After releasing Read on the wall Critically acclaimed director Masaaki Yuasa received a similar memoir for his upcoming feature film, Ride your wave, by Japanese animation studio Science Saru.
“We were assigned the same theme, ‘a love story involving a fantastic / out of this world being’,” Yuasa recalls. “From there, we made up the story of a guy who turned into water and a human girl.”
Turning into a meditation on loss, following Yuasa’s experience of the great earthquake in eastern Japan on March 11, 2011, Ride your wave focuses on Hinako, a surfer whose life changes forever when the charming Minato rescues her from a fire in a building. Afterwards, the firefighter tragically passes, but the romance between the two only unfolds, when Hinako discovers that she can summon her lost love to appear, wherever there is water.
‘Lupine III: The First’ director Takashi Yamazaki visually adapts a classic manga character for 3DCG animation support
Distributed by Toho in Japan and by GKIDS in the United States, the animated film is also streaming on HBO Max. Given the events of the past year, his meditation on how we face the challenges that life throws at us could not be more relevant. “Surfers have always told us that life is like riding the waves: you have to choose the wave you want to ride from the many waves that are coming,” Yuasa notes. “There are good waves and bad waves, but you don’t know what it is until you surf it.
Below, the director discusses the inspirations behind his latest Oscar nominee, as well as Inu-Oh, the functionality it has to come.
DEADLINE: How do you feel about how you would approach this story visually? It seemed like the juxtaposition of water and fire was something you wanted to accentuate.
YUASA: From the concept “love affair with a person out of this world”, we found two incompatible characters, like fire and water. From there, we decided to have a surfer and a firefighter as the protagonists to develop the characters and the sets. Getting the firefighter to save a girl caught in a fire is a great way to start a romantic comedy.
DEADLINE: What was your approach to designing the characters and the world of Ride your wave? Did you have any particular inspirations to do this?
YUASA: An important factor is that we always wanted to represent a surfer, which we have never had to do before. With that in mind, we created some realistic backgrounds from there. In our last movie, we had incorporated “shojo-manga type” designs, and we emphasized that element in this movie. We have expanded the concept designs for the most part.
DEADLINE: How would you describe the pipeline you used to bring the film to life?
YUASA: The process went smoothly. during Read on the wall, there was a lot of trial and error at the start of production. This time around, we were able to take advantage of that experience, so we were able to work smoothly. By simplifying symbolic events, we were able to progress more steadily than I expected.
DEADLINE: What were you looking for in the music for the film? And how did you work with composer Michiru Ōshima to come up with the score we are hearing?
YUASA: We first worked with Oshima-san in The Tatami Galaxy, then again on The night is short, walk on girl; this would be our third collaboration. You feel that Oshima-san can put emphasis on the theme and then adjust the music accordingly to the whole movie. Honestly, I don’t remember what we discussed about the score. But for the scene where Hinako and Minato eat omurice while they are camping, the music matches the scene so well. Although not much was happening visually, what they were talking about was important, and the music underscored it. We had no intention of that, and it turned it into a touching scene. It was what the film wanted to convey.
DEADLINE: Were there any specific moments that were particularly fun to bring to life?
YUASA: The moments of inactivity between Hinako and Minato marked me. There is a sequence where they sing casually. During the recording, Ryota Katayose (who voiced Minato) and Rina Kawaei (who voiced Hinato) created a pleasant atmosphere, and we were delighted to have some good takes. Creating the scenes depicting the frivolous and simple happiness of a couple was enjoyable.
DEADLINE: The highlight of Ride your wave features spectacular action, with Hinako riding the side of a skyscraper. Could you break down the inspiration behind this footage?
YUASA: We thought about how to portray the “big wave” that Hinako overcame in the climax, and we imagined the sequence where she was riding the wave along the building. It’s a sad scene, but we’ve also included the hope that she can start over. We wanted this to be a scene where even when the lost characters face challenges, they can take a step forward. Whatever difficult situations they find themselves in, they must challenge abandonment. And by rising to the challenge, they can find and benefit from a different perspective. Trying something is fun. This is what we wanted to represent.
DEADLINE: What do you hope people take away from the film? How does his message speak to the world we live in today, with all its challenges?
YUASA: Ride your wave is the story of a woman who gradually grows up riding various waves of life, making mistakes and succeeding. By defying seemingly scary waves, things can go well and you can have fun, or you can surprisingly overcome anything. Because of what is going on in the world now, even in everyday life, you may feel anxious or scared, but I hope you can see life as waves to go through trial and error and stay positive throughout.
DEADLINE: What’s next for you?
YUASA: We are in production for Inu-Oh right now, a story about the real Noh performer Inu-Oh and a biwa player who lived in the Muromachi period. There are hardly any records left of them, but we highlight their history by thinking about how such amazing people existed back then. They pursue their ideals and take on challenges that are unfavorable or devoid of merit. Maybe this way the theme is similar to Ride your wave.