Despite the fact that this is a Studio Ghibli film and by far most of their movies are wonderful and great. This doesn't mean that there are no bad apples within the basket.
Ocean Waves has a lot of potentials to be a great film but it just didn't achieve it. To me, it fell short by 3 steps to be a really Ghibli classic.
The movie begins in Kochi, with 2 high school friends Taku Morisaki and Yutaka Matsuno meet an attractive woman named Rikako Muto. While she seems to be attractively, academically, and athletically gifted, she is stubborn and arrogant. Taku deduces that she came from Tokyo. On their field trip to Hawaii, Rikako asked Taku to lend her some money because she lost hers. Since he has a part-time job he decides to lend her 60,000 Yen in secret. During their 3rd year, Rikako hasn't paid yet Taku his money. She also tricked her friend by coming to an airport instead of a concert. After learning that she used the money to purchase plane tickets to Tokyo, Taku hurriedly goes there and decided to go with her. In Tokyo, Rikako's father paid her debt to Taku and they both stayed in a hotel provided by him.
Right at this point, the story got a little bit confusing.
During their stay in Tokyo, Rikako used Taku as her scapegoat whenever she feels like she is in trouble somewhere. When they went back, they became a popular talk within their school due to the stories being spread out by Rikako that hey spent the night together. When confronted by Taku, they had a slap moment together. The movie ends when they had a mini reunion but Rikako was absent and recalled the moments they shared together. Taku realizes his mistake by not following and reconciling with her and at the same time he is in love with her all the time.
Seriously, it really got confusing in the middle. The film's story started really like a typical Studio Ghibli film but then suddenly it got confusing because of the character's sudden and irrational decisions. It was also sort of pointless that Taku's close friend suddenly disappeared during the second act of the film. At first you will think that the story is a love triangle between the 3 and the plot will revolve that way but then it was just Taku and Rikako while the other seemed unimportant anymore. Also at first you care for the main characters then in the latter half you just want the movie to end because they seem so bad in their decision making.
What I do like about the film is animation. Similar to Only Yesterday, it was made to be close to reality. The characters don't have exaggerating features which is kind of nice. The location also is based on real places.
This is the first Ghibli animated film that was not directed by Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata. It was directed by Tomomi Mochizuki and targetted to be made by their young staff members. He planned on making something that is cheap, quick and with quality which I guess the reason why the film felt like it had an immature plot.
Then again, the movie itself has a lot of potential. Maybe if they spent more time studying carefully the plot and/or the storyboards for example, I really think this will be an instant classic. The premise of this film is beyond words already it just failed in execution. I like movies that are way thought upon. You know something like when the production team spend more time in the planning, studying and learning stage so that when you start to execute the movie itself its going to be a blast. Was the studio pressured because all the 7 films that came before it were bombshells? Do they want to make a lasting and good impression to the 2 founders? I certainly don't know.
I still don't see this film terrible compared to other movies that are really bad. I view this in the lower half of okay. And by all means this is not the worst film from Studio Ghibli but it definitely is in my bottom five.
It's qute sad for a movie that has a lot of potential.
A solid 2 out of 5 stars.