Ride Your Wave – Fantasia 2019 Review

A few months ago, at the peak of awards season consideration, I mentioned a brief comment regarding the work of famed animation director Masaaki Yuasa. In a piece comparing Mamoru Hosoda’s Mirai of the Future to the likings of Hayao Miyazaki and the Studio Ghibli establishment, I expressed my sincere admiration yet simultaneous gripes with Yuasa’s work; how the majority of his films come off as relentless and sporadically non-linear, with his tales of binge-drinking and cerebral gore in mind. Now, after viewing his latest film,  I gladly resent this statement. With Ride Your Wave, Yuasa further proves his talent as a storyteller; in which he attempts a more linear path/narrative with his latest project. For all fans of Yuasa’s previous contributions to the anime medium, don’t worry! All of his traditional quirks and stylistic appeal is sprinkled throughout the film; with some even more fresh artistic approaches included. 

In a similar vitality to the infamous manga Yubisaki kara no Honki no Netsujō (a piece of pulp graphic-novelization about a womanizing fireman and his numerous escapades with innocent victims of his charming asshole appeal), sprinkled in with a dosage of down to earth American realism, with films such as The Spectacular Now and The Big Sick in mind; the relationships presented in this lovely cheesy romance is one that will make your heart melt with admiration. Everything feels pure and quaint, while also simultaneously keeping a consistent reality check regarding the situations at hand. It sometimes feels like an elongated “beach-related anime episode”, where the characters plod the narrative’s stretch too thin; yet the consistently dynamic chemistry between the two lead pairings, gracefully saves the film from becoming a nauseating drag. 

Regardless of your stance on the occasionally meager and predictable plot, Ride Your Wave still looks just as beautiful as Yuasa’s previous outings. From the movement of the water, to the color combinations of the character’s clothing, each artistic design all serves towards a visual psychological assessment of Hinako’s (the lead protagonist) spiraling descent into grief. Surprisingly enough, this may just as well be Yuasa’s most emotional film to date, where the irreversible consequences and resolutions from the character’s actions feel life-like and morally justified. 

While nowhere near as imaginative nor positively spirited compared to Yuasa’s previous films in his filmography, the grounded nature of Ride Your Wave is still one that can be considered as a successful attempt. Sure it’s cheesy, sure it can meander; but the aquatic vibes which radiates from this film’s pure unfiltered energy, makes the experience of viewing this chronicle of lust and tragedy worthwhile; with an ear-worm inducing pop song titled Brand New Story included!

Ride Your Wave screened at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival. GKIDS will release the film in North America next year.

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