Ocean Waves (1993)

Perhaps unfairly regarded as a minor Ghibli, there’s something deeply charming about its portrayal of teenage infatuation and matters of the heart that are set against the context of high school life.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review #2,129

Dir. Tomomi Mochizuki
1993 | Japan | Animation/Drama/Romance | 76 mins | 1.85:1 | Japanese
G (passed clean) for some thematic material

Cast: Nobuo Tobita, Toshihiko Seki, Yoko Sakamoto
Plot: As a young man returns home after his first year away at college, he recalls his senior year of high school and the iron-willed, big city girl that turned his world upside down.
Awards: –
Distributor: Studio Ghibli

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Coming-of-age; Infatuation, Reminiscence
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: Netflix
Spoilers: No

Many Studio Ghibli animations are coming-of-age movies and Ocean Waves is no exception.  Long, and perhaps unfairly, regarded as a minor Ghibli and meant as a television movie, Ocean Waves features a story about two guys and one girl set against the context of high school life. 

Taku and Yutaka become close friends after a school incident draws them together.  But enter Rikako, a transfer student from Tokyo, who’s both smart and pretty, though many dislike her attitude of superiority, which is unfortunately a misjudgement.  She finds Yutaka and Taku different from the rest and spends more time with each, particularly Taku, who’s the main protagonist. 

One of the few Ghibli films that is not directed by Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata, Ocean Waves does quite a lot in its short runtime of 70-odd minutes.  It’s a breezy, outdoorsy-type film, and there’s something charming about its portrayal of teenage infatuation and matters of the heart. 

Romantic feelings develop and mature over time, but director Tomomi Mochizuki is more interested in the suppression of those feelings as a guise or coping mechanism.  Not overly emotional, Ocean Waves does have its fair share of heartfelt moments and a satisfying epilogue to boot. 

The film’s lack of sophistication could alienate more hardcore fans who may demand a more substantial narrative, but I enjoyed its simplicity and it took me back to my high school days where having crushes was as equally important as cramming for exams. 

Grade: A-



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