daniel thomas Categories: dvd, umi ga kikoeru
Our Ghibli friends in the UK have another reason to gloat over their American cousins: Umi ga Kikoeru/Ocean Waves is now available on DVD. This means that our English, Scottish and Irish friends now have all of Studio Ghibli's theatrical films.
Umi ga Kikoeru was Studio Ghibli's 1993 film. It was created by the younger staff members who had been trained and mentored for several years at the studio's art school. They learned under both Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, and were set loose on a 72-minute television adaptation of a popular manga. Outside director Mochizuki Tomomi was brought in to head the project, Ghibli's first without Miyazaki or Takahata.
I've always been a great fan of this film, and Ghibli's forays into neo-realism. The idea that animation could be used to depict real life dramas...this was a shattering revelation when I discovered Grave of the Fireflies. Even though Umi ga Kikoeru (Ocean Waves is the standardized Western title, but the direct translation is "I Can Hear the Sea") is considered a "minor" work in the Ghibli canon, I believe that designation is unfair. This teenage melodrama is brilliantly paced and skillfully animated. The final scene is truly stirring, and never fails to move me.
True story: When I was in Bogota in December, Umi was playing on Cinemax, in Japanese with English subtitles. That was a surprise for me. You can actually find bootlegged DVDs of all the Studio Ghibli films on the streets of Bogota, cough, cough.
I have only one major complaint with this new DVD - no extras. The Japanese Region 2 DVD includes an hour-long video that reunites the filmmakers on Umi's 10th anniversary. There's no reason why that couldn't be included. Indeed, naturalist anime is a rather tough sell in the West. We need all the help we can get. Much thanks to Optimum for bringing Umi to the West, but no skimping on the extras next time.