Thursday, December 7, 2023
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Ocean Waves Review

With such an abundance of classics available at the touch of a button (for those coughing out the £7.99 needed for Netflix), Studio Ghibli are steadfast and sturdy in their ability to provide charming, engrossing animation. Their style is unique, and their ideas legendary. For the most part, they are a studio running on stories of grounded realism mixed with the fantastical, otherworldly elements their creativity can bring to the screen. Ponyo and Porco Rosso are perhaps my favourite examples of this, their charm and beauty crashing through the waves and villages they craft. You don’t hear much about Ocean Waves, and it’s certainly not a film that you’d want to hear anything about, as it ruins the illusion of Ghibli’s near-perfect track record.

Ocean Waves isn’t necessarily bad by regular standards, but for Ghibli, this feels extremely underwhelming. Animated with spectacular confidence as ever, this piece does nothing with its stylish nature. The issue with Ghibli films is certainly never found in the animation, but here it does feel rather muted. Some rather odd choices are made in the animation department though, not wholly bad, but extremely odd and swaying far away from the Ghibli style. Images with a large white background and exposition over the top of it smacks a little cheap. That’s not an issue with the hard work put into bringing this world to life, but an issue with the world itself. All of it feels very mundane, static, and honestly rather boring.

Boiling this one down to issues with the script would be far too easy if it weren’t glaringly obvious. Ocean Waves offers up such a repressed, bland exploration of a love triangle. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, and a reliance on characters that I truly struggle to see anything interesting in make for a wholly boring experience. All of it feels incredibly flat, shuffling from scene to scene with a genuine lack of expression or care. There’s only a little bit of that Ghibli charm lingering around, and it never feels like it’s capitalised on. All the components for it are there, the stylish choices and all the expected flourishes, but they don’t come together convincingly enough.

Definitely not one of Ghibli’s best efforts, and a little embarrassing at times, but I can appreciate the necessity of the production and how it trained up junior staff members. Ocean Waves is a work experience project, something mashed together in an understandable rush that simply took too much on. Perhaps it’s rude to expect something more of a film so short, but with the Ghibli seal of approval plastered all over this one, it’s hard to forgive it too much. Nothing painfully bad, it’s just completely devoid of inspiration.

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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