Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Cast: Ryota Katayose, Rina Kawaei, Honoka Matsumoto, Kentaro Ito
Runtime: 1 hr 36 mins
Rating: PG (Brief Nudity)
Released By: mm2 Entertainment
Opening Day: 5 December 2019
Synopsis: Hinako (Rina Kawaei) is a surf-loving college student who has just moved to a small seaside town. When a sudden fire breaks out at her apartment building, she is rescued by Minato (Ryota Katayose), a handsome firefighter, and the two soon fall in love. Just as they become inseparable, Minato loses his life in an accident at sea. Hinako is so distraught that she can no longer even look at the ocean, but one day she sings a song that reminds her of their time together, and Minato appears in the water. From then on, she can summon him in any watery surface as soon as she sings their song, but can the two really remain together forever? What is the real reason for Minato’s sudden reappearance?
Unless you are a hardcore anime fan, you probably will find the name Masaaki Yuasa unfamiliar. Quoting Japantimes, the 53-year-old is one of the most exciting directors working in Japanese animation today. With two of his earlier feature films, Night is Short, Walk On Girl and Lu Over The Wall gathering accolades and the release of Ride Your Wave, Yuasa seems destined to be on the path of commercial success.
Although trying to find her direction in life, Hinako is a fun, surf-loving college girl who lives on her own in a fire-hazard apartment near the seaside. Minato on the other hand is a fireman at the local fire station who secretly admires her from afar. The two young individuals are destined to meet and fall in love after Minato rescued her from her burning apartment one night. Hinako taught Minato how to surf while he in turn taught her the art of brewing coffee and making delicious omurice. But happiness is short-lived when Minato is killed trying to save a jet-ski rider.
As ridiculous as it sounds, Minato returned as sort of an apparition to encourage the distraught Hinako to move on. The only catch is he can only appear upon hearing Hinako singing their favourite song out loud near a water source. Since his death, Hinako has lost her love for surfing thus will Hinako ever find a way to overcome her sadness and ride the wave?
Ride Your Wave is a mix of Ghost meets The Shape of Water. Likely inspired by them, there are lots of similarities littered throughout. Hinako coming back as an apparition to protect Minato from harm and both of them dancing romantically reminds us of Elisa and the amphibian man. It’s a bittersweet romance story that many will find appealing despite a rather prolonged romance montage in the beginning that some impatient viewers will find irksome.
However, the script by Reiko Yoshida (A Silent Voice) starts to turn interesting after the untimely demise of Minato. In order to continue her love with Minato and bringing him along for dates, Hinako has to trap him in a water bottle and subsequently, a blown-up porpoise to a toilet bowl. The result does make for some comic relief and genuinely unique enough to bring out the imaginative aspects of the movie.
With the appearance of Minato taking a back seat, his straight talker sister, Yoko and his fireman colleague, Wasabi began to care for Hinako’s well-being. The latter carrying a torch for Hinako and the former who dislikes Hinako in the beginning starts to form a friendship with her. And because there is no memorable villain or anything to create a wham-bang finale, a group of troublemakers who are out to set off fireworks illegally in an abandoned building ignite an ending that brings the movie to a satisfactory conclusion.
Ryota Katayose who voices Minato in real-life is the vocalist of the mouthful GENERATIONS from Exile Tribe so it’s no surprise his group is the one responsible for the movie’s catchy “Brand New Story” theme song. The rest of the serviceable voice cast includes Rina Kawaei (Hinato), Honoka Matsumoto (Yoko) and Kentaro Ito (Wasabi).
Essentially, Ride Your Wave is a fantasy romance anime which boast spectacular artwork, a wondrous palette and an inspiring message. If you are a fan of Mamoru Hosoda and Makoto Shinkai then you should go all out to support Masaaki Yuasa as well.
(A departure from Yuasa’s darker works, Ride Your Wave is a welcoming modern fable in anime form)
Review by Linus Tee