HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Ocean Waves
HTS Overall Score:82
“Ocean Waves” marks one of the VERY last Studio Ghibli films to make it to Blu-ray (with only “My Neighbors The Yamadas” being left on the feature film lis). However, “Ocean Waves” is not your typical Ghibli film as it was originally a made for TV movie back in 1993 instead of being your standard fantasy laden Miyazaki affair. A ratings success by all standards, “Ocean Waves” sadly didn’t make any money for the studio so the intended sequels to the project were permanently shelves and the movie pretty much languished in Anime hell without a U.S. release (that I can remember of find). Much like “Only Yesterday” us anime fans were forced to import expensive region free imports or make due with fansubs until today. A day that finally means we are able to get ahold of a good Blu-ray copy of one of the studio’s least known films to date.
“Ocean Waves” takes a step back from the typical fantasy and fairytale mold that Miyazaki and other prolific directors focused on and instead made a high school drama that deals with the trials and tribulations of being a teenager in modern society. Part love story, part coming of age tale, the TV film is actually much better than you’d expect, but with some of the flaws that are inherent for lower budgeted TV films. Taku Morisaki (Nobuo Tobit) and Yutaka Matsuno (Toshihiko Seki) are both good buddies for most of their lives, but things start to change once Tokyo native Rikako Muto (Yoko Sakamoto) enrolls in their high school during the last couple years of their high school experience. Rikako is an enigma, a seemingly sweet girl with some secrets, but also a highly damaged one. Yutaka falls in love with her instantly, but Rikako seems intent on exploiting Taku’s generous nature and good heart. What starts out as a simple borrowing of a few thousand Yen turns into a nightmare when Taku is caught up in her incessant desire to get back to her father (who went through a nasty divorce with her mother a few years back).
The trip to Tokyo that the young girl cajoles the pushover Taku into going on turns out to be the real nightmare more than anything. While Rikako and Taku hit it off initially, their friendship and the friendship between Taku and Yutaka becomes strained when Rikako has to come to grips with the fact that her father is moving on and the two boy’s friendship gets dicey when it becomes known that Taku spent an entire weekend with the girl that Yutaka loves.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=95794[/img]The screenplay for “Ocean Waves” was based off of the young adult novel by Saeko Himuro, and feels very unique in the world of Studio Ghibli”. There are no overly adult situations, no fantasy action pieces, or the bizarre worlds that one most usually associates with the Ghibli “style”. But that’s one of the most attractive aspects of the project. Everyone can relate to the film as it takes pieces of high school (or junior high) life that are transcend decades to ring true for all sorts of people (whether in the U.S., Japan, or some other nation). The concept of love triangles and friendships born out of conflict is nothing new, and in that respect, I have to fully applaud the simplicity of the story. Rikako’s and Taku’s inevitable romance is one that is delicately handled over the course of the 72 minute film, and only really comes to fruition in the last few moments when the characters are forced to step back and analyze their true feelings after time has gone by apart. However, the one thing that kind of grated on my nerves is the fact that Rikako is much less sweet in high school than Taku or Yutaka gives her credit for. She’s kind of a liar and manipulator who does what she wants to get her way, and that aspect of her personality is never really “fixed” per se. Which makes the inevitable hookup between the two leads hard to root for and ever so slightly unbelievable.
With that being said there is a sense of realism and sweetness to the story that puts a smile on your face by the end of the film. There’s no declarations of love between them, and no overly sappy parts that will make the guys roll their eyes while their significant others are dabbing with tissues, but instead allows for a very subtle and very unique friendship to form, and then adapt, over the course of a several years. “Ocean Waves” is one of those films that is very under rated in the Studio Ghibli lineup, and while it is not THE best film of the series is one of those films that really shouldn’t be missed if you prefer some of the less intense films of the franchise.
Rated PG-13 for some thematic material
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=95802[/img]Studio Ghibli films are always a treat on Blu-ray, and despite the fact that “Ocean Waves” was made for a TV audience, it shows up magnificently well on Blu-ray. The back of the box lists 1.78:1 as the aspect ratio (which I would have guessed for a TV film), but the actual framing of the disc is at a more theatrical 1.85:1 in the AVC codec. Colors are warm and homey throughout, and the use of pastels intermingled with soft primaries makes for a very alluring image. The hand drawn animation (yes, it’s beautiful to see hand drawn stuff come out) shows no signs of jaggies or compression artifacts to mar the image. There’s some small shots of banding here and there, but never anything to be upset about. White levels are maintained to perfection and the darker shots show no signs of crush or poor black levels. The animation style isn’t overly detailed, but there is more than enough moments for me to sit and marvel at the beauty of the hand drawn lines.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=95810[/img]I was actually a little surprised that there was no English dub for the film, but that really shouldn’t surprise me considering how little the made for TV movie made for the studio. Universal has given us the original 2.0 track in lossless DTS-HD MA, and for the most part it sounds really fantastic. Dialog is crisp and clearly intelligible at all times, and the melodic score and minimal sounds of Tokyo and Kochi fill out the two mains quite nicely. There’s some mild LFE, but being a low budget TV movie there really isn’t much for it to do besides compliment the score a little bit or add to the train station rumble. The only flaw I found was that some of the high frequency dialog got a bit strained and harsh. This usually was never that noticeable until someone yells (Rikako yelling at Taku after she gets yelled at by the girls is one of the most noticeable moments) and the vocals distort. Again, a made for TV source track that has been lounging around for goodness knows how long in the vaults isn’t going to have the fully immersive experience and detail that a Miyazaki film is going to have.
• Feature Length Layout
• Looking Back: Staff Reunion
• U.S. Trailer
• The Ghiblies
• Promo Trailers
While “Ocean Waves” might not be THE best film in the Ghibli universe, it is a highly sought after cult flick that has been way too long absent for a U.S. domestic releases. Fans of this have been begging the studio for well over 2 decades to bring it over here and finally they have acquiesced. The sweet, but relatable romance between the two leads is so fluid and rings true to the high school experience that you can’t help but softly smile in nostalgia (usually of your own high school experiences) and the while there’s some flaws in the 2nd act (mostly dealing with Rikako) the TV movie is well worth picking up if you consider yourself a Studio Ghibli fan. Recommended for a watch.
Starring: Nobuo Tobita, Toshihiko Seki, Yoko Sakamoto
Directed by: Tomomi Mochizuki
Written by: Saeko Himuro (Novel), Keiko Niwa (Screenplay)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: Japanese: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Runtime: 76 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 18th, 2017
Buy Ocean Waves On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Recommended for a Watch
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