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Blu-Ray Cover Art

Source: Madman

Umi ga Kikoeru[1] has long been one of the hardest films in the Studio Ghibli catalogue to track down.

It is unique in the Studio Ghibli catalogue as both the only television film, and also as the only film for the studio directed by Tomomi Mochizuki[2]. In the latter respect Mr Mochizuki is not alone as it is not until 2011 that a director other than Isao Takahata or Hayao Miyazaki directs a second film for Studio Ghibli[3].

Taku Morisaki is heading to his high school class reunion in Kochi from Tokyo when he catches a glimpse of a woman who might have been one of his class mates. That sets him off in to remembering the arrival of Rikako Muto into his high school life in 2nd year, and the troubles she brought with her.

From there it moves to the class reunion itself, at which Rikako is notable for her absence, until the reunion finally takes place in Tokyo. The reunion does however clarify Taku’s feelings, and resolve a number of other lingering issues from high school.

As a character Rikako is blunt and outspoken in some respects, guarded and hidden in others. She makes for a fascinating character, and her interactions with Taki very much drive the film.

Umi ga Kikoeru is a teen romance that pointedly doesn’t resolve itself, or the resulting damage to friendships until well after high school when distance has brought perspective to all of the players.

Along the way there is some relatively rare[4] commentary on social issues such as divorce, as well as on the theme of social harmony[5].

Finally Umi ga Kikoeru is a very tightly edited film, with some clever scene changes that only runs 72 minutes. It won’t outstay its welcome, and the characters are certainly engaging enough to keep your attention. I certainly recommend seeing it if you can track it down.

[1] Umi ga Kikoeru was always translated as I Can Hear the Sea back when I was watching fansubs. The official releases have adopted Ocean Waves as the translation, but I still prefer the literal transation (at least in this case).

[2] He has an interesting list of works ranging from the superb (Here is Greenwood) to the “he really admits to that?” (Dirty Pair Flash).

[3] That second film by the way is From Up on Poppy Hill in which Goro Miyazaki redeemed his execrable effort of Tales from Earthsea.

[4] For anime at least. I don’t recall seeing too much dealing with divorce until much later, and even then it remains rare.

[5] Commentary on this has been less rare in anime, particularly when it comes to things like deferring to older students. See also Hibike! Euphonium and A Place Farther Than the Universe.