Umi ga kikoeru (I Can Hear the Sea) (The Ocean Waves) Reviews
If you're looking for massive robots knocking the crap out of other massive robots, this is not the film for you. Nor is it the next Ghost In The Machine. But, I do recommend it as it's yet another quality, character-led piece of work from Ghibli.
I'm not one who typically sits through a soft adolescent romance, but the main characters, their teen-emotion-driven decisions, feelings of being lost, of coming to know themselves and of consequently coming to know each other; caught my attention and held me all the way through.
Japan is a beautiful place. I recently had a trip there that took me to the humble landscapes of Kyoto, the polite urban flourish of Osaka, and the dazzling lights of Tokyo. My fondness of the country and the culture could not be contained as it made me think of my own culture and society, which led me to find negative aspects I never noticed before or simply chose to ignore. This adventure was a big step for me, as I have never been to a country that I had no pre-understanding of the social values and rituals; I was put in a place where very little spoke my language, which made aspects that I took for granted like public transport and navigation difficult to grasp, but within a couple of days, my family and I got the hang of it and started to find the convenience behind this once difficult system. The experience certainly opened doors for me, not letting my mind be restricted to think that success in life is found in a singular environment; I can go to Japan, and be just as fulfilled as I would be here in Australia or in Europe or in the U.S.A.
Seeing Ocean Waves has brought back all of those memories, right from the start when I saw glimpse of the Japanese Railway system, which I personally had the pleasure to experience. It was seeing the architecture, the food, and the people that led me to a feeling of nostalgia, even if it wasn't too long ago. I guess I haven't completely adjusted back to the normal life I used to live, and in a way I guess I don't want to. I do not want to get too off-track with this review, so I'll swerve back and say that Ocean Waves is another one of Studio Ghibli's films that tells a grounded and accessible story, and using its animated medium to create a certain feeling of magic in its characters and relationships.
This is a film that one can easily relate to. Who has not had drama during their time in school? Who has not had that one girl/boy that came in and unintentionally, or intentionally, started drama? These are things that happen day in and day out in our lives, and in a way they made our time there magical; almost like something that you would only see in the big screen. It is when we step into reality, becoming independent, is when the magic starts to fade; the harshness of reality starts to shape minds and bodies, in order to adapt to its competitive and complex habitat. It is when we are here that our previous experience becomes glorified, that we wish that we had those middling problems again to replace the hardships that we have to endure now. Ocean Waves captures this feeling beautifully, showing a feeling of honesty in its storytelling and intelligence in its usage of the melodramatic tone. This sense of melodrama is present to push the film's themes of urban vs rural, nostalgia, youth, innocence, and of course love. The film uses the premise of a new girl in a new place to push the dividing idea of two different cultures.
This transferred student, Rikako Muto, has shaken up the entire school without even her knowing it, as this clash of cultures create feelings of jealousy, anger, and sadness. Muto symbolises the perfect girl under everyone's eyes, even though she herself has an enormous amount of problems, because she possesses qualities that many girls in that area seem to lack; and the film views her at the start of the film with this magical quality. As the film starts to break her down and expose her vulnerabilities and traits, she becomes much more humanised and at times antagonistic, but remained throughout as sympathetic. The sense of drama in this film helped keep the film interesting with every scene, and it manages to tell its story with an appropriate running time, 72 minutes, that keeps the film focused and the audience constantly engaged. Ocean Waves may feature similar traits to Only Yesterday, exploring feelings of Nostalgia, but this film handles its material with much better balance; managing to convey thought provoking themes, without the sacrifice of a feel-good, light-hearted story.
It is films like Ocean Waves and Whisper of the Heart that stand out from many of Studio Ghibli's films because it takes themes that are close to home and tells them in such a way that does not over emphasise the medium. They manage to hit us in places that we never thought existed or would be targeted in cinema, because we always think that cinema should be something bigger than reality. Studio Ghibli manages to capture both sides of the spectrum of cinema and does so with stories that warms our hearts and provoke our brains. There is simply no other studio quite like it.