The other elusive Studio Ghibli film that I really, really want to see is the 1993 TV anime Ocean Waves (Umi ga Kikoeru), which is also known as I Can Hear the Sea. It was adapted from a novel by Saeko Himuro (1957-2008) which chronicles the arrival of a new transfer student to an idyllic island high school, and the romantic problems which naturally ensue.
Taku and Yutaka are good friends living in the sleepy coastal town of Kōchi on the beautiful island of Shikoku. The drama comes with the arrival of Rikako, a beautiful (of course) transfer student from Tokyo who sounds like she has issues (of course). The love triangle that forms is almost required, no? This tale of adolescent love and isolation seems like a departure even from a movie like Whisper of the Heart, and I’m down with that so long as it’s good, and this is supposed to be a poignant hidden gem. Disney holds the rights, so what’s the problem?
The director, Tomomi Mochizuki, was a one-off for the studio, and hasn’t really been connected with Ghibli since. They were trying for a more youthful and cheaper way of making films, and the animation is supposed to be beautiful – lots of muted palettes and unexpected details. You know, I sometimes wonder why I even like Studio Ghibli so much when my favorite films are the ones that are the most unlike the others. I hope I’m not just being difficult.
And I am as intrigued by the works of the author Saeko Himuro, who specializes in shojo novels, as I am in the movie. In addition to coming of age stories like this one, she also reinterpreted and translated (into modern Japanese) famous Heian Era stories, such as the scandalous gender bender Torikaebaya Monogatari (translated into English as The Changelings) and the Cinderella-esque Ochikubo Monogatari (The Tale of Ochikubo) – they all sound so good! She even wrote a sequel to I Can Hear the Sea, called I Can Hear the Sea II: Because There Is Love (Umi ga Kikoeru Tsū: Ai ga Aru kara), but I’m getting ahead of myself. I’d be content to watch this movie first. Any day now.