A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Messages about perseverance and courage are implicit as well as spelled out: Minato praises the "grit" of a senior firefighter who knows all the waterways in the city and says he learned about perseverance by watching sea turtles marching into the ocean with determination.
Positive Role Models
Characters are authentic, wonderfully supportive. A main male character calls a female one his "hero," encourages her to find her path in life; the woman is able to move toward self-actualization on her own. Firefighters call out to each other during difficult exercise: "Go on!" "You can do it!" "You're so close!" Friends hug each other, bring each other food as comfort. An awkward girl says she's "no good at fitting in" but that a friend's supportive words made her "feel that was OK."
Violence & Scariness
A tragic death occurs; viewers don't see the death, but they do see emergency vehicles on a beach and a character fainting, then multiple characters grieving. In a flashback, a boy struggles to swim and then sinks beneath the water (he's saved). A building catches on fire; the flames dramatically crawl up the side of the building.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two characters gradually fall in love, spending time together at the beach and in restaurants. Their relationship starts slowly: "I hope I can use your first name," says one on their first date. Eventually they progress to holding hands, kissing (one brief scene shows them kissing seemingly nude, although viewers can't see any sensitive body parts), and talking about marriage/moving in together.
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Language (spelled out in English subtitles) is rare; at one point, a group of pranksters is called "morons," and a woman says "damn it."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One friend asks another whether she's hallucinating and "on drugs"; the friend emphatically replies that she's not.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Ride Your Wave (in Japanese with English subtitles) is a visually stunning and emotionally satisfying -- if quite sad -- animated romance. The movie is notable for its feminist messages. Hinako (voiced by Rina Kawaei) is a surfer who lives an independent life; she and Minato (Ryôta Katayose), a firefighter, meet after he admires her surfing and calls her his "hero." They slowly fall in love over the course of the movie, holding hands, kissing, and talking of a future together. In one scene it appears that they're nude, but no sensitive body parts are shown. A tragic event alters the course of the movie; viewers don't see the death, but they do see emergency vehicles on the beach and watch loved ones grieving at length. In other scenes, a building catches on fire (no one is injured), and a young boy almost drowns (he flails and sinks beneath the water, but he's rescued). Characters demonstrate impressive perseverance and courage, giving praise to those whose hard work and determination yield visible results. They're also supportive of each other, like when a man makes an awkward girl feel better about not "fitting in" by reassuring her that it's enough to just be herself. There's no drinking or drug use, although someone asks a character whether she's "on drugs" when it's believed she's hallucinating (no, she answers emphatically). Language is confined to one "damn it" and a use of "morons." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Beautiful and gripping (if too sad for sensitive or younger kids), this anime film has a satisfying emotional arc and absolutely gorgeous visuals. The first notice viewers get that they're in for a unique love story arrives in the first few minutes, as Hinako swirls joyously through the ocean's waves while Minato watches wistfully from the top of his fireman's tower. When a friend asks what Minato is looking at, Minato replies dreamily that the woman out on the water is his hero. Wait, what? In American movies, women watch men admiringly, not the other way around. What a delightful romantic departure to see a woman providing the action, with a man responsible for the admiration. Minato does get his chance to play the hero, too, and then we watch as our leads, slowly, slowly spend more time together: cooking on the beach, going out for coffee or tea, stumbling through Minato's first surfing lessons.
Then something terrible happens, as it will, in life and in movies, and Ride Your Wave becomes something else: a portrait of a woman learning to live again after a tragedy, to pick up the pieces of her life and go on. Part of Hinako wants to look backward, where Minato was always there to hold her hand and keep her safe. But with time and the support of friends, both her own childhood ones and Minato's loved ones who rally around, Hinako starts to find her way. It's a sad but ultimately fulfilling story, shot through with incredible visuals. Yuasa seems to have a particular affinity for showing patterns of light: fireworks exploding in a clear sky, sun-dappled water, the shadows thrown by the revolving red light on the front of firetrucks. It's a fitting visual metaphor for Hinako's journey through a long, dark tunnel of grief and back into the light.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.