’s action after he confronted her about the rumor around school.)
By the end of the film, I knew I had something I’ll be watching again one day. I don’t know when, but when that day arrives, I know I’ll enjoy the whole thing, from beginning to end. The interactions between Morisaki and his newfound friend, Matsuno. The way Matsuno acts in relation to Muto. All the ways Muto treats Morisaki, and how he treats her in return, and what that leads to between him and Matsuno.
Is Ocean Waves a great film? I’d say it’s not too bad, although early on the relatively low budget of the film is visible in the animation, and the story feels a bit shaky to begin with (although I’ll consider it building Morisaki’s personality for now, until I’ve had a chance to re-watch the film). Is Ocean Waves a memorable film? It’ll take me at least a year to find out. Considering I had to look up all the names for this post, that’s not a good sign. (Then again, I can’t remember names from Whisper of the Heart, a movie which I absolutely love, or The Cat Returns, a movie I enjoyed but find “forgettable”.) If Ocean Waves has any staying power with me, it will have to be with the tale itself, and the final realization of the feelings certain characters didn’t realize they had.
In the end, I did enjoy the movie. Early on, however, one of the things that bugged me in this film was what I gather was an attempt at an artistic style. Certain short scenes would be shown on a smaller scale, with whitespace in the surrounding area. I may have gotten used to it by the end of the movie, but this technique stopped being used not longer after it had started. Just not used at all. Gone. Either that, or I became immune to it and no longer noticed it… I could understand if the technique was used to show whenever someone had a small view of the world around them, but there’s no such pattern.
For this release itself, I watched the over-priced (but I still paid that price, right?) “Ghibli-ga Ippai” release, which has the Japanese dialogue and English subtitles. (And yet they don’t bother to subtitle bonus content? For what I paid? Paying for the label, indeed!) Keeping track of names of characters became a chore quickly, as characters referred to one another by their surnames (quite expected), and the subtitles used their given names (sadly expected). Hearing one name and reading another name left me completely lost as to who was who for at least the first half of the movie. Character designs and personalities left characters distinguishable from one another, but whenever someone brought up a name, it wasn’t easy. Add in that the three main characters have M-names, and it’s not easy.
I do give points for coming up with a title for the film that holds a lot of meaning when the scene it relates to visually finally arrives near the end of the film, which then ties the general feeling of the scene in with the entire movie before it. That’s some good film naming right there.
It’ll be nice to re-watch this movie one day. Movies are so much easier to re-watch compared to a 26 or 40+ (or 70+) episode series. Too bad I’m stuck watching it on a computer monitor, as it’s region two.
Oh yeah, final thought: Doesn’t the above-pictured Yamao look like a high school version of Genta from Detective Conan?