Ride Your Wave follows in the genre of several romantic/supernatural movies of late like Your Name., Fireworks, and Weathering with You. It tells the tale of Hinako, a surf loving oceanography student who is saved one day by a firefighter named Minato when her apartment building accidentally catches on fire. Their relationship blossoms beautifully into a wonderfully sugary sweet sappy romance that’s enough to give one diabetes. They both bond over everything from the perfect rice egg omelettes, finless porpoises, sea turtles, brewing the perfect cup of coffee, a catchy song called “Brand New Day,” and, of course, surfing. It seems that each have found their true soulmate.
Alas, the buildup all comes crashing down one day when Minato loses his life while trying to rescue some water jet skiers. Hinako is devastated. She moves from her apartment facing the ocean to one that has no sight-line to the sea. She gives up surfing and stays holed up in her apartment unable to speak to any of her family or friends who leave her countless messages on her phone. Only Minato’s younger sister, Yoko, and another firefighter friend, Wasabi, are finally able to drag Hinako out of her apartment for some proper grieving. Hinako still can’t let go of the fact that Minato is gone though, and she starts singing the catchy song “Brand New Day” that they sang together. As soon as Hinako sings the song, Minato starts appearing in the glass of water in front of her. Shocked, she asks Yoko and Wasabi if they saw Minato in the glass of water, but they both see nothing. It seems only Hinako can see Minato floating in any body of water be it droplets going down the drain to streams after she sings the song.
Afterward, Hinako begins singing the song constantly to summon Minato in whatever water is nearby to have conversations with him just like when he was alive. Hinako begins carrying water in a bottle around town to show Minato how things are at the fire station and elsewhere since his demise. In a true act of inspiration or madness depending on how you look at it, Hinako comes up with the ‘wonderful’ idea of filling her life-size finless porpoise blow-up toy with water and brings it around town with Minato inside just like they did before he died. Of course, Hinako’s strange behavior is noticed by her friends who start to worry about Hinako’s mental well-being. Can her relationship with Minato last like this, and why is Minato appearing in water anyway? You can’t help but wonder if Minato’s reappearance as a water spirit is actually helping or hurting Hinako in the long run.
It’s a beautifully told story with a supernatural twist. The beginning plays like a heartfelt slice-of-life anime which changes into something else entirely after Minato’s death. The attention to the tiniest details in the animation of water and everything else is simply exquisite. The surfing sequences especially make one feel as if one is actually riding inside the wave. It’s a story about love, death, grief, and eventually moving onward past the tragedy through self-realization. You can’t help but root for Hinako and Minato to stay together forever, even after Minato’s death and ‘rebirth’ as a water spirit. The moments they shared together before Minato’s death, and even after, are ones you would hope to have in your own relationship in real life. At the end though, you do realize that everything happened for a reason, and that no one but you can deal with the consequences of a loss