DVD Review: Ocean Waves (1993) Movie UK R2

I’m not the biggest fan of manga or anime, I mean I’ve seen a few of the well-known movies, like “Ghost in the Shell” and “Ninja Scroll”, and I’ll never stop singing the praise of anything to do with “Guyver”, but when faced with an anime without any transforming robots, ninjas, monsters, or huge penis tentacles, I’ve always steered pretty clear. It just seems pointless to me to animate something that could easily be portrayed by real actors (probably more effectively, and with a great deal less effort) – hence the reason it took me quite a while to pop the “Ocean Waves” DVD into my player.

So was I wrong to write off non-action orientated anime? Well yes and no. I still find it hard to see why animation was used for such a stylistically pedestrian film, but with this opinion firmly reinforced and thus put to the back of my mind, I was able to enjoy the film to a certain extent.

“Ocean Waves” is made by Studio Ghibli, a veteran anime company known for producing such Japanimation classics as “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Spirited Away”. “Ocean Waves” however, is one of their lesser-known entries and was actually originally made for television by the young upstarts of the company, thus its late release on DVD.

The plot surrounds a love triangle between an easily manipulated school-kid called Taku, an unsociable harlot called Rikako, and an utter void called Yutaka. As this description proves, the inherent problem with “Ocean Waves” is its lack of relatable or pleasant characters. Let’s start with Yutaka, the supporting protagonist to Taku – who might as well not have been in the film, as his character does next to nothing throughout. It’s a shame because his introduction promises elements of depth and intrigue, but then he’s sidelined so that the audience can focus on the other two divs. Still, he does return at surprise moments during the film, often to punch someone or look aimlessly into the distance, thus reminding us that he is actually an integral part of the story – even though he’s really not.

Next we have Taku:

Q. What’s the difference between Taku and a used Towel?

A. Nothing, they’re both wet.

Q. What’s the difference between Taku and the toilet roll in the cheerleaders’ changing room?

A. Nothing, they both take loads of shit from annoying bitches.

That’s him summed up quite succinctly. Finally we have Rikako – easily the most unpleasant character in the film. She’s such a schizophrenic mood-changing nut that as a central protagonist in anything other than a horror film, she doesn’t make for enjoyable viewing.

Of course, this is part of the point – as “Ocean Waves'” main focus is on Taku’s unending pining for her, regardless of all the grief through which she puts him. For example, one particularly unreasonable episode begins when he accompanies Rikako to Tokyo entirely out of kindness (after paying for her ticket as well). Upon arrival he’s then forced to stay in a hotel room on his own while she stays at her Dad’s house. He’s just settling in when she bursts in through the door and throws a screaming ab-dab and stomps her way into sleeping in the bed while Taku is relegated to the bath. Then if that wasn’t enough, in the morning she throws another hissy fit and kicks him out of the bath because she wants to use it (probably to lay a rotten turd in the toilet just to add insult to injury).

Guyver wouldn’t stand for that kind of shit I tell you.

But resilient old Taku takes it and just stands there gormlessly with his mouth open as she leaves to meet another boy. Herein lies the problem – who cares about characters that have no redeeming features? In romantic films, the audience should want at least two of the protagonists to get together in the end, but when they’re both idiots, there’s no incentive to see their happiness.

The ending goes someway to explaining the actions of characters and to some extent, also reinforces the overall tone of unrequited love for people that shouldn’t and aren’t good for you. But rather than bring closure – it just invites imaginary sequels which merely add more infuriating situations to surround these two exasperating characters.

Regardless of the love-triangle from hell, “Ocean Waves” still remained enjoyable and engaging – due to amongst other things; the seamless animation, a few well placed scenes of refreshing humour and the appealing voice-acting. Even though it dealt with unlikable characters, the overriding story and conclusion nevertheless provided a well-rounded arc that offered a satisfactory amount of emotion and sentiment to please a relative amount of fans of the romantic genre. But not fans of giant penis tentacles.

The DVD was seemingly designed by Rikako as it annoyingly only contains a trailer. However, the menu design is nice enough and picture and sound quality are all up to standard, but this bare-bones release would definitely have benefited from some insight from its creators regarding its skewed characters and situations. But it doesn’t, so tough.

Tomomi Mochizuki (director) / Saeko Himuro (screenplay)
CAST: Nobuo Tobita … Taku Morisaki
Toshihiko Seki … Yutaka Matsuno
Yoko Sakamoto … Rikako Muto
Yuri Amano … Akiko Shimizu
Kae Araki … Yumi Kohama
Jun’ichi Kanemaru … Okada

Buy Ocean Waves on DVD