During the current millennium, Masaaki Yuasa has risen as one of the most original and qualitative voices of anime, through his unique style, both in terms of story and animation. Particularly the last few years, with films like “Night is Short, Walk on Girl” and “Lu Over the Wall”, his fame has skyrocketed even on international level. “Ride Your Wave” follows in all of the aforementioned footsteps, in a film that won prizes for Best Animation from Shanghai, Fantasia and Sitges.
19-year-old Hinako moves to the seaside town she used to live with her parents when she was little, in order to study oceanography, and surf. When her new apartment catches fire, courtesy of a gang who use fireworks illegally, she is rescued by Minato Hinageshi, a 21-year-old firefighter with a strong sense of justice, who seems to remember her from their past, even calling her ‘hero” although only to his close friend and colleague, Wasabi Kawamura. The youths start hanging out and soon become a couple, with their love blossoming more intently as time passes.
However, during one tragic night, Minato goes surfing alone and drowns while rescuing a person, leaving Hinako, Wasabi, but also his little sister, Yoko, completely shuttered. Hinako in particularly does not seem to be able to move on, and soon finds out that when she sings their favorite song, Minato’s ghost appears in any kind of water form, including water bottles, puddles, pools even in an inflatable sea animal Hinako proceeds on filling with water and carrying with her all the time. Wasabi worries about her, considering her, as most of the town inhabitants, delusional, with his worrying eventually becoming something different, while Yoko is frustrated by her behaviour, both because she does not let her forger her brother’s death and for her own, more egoistic reasons.
Masaaki Yuasa directs a film that presents life as riding a wave, filled with ups and down but also very beautiful. His narrative is split in two, with Minato’s death functioning as the dichotomy. The first part presents an adorable love story, in romantic comedy style, while the second takes a darker turn, as it deals with regret and the way people deal with it. The three characters represent three different ways, with Hinako not being able to let go and in essence, to move forward with her life, Yoko becoming very frustrated and not losing time on moving on with hers (although not completely) and Wasabi remembering but also seeing the new paths his friend’s death has allowed his own life to take. This concept, although quite deep, is presented through an atmosphere that is almost permanently joyful, thus forbidding the film from becoming a drama and even more, a melodrama.
Furthermore, the romantic notions never seem to cease, the humor is aplenty, as are the supernatural elements, and there is also some impressive action mostly dealing with fires. Yuasa combines all the above in delightful fashion, resulting in a film that remains interesting and entertaining in its narrative, from beginning to end.
Apart from context though, the anime also thrives in visuals, with Yuasa’s (and Science Saru’s) regular animation and drawing style, with the long-neck, lean characters and the extremely flowing motion finding one of its apogees here as the water element frequently dominates the screen. The scene in the end in the skyscraper is impressive, regarding both its images and its pace, and it is, in essence, where the technical aspect of the film finds its apogee.
Masaaki Yuasa continues to impress with his works, and “Ride Your Wave” is definitely not an exception.