Thursday, April 4, 2013

I Can Hear The Sea

Ocean Waves, or I Can Hear The Sea (海がきこえる Umi ga kikoeru) is a made for TV film directed by Tomomi Mochizuki and produced by animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli.  Apparently it was based on a novel as well, but I have never read that, so I couldn't really attest to how the film version compares.  Either way, I love this film.  It actually comes in right behind Porco Rosso as my favorite Ghibli film, though it is very much unlike any other film they have made.  This makes sense though, as this film was meant to give the studio the chance to make a much cheaper production using their younger staff members (though it did go over budget and schedule).

The story take place mostly in Kōchi, and is told in a flashback of protagonist Taku Morisaki reminiscing over who he comes to realize was his first love, Rikako Muto, after seeing a familiar woman on a train platform in Tokyo.  It's a simple enough story, and it lacks much of magical realism or fantastical elements that Studio Ghibli is most notable for, but the maturity and subtlety of Ocean Waves is instantly apparent and one could find it's contemporary love story just as whimsical as a flying pig or a bathhouse populated by spirits.

Rikako is from Tokyo and desperately misses home, and manages to offend almost everyone in her new school (of which Taku attends), not the least by making fun of Taku's Kōchi dialect, saying that he sounds like he is in a Samurai movie, and it's this comparative approach that Rikako is taking that is the cause of her social stryfe.  She becomes ostracized from her fellow students by placing herself above them, and though she says she doesn't care what they think, there is still a real sense of isolation and lonliness in her that only adds to her poor attitude towards her peers, and one that Taku is obviously annoyed and angered by despite his willingness to help her with her many problems.

Ocean Waves manages to use it's brevity to it's advantage, as any conflict is easily ascertained and the surrounding emotion is related to the audience immediately.  This is an impressively relate-able film, and despite some moderate predictability, it manages to be engaging from very early on.  In fact, I think that it's that instant relate-ability and predictability that makes it compelling and engaging, and it feels more like you are actually the one reminiscing rather than watching the characters go through the motions; somehow the fact that it is animated actually helps with this, as there isn't the normal relationship that the viewer often builds with the actor playing the part who that viewer may have any preconceived opinions about.  The characters are simply that --characters.  They remain those roles forever, and their story as we know it ends with what we're presented in the film.
If you have ever liked a girl, you should watch this movie.

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