An awfully good movie, ‘Ocean Waves’


Studio Ghibli

Taku and Rikako casually walking through the streets of Tokyo.

Note: this review contains major spoilers!

Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli, is well known in the United States for beloved works such as 2002 Oscar winner “Spirited Away”. While many Ghibli movies are some of the most critically acclaimed films, it is hard to believe that they have also produced some bumpy films. From an animation studio with such a good reputation, I will be examining one of Ghibli’s least discussed and acclaimed films, 1993’s “Ocean Waves”.

“Ocean Waves” follows Taku Morisaki as he journeys back from Tokyo to his high school for a reunion. While traveling home, Taku recounts his memories of his school days, focussing in particular on a love triangle that developed between him and his two friends, Rikako and Yutaka.

Although many critics and fans dislike “Ocean Waves”, such as IMDb’s score of 6.6 out of 10, it is easily one of the most enjoyable and comedic films I have ever seen. The drama in the film was so amusing that it made HBO’s “Euphoria” look dull and primitive, and the love triangle between Taku and his friends truly kept me at the edge of my seat. 

Throughout the film, Taku is the main love interest of Rikako with Yutaka attempting to slide himself into the heart of Rikako. In one scene, Rikako, who is not well liked, is cornered and yelled at by her classmates for allegedly flirting with another’s boyfriend. Rikako denied these allegations and became defensive. Taku walked in during the fight and decided to be a bystander. This upset Rikako so much that when the fight was over she proceeded to wallop Taku across the face for not defending his “girlfriend”. As if matters possibly could not have gone worse, Yutaka walks in after Taku gets slapped. Taku explains what happened to Yutaka and he decides to take Rikako’s side by punching Taku so forcefully that he crumples to the ground. Now, this scene, in particular, is cinema “gold” because of how appealing it was. Throughout the whole entire scene, my jaw was floored due to how many illogical mistakes the characters made.

The character arc of Rikako was so flawed that it actually made the movie much more delightful. As the movie begins, she is a beautiful, mysterious new girl who gets perfect grades and is highly athletic. On the surface, Rikako seems to be a perfectly desirable character, but after getting to know her personality traits it would be best to stay clear of her. Honestly, if she was the prize at the end of a race, I would sprint backwards. 

When viewers are initially introduced to Rikako’s true self, it is obvious something is off. During the introductory scene, Rikako suspiciously asks Taku for four hundred dollars. Taku is concerned about the offer so he initially denies. This frustrates Rikako, so she starts to get snippy. Taku cracks under the pressure and gives her the money. Eventually, it is discovered that Rikako uses the money to buy plane tickets to Tokyo to escape from her hometown. When Taku discovers this, he is furious but insists that he goes on the trip with her to protect her. 

While on this trip, both Taku and Rikako develop feelings for one another through their lively conversations. Most of the conversations were very heartwarming except for when Rikako discusses her parents’ divorce. The whole entire time all she focuses on is when she returned to see her father and her bedroom was remodeled. This moment was so hilariously frustrating to watch because of how egotistical and whiny Rikako is.

The film concludes with a dramatic high school reunion. During the reunion, which Rikako failed to attend, Shimizu, a classmate, discusses with Taku that she recently talked with Rikako, who focused on how much she misses Taku. After catching up with his friends, Taku leaves the reunion and thinks about how much he misses Rikako. While pondering about Rikako, Taku has flashbacks of his “romantic” moments with her, which were all just flashbacks of her being a jerk. The following day, Taku bumps into Rikako at the train station with an obvious allusion that they end up together despite their many flaws. The movie’s finale is without a doubt the greatest and most misunderstood moment. Many criticize it for having an abusive couple end up together, but this is not the true meaning of the film. “Ocean Waves” tells the simple message of being in tune with the realities of life and recognizing the genuine nature of people, showing the quality of youth and the unpleasant side of adulthood.

“Ocean Waves”, similar to the “Sharknado” films, is such a flawed movie that it is ironically entertaining to watch. Although the love triangle is cheesy and the characters are unlikable, the drama was so engaging that “Ocean Waves” is more fun to watch than Ghibli’s “Spirited Away”. “Ocean Waves” is a comedic, one-of-a-kind movie that is a must-watch. ★★★★☆