Film #66: Ocean Waves (1993)

aka: 海がきこえる (Umi ga kikoeru), I Can Hear the Sea
directed by: Tomomi Mochizuki
length: 72 minutes
language: Japanese
watched on: 18 September 2012

When I reviewed “Whispers of the Heart”, another Studio Ghibli title, back in January 2011, I remarked at the time that the film, however wonderful it was and however beautifully it portrayed its setting, lost a lot of magic simply by being set in the real world rather than in a fantasy world. The same is very much true of this film, although to be honest, it wasn’t that inspiring a story at all. It was in fact a TV movie, never released in cinemas, and completed on a smaller budget (that overran) compared to other Ghibli titles. In English, confusingly, it has two titles, although I will be using “Ocean Waves” here just because I think that’s the one they use in the UK.

The film does happen to have the rare distinction among Ghibli films of having a male protagonist, which doesn’t happen very often. It’s set somewhere rural, perhaps Shikoku island, and it follows the story of a boy who falls in love with a girl while they’re on holiday in Hawaii; later they travel to Tokyo together because she wants to go back and see her father, but it doesn’t work out for some reason. To be honest, I’ve forgotten, since the film and plot really weren’t that interesting.

I guess the main thing that interested me about this film was the opening shot. It’s in a train station, and it took me only a few seconds to realise that it was a realistic and eerily familiar depiction of the JR Kichijoji station, which is very near my apartment, and which I’ve used quite a lot. My apartment’s actually closer to the next line to the north, but I can cycle a lot. I was even in Kichijoji today, and yesterday, and tomorrow I’ll be cycling past it to get to work in Mitaka (a city which hosts the Ghibli museum, right enough). So it’s very strange for me to notice things like that, which are now very recognisable for me. Similarly, there were a few depictions of the rest of Tokyo later on which looked reminiscent, although generally it’s more of a look into a past version of Tokyo, because almost 20 years have passed since the film was made.

So anyway, the film wasn’t that great. It’s not without merit (as with all Ghibli films, it has beautiful set pieces and nice music), but it’s not typical Ghibli output, perhaps because it wasn’t by Miyazaki.


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