Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ocean Waves

Genre: Drama, Romance, Slice of Life
General Audience
1993 Saeko Himuro (novelist), Tomomi Mochizuki (director), Atsushi Okui (director of photography) Studio Ghibli

Ocean Waves DVD
JList Product Description:
A wonderful story from Japanese novelist Saeko Himuro and Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, this is the painful story of growing up in a rural high school in Kochi Prefecture, on the Japanese island of Shikoku. In the summer of his 17th year, Taku Morisaki is making preparations for college when Rikako Muto transfers into his class. A mysterious and sometimes difficult city girl who has trouble getting along with others in the school, Rikako nevertheless slowly captures the interest of Taku. A beautiful movie based on a Japanese novel that captures a painful and melancholy moment in the lives of two people growing up in modern Japan.

The DVD release features two discs, one with the full feature in wide screen format, with optional English subtitles. The second disc features the film told through the original storyboards, a real treat for fans of Japanese animation, as well as a 50 minute feature looking back on the creation of the movie, and promotional trailers. Directed by Here is Greenwood and Orange Road Movie director Tomomi Mochizuki.

Nostalgic. >>> by skysenshi
Note that the novelist, Saeko Himuro, died of lung cancer on June 6, 2008. She was an essayist and playwright, but was best known for Ocean Waves (the Japanese title of her novel is Umi Ga Kikoeru or I Can Hear The Sea). This feature, considered as one of Studio Ghibli's more obscure anime, is rarely seen outside of Japan and it was never before released in the UK. The credits are pretty impressive, as director Tomomi Mochizuki is also known for his work in Princess Nine.

Like all other Ghibli presentations, I've encountered problems when choosing screenshots from so many wonderful frames. With Ocean Waves, I had a hard time picking one that is appropriate to the standard Otaku Fridge screenshot size. Many of the frames are rife with beautiful wide shots. Wide high angle frame shots, to be exact.

This title is setting heavy and environment-driven, making me wonder how the novel was written. Did these frames come from how Himuro visualized her characters' environment, the way Victor Hugo would take pains describing the Cathedral of Notré Dame? Or were these the idea of the director or director of photography? I'm taking note of the DOP, Atsushi Okui. Beautiful work! The composition is top notch. Of course, this is a Studio Ghibli production so you can be assured of painstaking labor when it comes to artistry. (Because it's really so much cheaper to do close-ups and just make the lips or eyes move instead of exquisitely detailing every aspect of the setting.)

In terms of story, Ocean Waves had a slow beginning. I even got confused in the middle of it, mistaking it for some sort of a bizarre love triangle. The boys Yutaka and Taku seem to care for each other so deeply that I wasn't too sure if they were going to end up fighting for the same girl or have that girl, Rikako, come between them. This, however, is a very simple story about adolescent turmoil. The plot is pretty common -- no complex, blow-your-brains-out twists to be expected here -- but the treatment is signature Ghibli.

The character designs are really how I remember old Ghibli characters to look like...not very pretty but packed with a whole lot of substance. (Rikako stood out because she's the only one with long black hair, though.) While I couldn't relate at first -- majority of it was about the characters' high school story, anyway -- it reminded me of the times I had been young, misunderstood and isolated. Ocean Waves came out in the ninenties...I was in the pre-adolescent stage at that time. Had I seen this back then, the ironies herein would just have flown over my head, so self-absorbed was I in my angst (kids call it "emo" these days).

Even though Taku narrates, there's not much dialogue going on. Everything's implied. I haven't been encountering these types of anime lately, subtlety from the script down to the visual components. Recent anime titles are now all about flash (I'm not talking about the Adobe product) and visual pizazz. Watching Ocean Waves is a reminder of how animation used to have concepts that effectively balanced visual art and literature. This makes every element in the movie -- and the resulting whole -- rich in symbolism. I miss that.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 9; Characters 9; Sounds 8

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