A couple weeks before she starts university, Hinako Mukaimizu meets Minato Hinageshi when he rescues her from a fire in her apartment building. He asks her out and they fall deeply in love. As their love, and their love for surfing, grows, Minato loses his life attempting to rescue a drowning surfer. Heartbroken, Hinako must learn to ride the waves of life on her own.
Hinako Mukaimizu is a little bit of a fish out of water, that is, whenever she isn’t in the water. During her transition to university life, she meets Minato and they start dating. Hinako never really comes across as someone who is very independent and that is good, otherwise there would be no plot. She is a sweet and laid back surfer girl who seems acutely aware of her lack of direction in life. It is no surprise that she does not take the death of her boyfriend well because let’s be honest, no one would. At points in the show it felt like she was borderline hysterical but not likely to break down, just hysterical out of being weird. The emotional spectrum of her character was easily the best part of any of the cast. The whole show follows Hinako’s growth from someone who simply rides the oceans waves to someone who can actually weather the storm of life when it comes her way and this is where we find that spectrum of emotion.
Minato Hinageshi is two characters throughout the movie. The Minato before he dies is an outgoing guy who is a fantastic example to everyone around him. He works hard to become good at anything that he sets his mind to. He has unique interests like pour-over coffee, surfing, and fire safety (we love guys on the higher end of Maslow’s Hierarchy.) His teasing and caring nature really comes out in his relationship with Hinako and his sister Youko, making him a really solid character.
The Minato after death became a hollow shell of his character. The memory of Minato became a surfer bro that was singularly focused on Hinako, and this felt bad. The multidimensional Minato felt reduced to a single frame. A coffee shop to a single cup. An ocean to a single wave. Now, perhaps the authors felt like this was needed to progress Hinako, the main focus. But from a character standpoint, I was not impressed.
Kawamura Wasabi was really trying his best this whole movie. The boy sucked as a firefighter, sucked at the dating game, didn’t understand his own emotions, and had his best friend die. Yet, after all of that, he is the one trying to keep Hinako sane, keep Minato’s sister company, and working as hard as he can to become a good firefighter. Personality wise I can’t say that Kawamura had much to offer. He was the glue of the group and he played his role well. He was forward focused and that seemed to blind him to a lot of what was going on right in front of him. All of this together made him a pretty forgettable character without any real impact by his character.
Youko Hinageshi is a ball of attitude for no reason whatsoever. The second she enters the movie she is rude and combative. In the aftermath of her brother’s death she is cold and unsupportive. She communicates poorly and expects everyone to pick up on her meaning. Overall, I never wanted her on the screen. I can understand being angry as a means to cope with loss but she was angry before she even lost anything. Almost a year after her brother’s death she starts to mellow out a bit and become a slightly more tolerable character but I’m not convinced that she ever really makes up for the fact that she was so purposely cruel.
Ride Your Wave just didn’t pull that much out of me and I think it all started at one single spot. Minato’s death was completely glossed over. We spent half an hour connecting our two characters and the most we got from the death scene was Hinako fainting. There was grieving, but not to the degree that felt appropriate. Then there was prolonged emotional pain but it wasn’t stressed. Hinako wanted to keep the image of Minato around and everyone else wanted to move on. There needed to be more friction here. Not necessarily in characters getting mad, like Youko did, but in other ways. Perhaps there could have been a serious romantic encounter. Perhaps her emotions could have actually impacted how effective she was in her day to day life. I am not sure what the correct alternative was here but it needed to dig deeper. I wanted to feel like there was pain in the memory of Minato, not a sense of connection still. We got that sense of loss at the end of the movie with a really touching scene, but they should have ended there or had that be the last scene because the “everything ended okay” scene that came afterwards felt like it invalidated all that pain that Hinako worked up to showing.
