If you’re interested in Japanese animation you’ve undoubtedly heard of Studio Ghibli films like ‘Spirited Away‘ and ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’. But, you probably haven’t heard of the high school love story ‘Ocean Waves’ that is based off the Shojo novel of the same name by Saeko Himuro.
The Ocean Waves is the only Ghibli film which has not yet received an English-language version. Although the distribution rights in the United States are owned by Disney, the film is still only available in Japanese with English subtitles. This is why there are two English titles – I Can Hear the Sea, a direct translation of the Japanese title ‘海が聞こえる’, and The Ocean Waves – because no official English title has been given. This is also one of the reasons why you may not have heard of this underrated film.
Released in 1993 and aired on television, The Ocean Waves was the first Studio Ghibli film not directed by Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata. The studio wanted to give its younger staff members a chance to write and direct their own project.
The setting is at Otemae High School, an actual high school in Kochi City, and some of the characters speak in Tosa-ben, one of Kochi Prefecture’s dialects. There are many shots that include Kochi landmarks, such as Kochi Castle, and references to places like Obiyamachi.
The plot is a straightforward love triangle. An aloof transfer student, Rikako from Tokyo comes between best friends, Morisaku Taku, and Matsuno Yutaka. Teenage drama ensues.
Although not on quite the same level as the films Miyazaki and Takahata directed, Ocean Waves is still enjoyable to watch and may have a depth to it that isn’t immediately apparent. Those interested in all things Ghibli or simply in cute love stories should definitely give this underrated Ghibli film a chance.