The honesty and vulnerability of Ocean Waves will lap at your heart

This recent addition to Netflix provides a nostalgic perspective on the messiness of adolescence

Though Ocean Waves is rougher around the edges than other Studio Ghibli films, this quality is what makes it feel more real. Courtesy of gKids

By: Michelle Young, Staff Writer

Studio Ghibli films have finally arrived on Netflix Canada. You can now watch Ghibli classics like My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Kiki’s Delivery Service as you please. However, one of the Ghibli films that has come to Netflix is a smaller one called Ocean Waves. The 1993 film, directed by Tomomi Mochizuki as a part of a project for new animators, is overshadowed by many of the classic Ghibli staples — don’t let that stop you from tasting one of the most underrated Ghibli delights. 

The film is set in Kōchi, Japan and follows the lives of a few high school students, told from the perspective of the main character, Taku. The plot doesn’t seem to have a particular goal, nor does it appear to be working towards anything. However, where Ocean Waves succeeds is in its portrayal of the lives of high schoolers. It explores the nature behind social relations and how people react to one another. It’s filled with nearly nothing more than surges of petty drama in otherwise mundane lives. 

Main characters, Taku, Rikako, and Yutaka, react poorly to conflict, and at times, they’re unlikeable and inconsiderate. But the film perfectly captures the rush of an awkward, confusing, and frustrating youth. While the characters have trouble understanding one another, it’s much simpler for an older audience to sympathize with how they feel. Ocean Waves takes its viewers on a ride: they observe the lulls and stirs of daily life, emulating the unsteadiness of ocean waves themselves. 

Ocean Waves has not received many kind reviews; it holds a 6.7 on IMDb. I think part of this is due to the Ghibli expectation. Ghibli films are known for their fantastical worlds and driven characters, but Ocean Waves doesn’t have either of these things — and that’s OK. The film is messy, and in that aspect, feels more real than most other Ghibli films I’ve seen. 

When I watch Ocean Waves, despite shaking my head at these characters’ actions, I can remember fondly, that I too, was once a teenager, whose world revolved around my own immediate problems. Many of us have had to learn how to understand other people’s experiences and perspectives, and Ocean Waves portrays these growing pains. The audience can watch as Taku slowly tries to learn and understand those around him. It is in its simplicity that Ocean Waves can be appreciated. The film is slow, and arguably not for everyone — but it shouldn’t be dismissed simply because its way of storytelling is unconventional.