xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
Earlier this year, GKIDS released a restored version of Studio Ghibli’s rarely-seen and masterful “Only Yesterday,” and they end the year in a similar fashion, digging into the vaults to present U.S. viewers with an animated drama from one of the most important film companies in history (now in limited release in NY).
“Ocean Waves” was broadcast on Japanese television in the early ‘90s, but has been hard to find in the United States since then. Reportedly sprung to life as an opportunity for some of the younger animators at Ghibli to spread their wings, “Ocean Waves” is the first Ghibli film not directed by Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata, although one can see the fingerprints of both gentlemen on the final product. With an incredibly short running time (72 minutes) and deceptively simple story, “Ocean Waves” could feel like a footnote in the Ghibli story but it features qualities of its own as well. It’s a delicate, well-told drama that may lack the depth of something like “Only Yesterday” but proves that Miyazaki and Takahata’s students were listening to their teachers.
Directed by Tomomi Mochizuki and written by Kaori Nakamura (from a novel by Saeko Himuro), “Ocean Waves” is a story of memory and love. Taku is a young man at a train station in Tokyo when he spots a familiar face on another platform. Could it be Rikako, the young woman who changed his life in school just a few years prior? The film then flashes back to Taku’s time in school, focusing on the new girl who shakes everyone up. Taku first spots Rikako through the eyes of his friend Yutaka, who spotted the alluring young woman through a window. Her back is to the window now and so Taku has to take his friend’s opinion of her as fact. He’s immediately seeing this person through the eyes of his friend, which makes it even harder for him to later admit he has feelings for Rikako, for fear that it will break his friendship with Yutaka.
Yes, the people known for masterful fantasies like “Princess Mononoke” and “Spirited Away” made a love triangle drama. It’s an even more gentle and often uneventful film than its description might lead you to believe. It’s an episodic tale of encounters between Rikako and Taku. There’s a school trip to Hawaii during which Rikako loses her money and asks to borrow some. There’s a fateful trip to Tokyo in which Rikako tries to find her father, and Taku ends up tagging along. There’s a lot of slapping. An argument could be made that if “Ocean Waves” weren’t animated and starred three CW stars it would be a dull mess.
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