Ocean Waves - (Import DVD)
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Jason, Bellville. 23 November 2010
I hold nothing against complicated stories with multiple interwoven plot strands. In fact, when done right these types of stories can be most rewarding, as shown by such titles as Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex or Eureka Seven. That's not to say less complicated tales don't have merit; a well-told simple tale will always be preferable to an unnecessarily convoluted one. And this leads me to Ocean Waves, one of Studio Ghibli's lesser known titles.
This is a prime example of a well-told simple tale. It starts in the present with our main character Taku on his way to his high-school reunion. He catches a glimpse of someone familiar, and this sets off the flashback that accounts for the bulk of the running time. He remembers his high-school years, and especially his meeting with Rikako (That's them on the dvd cover, by the way.) and all the complications that followed.
Compared to other Ghibli titles, this one shows a slight lack of polish in its animation. By no means is it bad, but at the same time I was left thinking that maybe they could have done some more. Be that as it may, this title has now become my favourite Ghibli title of the lot, eclipsing even Whisper of the Heart. And it's not beacuse of what it does, but what it forgoes. This is in effect a high school romance, but devoid of any of the melodrama and caricatures of the genre. There's nothing over the top and the result is profound. Take for example the scene at the airport where Rikako is suffering from menstrual cramps. There's nothing exaggerated in her facial features when she looks up at Taku (and so too at the camera), yet it is clear that she is not to be toyed with. That authenticity is another factor that won me over. I was watching real people cope with real situations in a realistic manner. No divine interventions, no apocalyptic setpieces, no worlds that needed saving. Respect to Ghibli for keeping it uncomplicated.
When I first saw the cover art to this, I reckoned it would be a day one purchase despite knowing precious little about the plot. It was, more or less, and I am all the happier for it.