In Ride Your Wave, a surfer girl in a seaside town falls in love with a young firefighter. Having chosen to attend college near the ocean to indulge in her favorite pastime, Hinako is a carefree soul. She meets Minato when he rescues her from a fire in her apartment building. Minato is less carefree. He chose his career because of his strong convictions about helping others.

Sparks fly between these two different personalities and Hinako convinces a very reluctant Minato (who nearly drowned as a child) to try surfing. While attempting to surf a strong winter storm, Minato ends up trying to save a drowning jet skier and loses his own life.

Distraught over her guilt and loss, Hinako moves away from the ocean and falls into a depression until one day, while singing the couple’s favorite song, Minato appears in her water glass. From then on, she discovers that she can conjure Minato in any amount of water by singing that song.

The poignancy of the romance—the pair can longer physically touch, and nobody else can see him, has consequences for the other people Minato left behind; especially his coworker and friend, Wasabi and his little sister, Yoko.

The film’s themes of loss, grief, and moving on are told in a polished, beautifully detailed anime style by experienced and award-winning director, Makaaski Yuasa (Night is Short, Walk on Girl, Keep Your Hands of Eizuouken!, Devilman Crybaby). Although the themes are sad, and the emotional effect of this story is high, it is broken up by some sweetly written comedic scenes which lighten the mood.

Animation studio Science SARU deftly handles the gorgeous setting and characters. Movement is fluid and natural with extraordinary detail. The musical score matches the mood, including the theme song, “Brand New Story.”

Ride Your Wave is on a shortlist of possible Oscar nominations for 2021, along with two other high quality theatrical anime releases, A Whisker Away and Demon Slayer Mugen Train. Ride Your Wave was another theatrical victim of COVID-19 and has only been released on DVD in the US.

This film is for fans of Your Name and Fireworks and definitely belongs in any teen anime collection. It has wide appeal for adult anime fans as well. The DVD is unrated, but I would give it a solid PG rating, mostly for some kissing, mild profanity and alcohol use.

The film is getting a light novel and manga adaptation from Seven Seas Entertainment later this year.


Ride Your Wave
By Masaaki Yuasa
GKID Films, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: Not Rated
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Character Traits: Japanese
Creator Highlights: Japanese

  • Lisa P.

    | She/Her Library Associate in Youth Services

    Reviewer/Editor

    Lisa is a library professional and part-time comic shop employee in Central Wisconsin.

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