Studio Ghibli has created some of the most amazing, beloved, and acclaimed animated films of all time, including My Neighbor Totoro, Grave of the Fireflies, Spirited Away, and Ponyo. Most of these films are now easily available here in the States, with one notable exception: 1993’s Ocean Waves.
Ocean Waves was the first Studio Ghibli movie that wasn’t directed by Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata. Instead, it was directed by Tomomi Mochizuki, who has also worked on Kimagure Orange Road, Dirty Pair, Twin Spica, and House of Five Leaves.
Originally airing on Japanese TV, Ocean Waves has rarely screened outside of Japan. However, GKIDS recently announced that Ocean Waves will be receiving a North American theatrical run through early 2017. Here’s the official synopsis:
Rarely seen outside of Japan, Ocean Waves is a subtle, poignant and wonderfully detailed story of adolescence and teenage isolation. Taku and his best friend Yutaka are headed back to school for what looks like another uneventful year. But they soon find their friendship tested by the arrival of Rikako, a beautiful new transfer student from Tokyo whose attitude vacillates wildly from flirty and flippant to melancholic. When Taku joins Rikako on a trip to Tokyo, the school erupts with rumors, and the three friends are forced to come to terms with their changing relationships.
Ocean Waves was the first Studio Ghibli film directed by someone other than studio founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, as director Tomomi Mochizuki led a talented staff of younger employees in an adaptation of Saeko Himuro’s best-selling novel. Full of shots bathed in a palette of pleasingly soft pastel colors and rich in the unexpected visual details typical of Studio Ghibli’s most revered works, Ocean Waves is an accomplished teenage drama and a true discovery.
Based on the above description and trailer, Ocean Waves looks like it’ll take more after the grounded, “coming of age” realism of Only Yesterday as opposed to Studio Ghibli’s more fantastical titles. GKIDS has exclusive distribution rights for Ghibli’s early catalog, which hopefully means Ocean Waves will get a domestic home video release, too.
In other Studio Ghibli-related news, Princess Mononoke will get a nation-wide theatrical run in January to celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary (and Hayao Miyazaki’s birthday). It’ll be accompanied by “On Your Mark!,” a previously unreleased music video directed by Miyazaki. The subtitled version will screen on January 5 and the dubbed version (which features the voices of Gillian Anderson, Billy Bob Thornton, and Minnie Driver) will screen on January 9.
I was fortunate enough to see Princess Mononoke in the theatre a number of years ago. The film’s epic scope and stunning animation, combined with Joe Hisaishi’s soundtrack, made for a sublime experience — one that I’d love to repeat in January.