Trigger warning: spoilers ahead!
Whenever we would hear Studio Ghibli, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle come to mind. These genres are fantastical, with the inclusion of magic, witches, and whatnot. But Studio Ghibli actually has slice-of-life films as well. They are delightful and insightful as well.
Yet fans wonder if Ocean Waves is actually a good film. It is probably one of the obscure Studio Ghibli films – arguably the least film being talked about. Whisper of the Heart, while being a rather underrated film in comparison to Spirited Away, still inspired a live-action sequel. This is a testament to how Whisper of the Heart left an impact in its own way despite having the slice-of-life genre.
You might have encountered Ocean Waves on social media. Its scenes are usually used on YouTube edits, specifically ‘anime aesthetic’ ones. Most likely, some people who use these aesthetic scenes did not know it came from Ocean Waves. So is it a good film worth watching?
What Is Ocean Waves About?
Ocean Waves is a story about a high school students and how they navigate romantic love. This shows how the romance is supposed to be messy, yet a learning lesson – just like any teen romance. It is supposed to be clumsy, highlighted by the characters’ immaturity. This is exactly what happened in the film.
The main protagonists of the film are: Taku, Rikako, and Yutaka. Taku is a working student, and Yutaka is his best friend. Yutaka is attracted to a new female student, which is Rikako, who came from Tokyo to attend school in the province of Koichi.
A love triangle forms between the three of them. Yutaka likes Rikako, but Rikako does not like him back. She seemed more interested in Taku, but she does not express this in a positive way. Taku also seemed interested in her, but he also does not express this well. This is expected considering that they are still teenagers.
That is basically the summarization of what the film is about. Very realistic and just a plain high school drama. Whether this story may be appealing to you or not totally depends, but in this article, we will be giving you a rather subjective take on the film. This is to give an idea if the film is good to watch.
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Mundane, And Rather Dragging
It is a slice-of-life film, so it is expected that it will show a realistic portrayal of a high school life. It is supposed to be ordinary, yet it is still a film at the end of the day. It needs to make the mundane stories intriguing, and the characters themselves interesting. The length of the film also does not matter as long as the story is compelling.
With Ocean Waves, however, the story can be quite dragging. This is probably because the love interest, Rikako, is the only one moving the plot. The major events that are happening are only occurring because of Rikako. It would make sense since she is someone the two other protagonists like, but it would not hurt to give room to others as well.
Taku should have been given screen time in what he does, and who he is as a person. Maybe a subplot about himself (his goals, dreams, what not) would do. In the film it seems like he is only there when Rikako is there. It is like he is only defined by his feelings for Rikako.
How he and Yutaka became best friends would have been a good opportunity to delve in deeper too. His conflicting and confusing feelings about liking Rikako and being aware that Yutaka likes her too would have been included. His attraction towards Rikako should also be explored other than just finding her beautiful.
Taku is supposed to be the main protagonist, as the film is following his point of view. But we did not get to know more about him other than he likes Rikako in majority of the film.
Yutaka also received even less screen time, and is even more treated as a side character. If it is a story about love triangles, the film should have touched more on who Taku and Yutaka were beyond liking Rikako.
There is only one scene that showcased this: and this is when Taku and Yutaka shared the same perspectives towards the decisions made in their school. This is a glimpse of how progressive and proactive they are, and it is kind of sad that this was only brought up once.
Rikako Is Interesting, But Unlikeable
Since Rikako is the one who drives the plot, she is actually the most interesting character. She was given complexity in terms of her back story and attitude. The reason why she moved from Tokyo to Koichi is because of her parent’s divorce. It is understandable that she is very much affected by it since it leaves a sour taste whenever your parents fought and separated.
This probably explains the reason why she has such a rude and rash attitude. She is undergoing a lot of problems, so she lashes out. She could barely care about other people’s feelings, and just wanted to do what she wants. However, she was not portrayed to be much of a sympathetic character.
The viewers may not also feel sorry for her, but rather confused or maybe even annoyed. It is one thing to make a character complex and interesting, but it is also another thing to make them likable.
A character does not have to be goody-two-shoes to be likable. Complicated characters can still even be likable. Usually, they are shown in a sympathetic light so that the audience will understand they are coming from. Other times, they will show a kind-hearted or gentler side to themselves so that the audience will like them.
Although Rikako’s problems were something the audience was made aware of, her consistent negative attitude seemed to overpower this. The one scene where the viewers can feel sorry for her is when she cried on Taku’s arms. This is because she feels betrayed because she felt her father did not want to be with her.
This is actually a great opportunity to further establish Taku and Rikako’s relationship. This is the first time she ever showed vulnerability to someone. Taku, struggling how to handle this, still kept her in his arms.
