The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 163 – Ocean Waves

Ocean Waves 1

While Studio Ghibli is most famous for their feature films, even winning an Oscar in the process, not everything they made went to the cinema. This week we look at a film they made that went to television.

Ocean Waves was released in 1993, directed by Tomomi Mochizuki and an adaptation of a novel by Saeko Himuro. The project was never intended to be released in the cinema. The purpose of the project was to allow the younger staff at Studio Ghibli to make a film relatively cheaply – something which it completely failed to do. It was over budget, it was over schedule, and Mochizuki was so over stressed making it and other projects at the time that he had to go to hospital.

The film is mostly told in flashback, like the subject of last week’s column Only Yesterday (No. 162) which was made two years earlier. The story is narrated by Taki Morisaki, who is on his way to a school reunion, and who tells the story about his relationship with his best friend and a girl they both had feelings for. Two years earlier, when Taki was still in school, his best friend Yukata Matsuno acted as a guide to a new transfer student, a girl named Rikako Muto who comes from Tokoyo. Yukata has feelings for Rikako, a talented but arrogant girl.

Taki learns that Rikako’s parents are divorced and that she is living away from her parents. At the end of the school year, with the students on a school trip to Hawaii, Rikako tells Taki that she has lost all of her money and asks Taki for a loan, which he gives her. Then Taki learns that Yukata has also given her a loan. The reason for taking this money is to spend money on returning to Tokyo to see her parents. Taki decides to go with her, and thus the relationship between the three ends up becoming more complex as the characters begin to express their true feelings for each other.

The interesting thing about Ocean Waves is the reason why it was made: to encourage new talent. In the case of Mochizuki, who has already been working on TV projects such as directing Ranma ½ (No. 93), he went onto work in many other projects, including working on the storyboards on programmes like Code Geass (No. 22). However, these days he works under the pseudonym of Go Sakamoto.

It is not the greatest Studio Ghibli film, but it was never meant to be. It is a made-for-TV project to be aired during the holidays, not a cinematic masterpiece. However, despite this there are some aspects of Ocean Waves that make it stand out, the most notable of which is the use of aspect ratios. Throughout the film the story will cut to a narrower ration, boxing the footage in. Aside from the full screen version there are two different ratios used: a medium-sized one, and an even smaller one boxing the footage so it takes up about one-ninth of the screen. It automatically grabs the viewer, dragging you deeper into the story and into the past where the story is set.

While it is not the greatest piece of work, it still has its moments, and it is also the shortest Ghibli film at 72 minutes long, so it is not as if you are going to waste a lot of time watching it.

Ocean Waves is released on DVD by Studio Canal.