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A Rare Studio Ghibli Drama Is Coming to U.S. Theaters

'Ocean Waves' aired on Japanese TV in the 90s, but now a 4K restoration is coming to select US theaters in all its hand-drawn glory.
GIF and screencap via

This month a 4K restoration of Studio Ghibli's new-to-North America TV film, Ocean Waves, is landing in New York and LA theaters, followed by a home video release in spring. The undiscovered gem of hand-drawn animation, now now distributed by GKIDS, is a comfort to distressed Ghibli fans uncertain of the future as legendary co-founder Hayao Miyazaki flirts with retirement.

Directed by Tomomi Mochizuki and written by Kaori Nakamura, the 1993 made-for-TV movie tells the story of high school romantic entanglements gone awry. It's set in a school similar to that of Japan's current box office darling, the Freaky Friday-style body-swapping drama, Your Name. While Ocean Waves lacks Miyazaki's flair for the fantastical, it maintains the attention to detail and pacing that Studio Ghibli films are known for.


Mochizuki's story follows schoolboys Taku and Yutaka as they're torn apart by their relationship with new girl Rikako. Ocean Waves will be a new side of the Japanese production house for fans who have only seen Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke—which is also in select theaters on Miyazaki's birthday weekend, January 5, 2017. Adapted from a popular novel by Saeko Himuro, Ocean Waves has a beachy feel and soothing pastel color palette animated by a team of Ghibli's young talents.

Ocean Waves was the first Ghibli film with a director other than founders Miyazaki or Isao Takahata. Since then names like Hiromasa Yanebayashi, Hiroyuki Morita, and Hayao's son Goro Miyazaki have sat in the director's chair. Studio representatives have implied that Ghibli might dissolve once Hayao Miyazaki eventually retires, though in 2014 interview with Variety he said, "I intend to work until the day I die." He recently announced he would be devoting the next three years to a new feature called Boro the Caterpillar, and is working on his first CGI short of the same name.

In the meantime, check out the trailer for Ocean Waves and mark December 28 on your calendar for its debut at New York's IFC Center and a one-time screening at the Chinese Theater in LA.

Ocean Waves will be showing at IFC Center beginning on December 28, and for one night only at LA's Chinese Theater. Click here to learn more about GKIDS.


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