Rikako should have been more open and honest then and there. She already exposed herself to Taku, so this could have pushed her to rant about her feelings. She could have shown a gentler or kinder side of herself. Giving a hesitant thank you to Taku and not wanting to leave his arms could have been included. Her fear of being left out, and the struggle of coping with her parents’ divorce should have been explored here.
Even her shouting all of her negative feelings while Taku listens intently could have even made the scene better. In this way, the audience will get to see who Rikako really is underneath her cold exterior.
But alas, not only did the hugging scene is fleeting, but Rikako easily returned to being rude and dismissive towards Taku. When Taku probed on it, Rikako just said that it is none of his business. Rikako did not even mumble a simple “thank you” when Taku was there when she was crying.
She also tagged Taku along with her when she met up with her ex-boyfriend. She did this possibly because she wanted to make Taku jealous – which is typical for a high schooler. But she did not even think about how Taku was there for her, and did not even try to make him feel better.
Taku holding her when she was crying should have changed her attitude towards him even a little. Maybe she can even buy him drinks because she became thoughtful about him. Or just simply stating that Taku should go home, and feeling ashamed that she dragged Taku into her situation.
What’s even worse is that when they returned to Koichi, Rikako spread rumors that she and Taku shared a night together. At the same time, she ignores Taku too, as if he’s a stranger.
Overwhelmed as Taku did not want Yutaka to get hurt, he confronted Rikako about this. And what did she do? She slapped him. He also slapped her back. Rikako did not even acknowledge the lengths Taku did for her, and you cannot really understand why she had spread those rumors and ignore him.
Rikako slapped him for a second time, when he did not rush to her aid when she was getting picked on. This was because almost everyone in the school is avoiding Rikako, and honestly it is easy to see why. You can also understand why Taku did not even help her, because Rikako never even had an ounce nor inch of gratitude towards him. She just continued to be rude and nasty about him even when he helped her; and that probably applies to everyone too.
Since Rikako just continued to be rude to Taku (the love interest she is supposed to be ending up with, mind you), it can make the viewers annoyed by her. It would have been better if she still keeps the rude facade, but shows a bit of her gentler side every now and then. Maybe being a tsundere who still shows their warm feelings sometimes may be more appealing.
Rikako and Taku Are Just Not… It
The endgame couple in the film is Rikako and Taku. What makes it strange is that when Taku reminisced on his memories with Rikako, they are all just… negative things that have happened. It is just him remembering Rikako’s insults towards him. Does that make you root for the couple? Not really.
It honestly would have been better if Taku reflected on soft moments between him and Rikako instead. Especially if the scene where Rikako cried in his arms is expanded more, and Rikako opened up to him. He would have reflected that while Rikako has a rude attitude, she hides a softer part of herself. She is just undergoing a lot of problems, but she is not a bad person.
Their relationship is based on insults, slaps, and basically Rikako just dismissing Taku. Taku, on the other hand, does not say anything and only gets mad when his best friend Yutaka is involved.
To be honest, Taku has more chemistry with Yutaka than he ever did with Rikako. Taku and Yutaka’s relationship is based on their shared beliefs and perspectives together, and their shared activism in the school. It is a good and solid foundation.
A YouTube video touched on the hints and implications of Taku and Yutaka’s relationship that is possibly gay. Notably, Taku gets angry when he found out Rikako had been rude to Yutaka when the latter confessed his feelings. Taku and Yutaka also shared moments together with a romantic ambiance… look no further than the pier scene with a beautiful sunset.
Taku and Yutaka also share a healthy relationship too. They are just comfortable with each other, and Yutaka made an effort to reconcile with Taku. Taku also left his part-time job when Yutaka asked for him to go to school – indicative how he prioritizes Yutaka.
The film could have explored Taku developing feelings for Yutaka but refuses to acknowledge it and projects it onto Rikako instead. Yutaka, on the other hand, only ever liked Rikako. Or rather, in the future when they met again, Yutaka realizes he also has feelings towards Taku as well. That would probably have made a more interesting story.
“Meh” Film But Can Be Appealing To Some
Despite the film’s problems, other viewers may still like it. That is okay because we all have different tastes in things. It can be argued that the film is actually good in telling a high school romance, in which immaturity among teenagers play a huge factor. This is why there is a toxic build up between Rikako and Taku, because these things do happen in high school. We can even say that they might have a toxic relationship afterward.
If you want a film with slow placing and just some love triangle among high school students, then this film might be for you. You can also watch it for yourselves so you can evaluate it.
Overall it is a “meh” film that could have done better. It is not a high school romance drama that is really recommendable. There are better anime films and series out there with better and likeable characters, as well as meaningful build ups and chemistry to their relationships.
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