Ocean Waves

Ocean Waves ★★★★½

Yeah, the story is meandering and rambling and the voiceover narration is a cost-cutting measure for the fact it was a TV film, but this thing is full-on art in so many senses. The most underrated Ghibli film BY FAR-- maybe even the most underrated Japanese anime movie out there. Ocean Waves exemplifies this sense of melancholic nostalgia, harkening back to halfway-fuzzy memories of a youth filled with regrets and wishes and friendships and love, all of those teenage histrionics flooding back into your mind s you suddenly realize-- oh, so that's why that was.

It's a realistic melodrama with no need to be anything but live-action, but the gorgeous art style and Ghibli-standard animation is a vital part of why the movie succeeds so powerfully. The top-notch soundtrack, probably one of Ghibli's all-time best, flitters away with a nice electronic glow that keeps a faint smile on your lips throughout the story. The aesthetics of youth, is what I'd call all of this. Tears falling while laughing.

Morisaki is ostensibly the protagonist, and the entire movie is his own reflections, but it's clear as day that the spotlight is on Muto, one real tough, real complicated girl even when the position she plays in the movie SHOULD be a generic unobtainable-object-of-affection type that these kinds of movies usually take. She's got an incredible character arc, a really strong personality that's conflicted and contradictory and never quite reconciled, someone so interesting that the final scene that SHOULD have been trite ends up just grabbing you in even more.

Obviously, we can pretty directly compare Ocean Waves to its two-years-earlier predecessor, Only Yesterday. Both movies are nostalgic portraits of youth as reflected on by characters that are older, but still young enough that they're going through their own youthful pitfalls. Luckily, Ocean Waves acts as a companion piece rather than a redundancy by channeling specifically those overdramatic world-changing moments of high school that don't actually end up mattering. Both of them have many similar themes, but I can love them both (albeit not equally; Only Yesterday is way better).

The final note I'll leave off on here is just the number of times I sighed while watching this movie, especially during the Tokyo trip scenes. Sighs of empathy, sighs of exasperation, sighs of reflections on my own life in the time since high school... an entire genre of sighs all at this one movie. There should be a scientific meter relating to how much a movie makes you sigh.

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