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Review: ‘Ride Your Wave’ - Love, Loss, and Awkwardness on the Beach

Masaaki Yuasa’s latest film is an enjoyable tale of romance, grief, and self-discovery.

GKIDS is at it again! They recently dropped Weathering with You in U.S. theaters, and now they’re giving us another fun film from director Masaaki Yuasa.

From the moment we saw the trailer, we knew Ride Your Wave had something. Yes, it’s very clear what this story is essentially and depressingly about. Nevertheless, that typical fluid anime style plus a catchy tune made it all the more must see!

Hinako Mukaimizu, a young surfer in a new town, unfortunately wakes up in the middle of the night to find her apartment building is on fire! Enter Minato Hinageshi, our young firefighter, who saves not only Hinako, but also her surfboard. Of course, much like a good 80’s film montage, we then get one scene after another documenting the budding Hinako-Minato relationship. From going to restaurants to moving in together, it’s all meet-cute, with a special song that both love to sing thrown in as well. However, that trailer is lurking in the background as you watch. You know that heartwarming montage must tragically collide with the accidental death of Minato. But, again, you knew this was coming. We also knew that, in her grieving, Hinako would make a supernatural discovery. She learns that she can make Minato manifest in water when she sings that special song. What then is a grieving human to do?

Dealing with loss is clearly at the center of Ride Your Wave. No need to go into details there. But it should be noted that Yuasa and writer Reiko Yoshida tell a very good tale. Hinako is a character that must not just simply deal with grieving, but must also embrace and release the strength she knows she possesses. While there are indeed people around to help, moving forward is about her and her alone. Although Minato may have first appeared as the typical and perfect “knight” to save the day, this story is about Hinako facing and making those hard choices.  

So, Ride Your Wave gets it right. It’s a sad yet fun story to watch. Again, that anime aesthetic associated with Yuasa’s corpus, that fluid and sometimes formless style, is certainly here. Yet at the same time, it is balanced with an attention to detail that produces the kind of still life found in many feature length anime films. In those café scenes when Minato is cooking or making coffee, everything from the espresso machine to the chemical process of hot water being poured over fresh coffee grounds, anime is art. And on the human level, everyone will find the romance adorable and heartwarming, although a little fast paced – we know we have to get the death part, but still. It’s bittersweet. Ride Your Wave also does a wonderful job in conveying emotional awkwardness, the kind familiar to everyone because it is ubiquitous. That tension leading up to telling someone how you feel…you might just want to pause the movie because you’re sharing in (or even remembering) that embarrassment.

Beautiful and perhaps even empowering, Ride Your Wave is in theaters now.

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