Studio Ghibli movies come in two fairly distinct types – the enchantingly fanciful and fantastic like Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, and the no less enchanting, but very much grounded in real life, like Only Yesterday and Whisper of the Heart.
Sound of the Ocean is even further removed from fantasy than those two, and perhaps more so than any Studio Ghibli production. It is simply the story of two boys who almost lose their friendship over a girl who plays havoc with the life of one of them.
Ocean Waves, also known as The Sound of the Ocean, and I Can Hear the Sea, in English, and Umi Ga Kikoeru in Japanese, was originally supposed to be just a low budget project for the studio’s junior staff. But it became much more than that, going over budget to bring a well known and well loved novel by author Saeko Himura to the screen.
It was worth every yen. The lyrical quality of Studio Ghibli is retained in this gentle story of three young people growing up through various issues of their teenage years. The girl, Rikako, is struggling to come to terms with the break up of her parents, and learns painfully that she is no longer the most important person in her father’s life, while Taku tries to stop his growing attraction to this troubled young woman from breaking up his friendship with Yutaka, who also likes her.
It’s very simple, yet it is very meaningful to anyone who remembers the ocean-like ups and downs of their teenage years. It is also very beautiful – once again Studio Ghibli artists capture the magic of the everyday, making us look at our lives with new eyes.