Most people in life need to develop a sense of independence. At some point, we will have people we rely on not be available and we need to do things ourselves. Hinako knew this in her core but struggled to develop that ability to become independent without the strict need to. She had never really lived on her own before. She had never had to pick a direction in life that wasn’t fairly directed for her. She had never had to take on emotional trauma before. Suddenly thrown all of these things at once, she found herself lacking the ability to power through adversity to find her independence. This is the core idea of the show and really the only idea. I thought I could talk about the idea of overcoming the death of a loved one but the show really doesn’t approach that idea. Hinako never really has to grapple with the loss of Minato. She has to grapple with herself and the lack of a guide now that she does not have Minato to lean on. It feels like such a weak premise given that most of the “waves” that she had to ride were the aftermath of her boyfriend’s death. Sure, there will be more waves in the future but hardly is there a time in your life that is worse than transitioning to a university life with a partner who recently died. So this idea of gaining independence after a trial by fire felt… redundant.
Movies are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to pacing because they have so little time. The foreshadowing for Minato’s death was heavy. The first illusion at Hinako “riding the waves herself” clicked everything into place and I was sad. Minato and Hinako had something special and I think the best part of the movie was when we got to see that. A solid third of the movie is building this relationship and that part is done very well. Yet, because the next phase is so predictable, it feels like we can’t help but look ahead. I saw the writing on the walls and wanted the next chapter. Then, when I got the next chapter, it felt forced. I think Kat, a friend I made on the plane to Iceland put it best, “Once the viewer is ahead of the story, it’s over.” Lack of twists and heavy foreshadowing set the story behind pretty badly. There was one callback to a previous part of the story that surprised me, but only the details of WHAT happened and not that something DID happen. The pacing didn’t make the story unwatchable, but it’s hard to get into a story when you could write the script as you watch.
I have a friend named Kelvin that I met back in highschool. Kelvin is a tall boy and sometimes it feels like he didn’t exactly grow into his features (sorry if you are reading this Kelvin :D). Yet, despite his lanky frame, we still love Kelvin. Ride Your Wave’s characters are a lot like Kelvin, but we can still love them. I had to have a full blown one sided conversation with Randy about the proportions of the characters, where I followed my train of thought all the way to the caboose that the characters were charming. The necks are longer than what makes sense and the arms are spindly but the movement feels natural. Aside from the characters, the colors are perfect for the summer. Bright yellows, sunset oranges, and crystal blues litter the show and get us in the mood not only for a surfing themed anime, but also for a brand new season of summer anime! The only thing that feels weird about the movie is that the characters are glossy and it makes things look computer generated when I really don’t think that they are. So there are occasions that I was knocked out of the immersion but this was easily made up for by the atmosphere created by the animation.
There is nothing I like more than settings that matter. Minato works at a fire station, this matters because that is how we learn about his need to save people and how he meets Hinako and Kawamura. Minato likes pour-over coffee, so the coffee shop he loves becomes relevant to the story. The beach is relevant to Minato and Hinako’s relationship so it is revisited several times. Everything felt like it was shown to us for a purpose and the purpose became clear with time. Perhaps the visual elements were not wild or a standout in comparison to some other shows, but when dealing with a normal world you don’t need wild, you need purposefulness and the movie does this.
I spent close to half an hour looking for the full soundtrack for Ride Your Wave and found a resounding nothing. Which was not good. You see, I love you guys so much that I watched this movie and started writing this review during my vacation to Iceland. Because I am a one bag warrior when it comes to travel, I didn’t bring my nice headphones, so I ended up using a pair of earbuds that Randy gave me. I have never used earbuds in my life. I am twenty-three years old. So not only did I not know how they stick into my ears, but I did it incorrectly. This makes things like….listening closely….very difficult. Not that I didn’t hear what was happening but the details got a little lost. Now that I spent a whole section giving an excuse, let’s dive into the music.
The whole show revolved around one song, “Brand New Story.” Where we might normally have a professional band or singer doing the music, the voice actors sang this song for us. There was giggling mid song and major car ride singing energy. It felt perfect for romance that our two main characters were falling into. The song itself made it feel like we were part of a special moment between our characters, the first time. After a while the same song repeated felt unimportant and repetitive. So while the sounds did the job of the show, overusing something good makes it unimpressive.
|Category||Points Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||2||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||3||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||2||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||2||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||3||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||3||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||2||3|
Ride Your Wave is a cute romance that turns into something that comes close to being inspiring. While Hinako was a decent character, I really hated how they reduced Minato to a shell of himself. The movie got so close to being good in so many categories but overall came up short. If you want an easy summer themed watch with a bit of romance and a bit of sadness, this is your movie. Otherwise, it’s an easy skip.