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Ocean Waves

Thursday 3rd April 2014

Andrew Osmond on a Studio Ghibli “obscurity”

Ocean Waves

Two male high-school friends, Taku and Yutaka, are intrigued by a girl transfer student, Rikako. Beautiful but withdrawn, Rikako approaches Taku one day and asks to borrow money. Gradually, Taku learns about her personal life, but where will their strange relationship go?

Ocean Waves is the only feature anime by the world-famous Studio Ghibli which might be called obscure. It wasn’t made for cinemas but television, broadcast on Japan’s NTV network in 1993. Moreover, it wasn’t among the Ghibli films acquired by Disney, so don’t expect a star-studded dub. Actually, there’s no dub at all – the DVD release is subs only.

In the UK, Optimum cannily released Ocean Waves on DVD to coincide with the release of Ponyo in cinemas, but anyone expecting twisty surrealism and eye-popping imagery would have been disappointed. Ocean Waves (which is not by Miyazaki) is a wistful, bittersweet drama about youngsters growing up unsure about what they feel, what their peers feel, and if they understand one another at all.

Yes, there’s a boy and a girl (and the boy’s best friend), but this is no glib romcom. Ocean Waves is the only Ghibli feature without fantasy elements; even when the characters fly, they use an aeroplane. At 72 minutes, this feels like a short story, centred round a few simple anecdotes. The girl, Rikako, borrows a large sum of money from Taku, who’s not sure why she needs it. When he learns the truth, he must accompany her on an impromptu journey, trying to understand what makes this annoying but engaging girl tick.

The main story, incidentally, takes place in Kochi City on the small Japanese island of Shikoku. This is important, and it’s a shame Optimum doesn’t flag it up in an explanatory caption. Rikako, who’s a Tokyo girl, feels lost in Kochi, where the locals see her as an exotic outsider. There’s an amusing exchange where Taku complains that Rikako’s Tokyo accent is aggressive, and she confesses she thought people only had accents like his in the movies. (Compare Rikako to the fish-out-of-water females in Ghibli’s Kiki’s Delivery Service and Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue.)

Ocean WavesThe gently humorous drama should resonate if you’ve ever experienced an awkward, not-quite-friendship; or if you’ve felt disappointed or ill-used by someone you tried to respect; or just if you’ve wondered why everything bad rebounds on you. The director is Tomomi Mochizuki, whose non-Ghibli work often concerns tentative youngsters, including Here is Greenwood and parts of Maison Ikkoku and Kimagure Orange Road. In the Orange Road film, I Want to Return to that Day, Mochizuki smashed that franchise’s teen love-triangle amid trauma and tears (and that was just the fans).

Would we know that Ocean Waves was a Ghibli film, without the credits and Totoro logo? As usual with Ghibli, there are no manga-style gags or comic deformities, but studio in-jokes for the eagle-eyed (look at the backgrounds in the last scene). On the other hand, Ghibli films usually include elastically expressive characters, whether kids, adults or tanuki. Ocean Waves’ characters are drawn with warmth and humour, but they’re reserved and wary, scared of making missteps with even their close friends. It’s only at the end, at a sometime-later reunion party, that we see them finally relax, have fun, and get pissed.

The pale pastels and white spaces recall the childhood scenes in Isao Takahata’s Ghibli film, Only Yesterday, made two years earlier. Both anime are about memory, and how we only understand and learn from incidents that seemed random and shameful later on in our lives. Ocean Waves expresses this in its closing scene, where a perspective gracefully rotates to show something that’s obvious, and yet brand new.

You may find some sources referring to this film as I Can Hear the Sea, or I Can Hear the Ocean. Both are translations of the Japanese name, Umi ga Kikoeru (and we reckon they capture the nostalgic tone). However, Ocean Waves is Ghibli’s official English name for the film

Ocean Waves is playing as part of the Studio Ghibli season at London’s BFI Southbank on the 5th and 11th May 2014.


Death Note Complete Series And Ova Collectors Edition

was £59.99
On Blu-ray for the first time! Collected across 6 discs containing all 37 episodes of the hit anime series plus the bonus Death Note: Relight OVAs.

Light Yagami is a genius high school student who is about to learn about life through a book of death. When a bored shinigami, God of Death, named Ryuk drops a black notepad called a Death Note, Light receives power over life and death with the stroke of a pen. Determined to use this dark gift for the best, Light sets out to rid the world of evil... namely the people he believes to be evil.
Should anyone hold such power?
The consequences of Light’s actions will set the world ablaze.

Contains episodes 1-37 plus Death Note Relight OVAs on a bonus Blu-ray disc
Also features exclusive collectors edition rigid box packaging
Languages: English, Japanese and English Subtitles



Code Geass vs Death Note

If you liked that, you might like this
At heart, Death Note and Code Geass tell the same story. A teenage Tokyo schoolboy with a towering intellect, railing against the world, is given fantastic powers by a supernatural agency. He finds he can manipulate people like puppets and kill with ease. His power is bound by rules and restrictions, yet still seems godlike.


One Piece Music: Bon Bon Blanco

Tom Smith on bikinis and cowbells
Need more cowbell? Have five! Japanese pop quintet Bon Bon Blanco (or B3 for short) is made up of 80% percussionists – and whilst its vocalist Anna Santos is the only member without an instrument to bash, I’m pretty sure she could work her way around a cowbell if pushed.

Assassin's Creed: The Manga

What's been added to the Black Flag spin-off comic?
You can never go wrong with pirates. There’s the romance of the open sea, and the rebellion of taking what you want, and the adventure of looking for buried treasure. And in the Japanese magazine Monthly JumpX, there is the massive marketing synergy of being able to put Assassin’s Creed IV on the cover.


Jack Neighbour prepares you for life in Japan
Hopefully you found the first three offerings in last weeks part one informative and you’d had ample time to calm your nerves and research a new country to emigrate to. So without further hesitation, let's complete the list.


Helen McCarthy ponders a Bloody Fate
Twenty years ago, the witch Bayonetta was hauled out of a deep lake, with no memory of her past, how she got there, or who might have hated her enough to put her there. She has in her possession half of an artefact known as the "Eyes of the World.” Joining forces with information broker Enzo, she sets off to find and steal the other half. But powerful forces are moving against her, forces known as the Angels.

Anime at the Oscars 2014

Andrew Osmond on Japan's chances at this year's Academy Awards
There are two anime among this year’s Oscar nominees: Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, competing for Best Animated Feature, and Shuhei Morita’s Possessions, vying for Best Animated Short. To date, there has been only one Japanese winner in each category. Miyazaki’s Spirited Away was the winning feature in 2002; Kunio Kato’s La Maison en Petits Cubes won Best Animated Short Film in 2008. What are the new films’ chances?

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet

Culture shocks and military musings, in Gen Urobuchi's hard-hitting anime
"It’s an interesting time to have a hero with a militarist outlook. This blog has discussed the arguments over the alleged political content in the blockbusting Attack on Titan and Ghibli’s film The Wind Rises. In both cases, the controversies connects to Japan’s own militarist past in the 1930s and ‘40s, and the spectres they conjure up in countries round the world; of Japanese kamikaze pilots, of torturers ruling POW camps, of the so-called “banzai charges” of soldiers sworn to die for their Emperor."

Blood C: The Last Dark

Director Naoyoshi Shiotani on getting the darkness right
“In every theatre you have different light, so you can never be sure what it’s going to look like. So you have to think; will this be okay, will you lose details in that kind of darkness? It was hard to calculate all that.”
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