Movie Review: Ride Your Wave

Watching them march on towards the ocean with such resolve, made me realize how I also needed to persevere.

Minato Hinageshi, Ride Your Wave 

It may have taken two years for me to watch Masaaki Yuasa’s Ride Your Wave (Kimi to, Nami Noretara), and it was great.

Completely different from the horrific action-packed tragedy of DEVILMAN Crybaby and other fantastical imaginings of Masaaki’s previous works with Science SARU, Ride Your Wave is, well, “normal.” It can be categorized as a coming-of-age romance drama. To make things quirky, Masaaki adds a light dash of the supernatural to depict interesting scenes with Science SARU’s colourful, stylized animation. 

Ride Your Wave is about Hinako Mukaimizu, who moves to a new city to clumsily take on her adult life. She’s rescued by a young fireman, Minato Hinageshi, who saves her from her burning apartment building. They bond over surfing and slowly fall in love right before tragedy befalls the couple. This movie showcases Hinako’s struggle to overcome her loss and to realize her purpose in life.

What made me tear up so much from watching this particular film was how Masaaki Yuasa made me care about its small cast. 

I’ve been reading a large number of romantic comedy manga and manhwa lately. As much as I can scream at a female lead for acting too passively or face palm at the absurdity of the miscommunications arising in a story’s plot, the romances pale in comparison to what this film presented to me.

Masaaki didn’t have to use clichés or romance tropes.

With Yoshida Reiko’s script, Masaaki, Science SARU and the voice actors breathed realism in one particular scene that made it stand apart from other romance anime in my mind.

The scene isn’t anything special. It was a montage of classic romance anime situations involving the couple, including celebrating a summer festival together and watching vibrant fireworks bloom in the night sky, watching the sunset at the docks while holding onto each other’s hand, surfing side by side in the ocean. What truly made the scene so endearing and the characters feel humane was the duet version of the movie’s theme song, “Brand New Story” from GENERATIONS by EXILE TRIBE, sung by the main protagonists that played in the background.

Ryouta Katayose and Rina Kawaei’s performance, who voiced Minato and Hinako respectively, was wonderfully executed. Their cheerful voices followed one another on the melody of a ukelele. Their emotions felt genuine as a couple having fun, messing around, giggling, sometimes trying to stifle it but still winding up laughing out loud, all while singing to their favourite song.

Although the secondary characters, Minato’s younger sister, Yoko, and his co-worker, Wasabi Kawamura, serve as foil for Hinako’s journey, it doesn’t make them less interesting to me. The film does a nice job of “showing rather than telling” in scenes and character interactions to reveal a character’s personality.

In Yoko’s introduction, for example, her brother defines her as sharp tongued and she presents herself as someone who is extremely blunt, and serious. She dislikes being ridiculed or spoken down by others who know more than she does. Yoko hates the cheesy, romantic behaviour adopted by couples and refers to the protagonists as “idiots” before storming off.

However, it’s in moments where we see Yoko interact with Hinako one on one that we see her sweeter side. While visiting an aquarium with her brother’s girlfriend, Yoko looks in wonder at the octopus her brother described her as. Her voice turns lighter, hinting that she liked the idea of being equated to something cute.

One other aspect of the movie’s writing I enjoyed was how the movie doesn’t make the struggle in finding one’s “true calling” an easy path.

Hinako takes a roundabout journey to finding her purpose in life and depends on Minato to give her an easy way out. It can be argued that Hinako does nothing for herself in the movie for her own development as a character. However, she does come to the realization that she had to stand on her own to reach her potential and struggled to work hard by herself. Stopping herself from calling upon Minato to save her twice was difficult for her (and for me watching her) because she decided to put in the effort to deal with her problem on her own and stick by that decision, which is something that is relatable and human to me.

When Hinako has Minato help her at the end of the film, that instance was completely different from the previous times she would summon him where she was only looking for comfort. She was genuinely reaching out for help in a life or death situation.

Wasabi’s conflict also hit home for me because his low self-esteem was related to his work. Nothing is more frustrating and damaging than comparing yourself to the number of others’ successes to your own. Although his attitude signaled that he was defeated, his spirit wasn’t and he continued to improve himself in little ways, for example, running around the neighborhood to check new locations of the fire hydrants.

The theme of perseverance (and its link to motivation) was striking to me when watching this movie too. The characters in this film found and lost motivation in the people around them, but the support of their loved ones dispelled their self-doubt and helped drive them to ride Life’s rocky waves.

If the film had any extra time to spare, I would have liked to see the characters allow themselves to pause and breathe, so that they would be able to think objectively on their own, without any outside influence to affect their decisions.

Watching characters deal with human struggles in these circumstances, not only allows me to sympathize with them but lets me see how much I can relate to them too. The movie reminded me about how life can be a real bitch, but the struggles we face and the people who support us can help shape who we are and who we aspire to be.

Directed by Masaaki Yuasa and animated by Science SARU, Ride Your Wave (Kimi to, Nami Noretara) was released in June 2019.


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