Ride Your Wave Review
Michael Potts | 1/11/2019
An affecting tale of young love, grief and finding one’s way in life, Ride Your Wave is a beautiful, if flawed emotional journey.
The film follows Hinako Mukaimizu (Rina Kawaei), a young woman having moved back to her childhood town to study at university and indulge in her favourite pastime – surfing. But, not long after moving into her new apartment the building catches fire and she is rescued by Minato Hinageshi (Ryota Katayose), a local firefighter known for his determination and hard work. The two bond as Hinako teaches Minato to surf and the pair quickly fall in love. Tragedy strikes, however, when on Christmas Day Minato drowns when trying to save a jet ski rider at the beach. Devastated by his death, Hinako struggles to cope without Minato, but she one day discovers that when she sings "Brand New Story", a song they both loved he appears again in water. Whilst she is at first elated, she eventually discovers that he is trapped in the living world as long as she is unable to move on.
The art style of Ride Your Wave is highly colourful, using pastel shades which are highly evocative. Characters thinly proportioned in a way that portrays an elegance in their exaggeration, but all the same without sacrificing a sense of authenticity in their designs. There are small imperfections in the art, though these add to the charm of the production and feed into the fantasy element. The animation itself as well is graceful sleek, which is complemented by a variety of approaches to shot framing, allowing scenes to feel dynamic and real. The visual construction is integral to the emotion of the film and it is executed with great care.
Conceptually, the entire film revolves around the motif of surfing, with ‘riding a wave’ providing the guiding metaphor for the narrative. On this front the dialogue does tend to overuse the allegory, but it nonetheless acts as a fine guiding idea. Minato’s return to the world of the living in bodies of water is the key element of fantasy, though of itself is no great leap such as might break the immersion and it works to bolster the bittersweet nature of Hinako’s dilemma. However, the climax can be argued to include an overindulgence in the fantasy which serves the rest of the film so well. It is not such as to ruin the movie, but there is a jarring escalation compared to the majority of the content.
While the story relies on these other elements for its effectiveness, taken on its own it remains emotionally poignant and heart-warming. Its first act, which sets up the romance between Hinako and Minato is gorgeously sunny in its disposition and includes all the best aspects of romantic comedy. The narrative following Minato’s death is Ride Your Wave at its strongest, but it also suffers at times from a tendency to raise story elements without putting time into explore them. A notable example is a putative love triangle which barely receives any attention and is essentially resolved off-screen. It must also be said that it is highly predictable in its plotting, but nevertheless the emotional payoff loses none of its potency despite these flaws.
Visually arresting and with great pathos and warmth, Ride Your Wave is a gem that is well worth the watch.