I was recently lucky enough to be able to enjoy Only Yesterday dubbed into English for the first time, which really brought the film to life for me. One Studio Ghibli film still remains frustratingly overlooked for an English dub: Ocean Waves. It may not be the best the range has to offer, made by the younger members of staff at the studio for a 1993 release, and with a simpler form of animation to many Ghibli releases, but it still deserves the dub treatment. In fact, there are several Ghibli films that are far inferior to this, but have been dubbed nonetheless.
It’s not that I particularly mind subtitled films, but it is a different kind of viewing experience. Your attention is divided, and it is difficult to entirely appreciate the artwork when you are trying to read at the same time. Perhaps the younger generation will find this less of a problem, in this age of multi-tasking, scrolling through the internet while watching television, or whatever.
Ocean Waves is well worth that extra little bit of effort though. It is another of Ghibli’s slice-of-life films. You won’t find heroes and villains here, just people. The story concerns a schoolboy called Taku Morisaki, whose friendship with his best friend Yutaka Matsuno is thrown into chaos when a new girl arrives at the school, Rikako Muto.
To be honest, Muto (the characters call each other by their last names, as is their tradition) is not a very nice person for most of the film, quite the opposite of the usual kind of Ghibli female protagonist, although she does have the independence and bravery to a certain extent. She arrives from Tokyo and immediately looks down on these simple kids with their silly accents, living in Kochi on the island of Shikoku, the smallest of the four main islands of Japan. It doesn’t take long before she has marked herself out as one of the cleverest girls in the school. But she is trouble. She can see that Morisaki and Matsuno are infatuated with her (even if one of them won’t admit it to himself) and she takes full advantage of that, borrowing money from them to fund a trip to Tokyo to see her father and her old boyfriend, and lying about why she needs the money. At that point we begin to get some insight as to why she might be a little messed up.
The film deals with all kinds of issues, including bullying, and there is some troubling violence. Morisaki gets a rough deal from Muto and also from Matsuno for most of the film, but he doesn’t ultimately stand in judgement over them, and that gets to something very important about Ocean Waves. It isn’t a fable. There’s no particular lesson to be learnt here. I mean, everybody will take something from it, and I’m sure viewers will have opinions on the characters and what they should or should not have done, but the point is that the film doesn’t force any kind of message down our throats. A lot of films like to preach, have a moral, teach a lesson. Not Ocean Waves. It simply says: here are some teenage lives, with all their confusion, complexity and imperfection. Take what you need from it.
My Studio Ghibli rankings so far, again simply to help anyone trying to decide your purchasing priorities, but the top 5 in particular are all completely magnificent. I’m skipping Pom Poko as I simply find it unwatchable. Next week, the beauty and joy of Whisper of the Heart.
- My Neighbour Totoro
- Laputa: Castle in the Sky
- Kiki’s Delivery Service
- Only Yesterday
- Porco Rosso
- Ocean Waves
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
- Grave of the Fireflies
- Pom Poko
I’ll leave you with an official trailer for Ocean Waves. RP
Read next in the Junkyard… Whisper of the Heart