2020 brought us the Wave!!: Surfing Yappe!! (WAVE!! -Let’s go surfing!!-) movie and the very next year we got the TV version—the 3-part movie split into 12 episodes. Masaki, Shou, and Tanaka are connected not just by their friendship, but by the joy of surfing which binds them even when they are so far apart. It’s intriguing to see how this shared passion affected the boys so profoundly yet so differently. Even with its lukewarm reception, WAVE!! has a few good points that can be enjoyed if you know what you’re getting into.
All of the Guys Are Unique Yet Affect Each Other
Many times, with a big cast, the characters are given individual traits that set them apart from others. While lessening broad appeal, they can make fewer viewers feel more endeared due to their unique similarities not seen elsewhere. Naoya’s love for Miruru, Kousuke’s competitive attitude, and Yuuta’s consistent calculations differentiate the characters. However, all of these friends rub off on each other. For example, the inspiration Naoya gets from his anime obsession Miruru turns Masaki into a fellow fan and even forces Kousuke and Yuuta to acknowledge her as if she were real. Masaki is similarly influenced by Kousuke and Yuuta’s technical approach to surfing. And while Tanaka was always the one teasing Masaki, Masaki is eventually able to dish it back once they’re reunited in Hawaii. With Shou’s influence being the biggest indicator, Masaki’s character evolves thanks to the people around him.
Masaki’s Love for Shou is Portrayed in a Subtle Yet Obvious Way
While you could argue that Masaki’s feelings for Shou are platonic as he never said he was in love with Shou, the subtext tells a different story. Shou isn’t even the best surfer Masaki ends up meeting but no one inspires him more nor holds his attention. Masaki’s childhood best friend Tanaka was unable to get him to surf after trying for years. Also, Masaki rarely talks about anyone to anyone else unprovoked unless it’s Shou, at which point Masaki will even talk to strangers about him. He almost died after walking into the ocean, despondent after losing Shou. Even to the last episode, Masaki contemplates his memories and his feelings for Shou. He doesn’t reflect or talk about anyone else the way he does for the blond-haired blue-eyed boy that stole his heart.
A Lot of the Interactions Feel Surface-Level
Masaki clearly cares for his friends as evidenced when he travels far to hunt down Yuuta to reinspire him or when he’s seen video-chatting with Tanaka. However, there’s a lack of dialogue and expression that really drives home how important these friends are. Of course, they show their bonds by training and traveling together and aiming for the same goal. But Masaki constantly comparing himself and others to Shou, his internal monologues about Shou, and his repeated hallucinations of Shou are on a whole other level. Perhaps this is done to show how his feelings toward Shou differ from the others, but it does leave us feeling like their bonds could have been a bit more developed.
Nice Designs, Poor Animation
WAVE!! has a lot of unique looking characters disregarding Fuke who looks and acts similarly to Rin from Free!. Will’s double moles under his eye, Tanaka’s dark skin and natural hair color, and Masaki’s undercut are distinct but subtle contrasts to frequently-replicated anime character designs. Unfortunately, a lot of the 2D animation is choppy which, when mixed with a rather rushed and choppy narrative, serve to make the story feel more disjointed. The 3D animation isn’t terrible considering all the moving parts and the ocean actually looks beautiful at times but the surfers do lose a lot of detail frequently to keep their movement looking smooth.
WAVE!! isn’t the most compelling anime out there, but it does ebb and flow in terms of enjoyment potential. It’s also not very technically focused when it comes to the actual surfing aspect which can either be a hit or miss depending on how passionate you are about surfing. At least there is a wide cast as each wave is over rather quickly. Being able to switch focus to another character as soon as the previous one’s run ends allows the momentum to continue even once the wave is past. It may not be as deep as the ocean, but WAVE!! has more to offer than just pretty boys if you can appreciate a slice of life anime with young guys following their dreams. Even better if you appreciate attractive guys playing in the water together! How would you rate WAVE!!? Let us know in the comments!