Ocean Waves is perhaps a strange film to end the Studio Ghibli Countdown on because it was made in 1993 for Japanese television, but since it was just released in 2017 in the US it seemed like a good spot to place it. It’s also not the strongest way to leave the masterful studio but it is not without some value.
As I said, Ocean Waves was made for Japanese television and is only 72 minutes. It was made on the cheap without Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata at the helm. Tomomi Mochizuki was brought in to direct, and it was seen as an opportunity to train and use young animators and let them flex their muscles. With that in mind, the animation is pretty good. It’s far from Studio Ghibli’s best but it’s pleasant to look at.
The story is where Ocean Waves is not very strong. It focuses on an older teenage demographic than most Ghibli films and it feels like an episode of The OC or Beverly Hills 90210. It’s all pretty soapy and filled with unlikable characters.
The premise is simple. A man named Taku sees a girl he knew in high school named Rikako at a train station. He then proceeds to tell us about his associations with her and how she just might be the love that slipped from his fingers.
The problem is Rikako is kind of a jerk and doesn’t treat anyone around her including Taku with much respect or love, so it is hard to root for the couple much. There is even a scene where the two of them slap each other in a fight.
Studio Ghibli has done other slice-of-life animes (most notably Only Yesterday) but those movies are charming where this just isn’t. However, that doesn’t mean I was miserable watching it. You still have the animation and it does have some nice moments away from the lead couple. There is a pleasant feeling of nostalgia and looking back that will make you think about your own friends in high school and maybe convince you to give them a ring.
As far as the music and other production values, just keep in mind this is a made for TV film and it might seem more impressive. It’s definitely not up to theatrical Studio Ghibli standards in sound design, score, or editing but the studio does set a high bar.
In the end, I would recommend Ocean Waves for the hard core Studio Ghibli fan who wants to see the entire collection. It has some nice moments and the animation is lovely so I’m glad I saw it. It’s probably my least favorite work from the studio but it’s not a total loss either.
Buy Ocean Waves on Blu-Ray/DVD HERE.
Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden