The Winter 2021 Preview Guide
WAVE!! Surfing Yappe!!
How would you rate episode 1 of
WAVE!! Surfing Yappe!! (movie trilogy) ?
What is this?
In the city of Ōarai in Ibaraki prefecture, Masaki Hinaoka befriends transfer student Shō Akitsuki before the summer break, and ends up getting hooked on surfing. Through the sport, Masaki gets to know new friends, and will also drift apart from them in his journey to adulthood.
How was the first episode?
I really, really have to get something off my chest here: if you do not know how to swim, do not take up a water sport, especially one that relies on rough water. Seriously. It's just a bad idea. Yes, there are some people who surf without knowing how to swim, but speaking as someone who has lived on the coast her entire life and has seen the ocean claim more than her fair share of people, the latter half of this episode just made my skin crawl. I know plenty of fishermen (mostly the older generation) who won't learn to swim for superstitious reasons, but as far as I know, surfing has no such culture. Don't be like Masaki, kids.
That little bit of horror out of the way, WAVE!! is actually kind of a dull episode. It doesn't even rely all that much on the actual practice of surfing, instead focusing on our bright-eyed protagonist Masaki falling madly in love with new kid Sho and deciding that he suddenly wants to learn how to surf despite the fact that his friend Tanaka has been trying to get him to learn for years and, as I might have mentioned before, he can't swim. I suspect we're supposed to believe that it's surfing, not Sho, that Masaki has fallen for, but that seems a little off the mark when Masaki's facial expression when he looks at Sho is very much the same one on the faces of the girls in their class. It's fine either way, but if the show isn't setting them up, it perhaps may want to try a different approach to that.
But however the character relationships shake out, the sad fact of the matter is that this episode doesn't spend its time wisely. There's not much actual surfing or teaching Masaki anything beyond the barest of basics, the boys really don't look like eighth-graders, and most of the time the ocean is just sort of there, with waves only popping up intermittently as required by the plot. I like the bright colors and tropical feel, but that's not enough to make up for a lackluster storyline and some questionable plot choices. This may all be directly attributable to the fact that this is the serialization of a trilogy of films, but even if that's the case, there's still a better board sports show out this season.
WAVE!! Let's Go Surfing!! starts by going, one-by-one, through a roster of hot boys on surfboards, announcing their names and unique qualities. They start with CG full-body shots, then go to hand-drawn close-ups. Is this a sports anime, or an idol anime?
Whatever it is, it's about as workmanlike as can be. Everything about it can be described as, “Fine.” The characters? They're fine. The three surf boys that figure into this episode after the initial lineup, Masaki, Sho, and Nalu, are nice but kind of boring. Masaki is the excited newcomer who is inspired to take up surfing when he sees the new kid Sho doing it. Sho is handsome and princely, more than happy to show Masaki the ropes. Nalu is a flirt and constantly strumming a ukelele, because he's half-Hawaiian, I guess. Masaki seems to have a crush on Sho, which is kind of endearing, but overall their lack of dynamic personalities pale in comparison to pretty much any of the other sports series this season.
The animation is also adequate, neither incompetent nor impressive. The boys are pretty, but for most of the episode they mostly walk and talk, without much dynamism or character acting. If this is meant to drive tourism to Oarai, which I suspect it is considering the number of times they reference Sun Beach, a real location, it's not doing a great job. All they really show is a flat stretch of beach that could exist anywhere. The surfing animation is kind of hilariously bad, actually: static CG models posed on top of surfboards that look more like plastic models than living, breathing athletes.
WAVE!! is part of a massive multimedia project, with not just a TV show but a movie trilogy, radio program, phone game, manga, radio program, and character CDs, not to mention probably massive amounts of merchandising. It is mass-produced and bland, its corporate inoffensiveness a dead giveaway that this is the product of a committee. It is the casual dining chain of anime. All three of the other sports anime this season hooked me, but this one is a wipeout.
Boy was this the wrong time for this show to air. Well, yes, technically this show came out as a trilogy of movies last year, but this TV edit is airing and being released internationally right smack dab in the middle of winter. I'm sure for some the thought of going to the beach is a great escape in these cold, dark months, but for me it's the farthest thing from appealing. Also it's just bad luck to be an Xtreme Sports show in the same season as Sk8 the Infinity. You're doomed to look worse by comparison.
That's not to say WAVE!! is bad, necessarily. It's a perfectly functional sports show starring a largely inoffensive cast of attractive anime boys whose interests include constant blushing and getting lost in eachother's eyes. Or at least our main character Masaki really likes doing that with his new transfer student friend Sho. This premiere dials the romantic subtext up HARD from the moment our hero lays on his future surfing instructor, and while he never admits it the implication is that Masaki takes up surfing entirely because he has a crush on Sho. Much to the chagrin of his friend Nalu, who's at least mildly peeved it took a blond twunk to get his buddy into surfing after all this time. But Nalu has this annoying habit of playing the ukulele every time he's in a scene, so I can see why Masaki's looking elsewhere for a boyfriend.
That actual surfing is mostly perfunctory. It utilizes some decent but very noticeable CG models whenever somebody catches a WAVE!!, and while there's some introductory training the show doesn't do much to break down or explain the mechanics of surfing as a sport. So if you're going to watch it, it's probably for the characters rather than the spectacle of surfing. That's the biggest place where coming out right next to Sk8 is an issue. That series has already managed to capture the adrenaline rush of downhill skating in a way I doubt WAVE!! ever will for surfing. Like I said, it's not bad, but it's a thoroughly average production with not a lot of meat to it, so unless you really want a 22-minute beach-side vacation every week, it's probably safe to skip this one.
This marks the fourth debut this season of a series featuring hot boys involved in sports or sports-like activities, which is an unusually high number for any season. What's more, all of them are, at worst, decent. I may not end up watching any of them, but I would be interested to see where this one ultimately ends up standing against some exceptionally heavy competition. Perhaps someone will write an article towards the end of the season analyzing that...
Even though it involves a traditionally-cool sport like surfing, WAVE!! cannot hold a candle to Sk8 the Infinity on either cool factor or technical merit. In terms of overall construction and appeal factor, though, its first episode stands above Skate-Leading Stars and at least equal to 2.43: Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Team for me. Sure, lead boy Masaki has just too much energy – he's enthusiastic to the point of being hyper – but he nonetheless embodies the enthusiasm necessary to wholeheartedly jump into a new sport, and Sho is about as pleasant as they come as the newcomer who gets the lead boy excited about the sport; he gives off the vibe that he sees sharing his own passion for the sport as almost a higher calling. The real difference-maker here, though, is the deeply-tanned Nalu Tanaka, who has the unusual gimmick of playing the ukulele while turning almost anything into a song. He already has the cool surfer personality built in, clearly cares about Masaki, and is, in his way a little miffed that it takes the new guy to motivate Masaki to join him in surfing.
Amusingly, it's not hard to read “man-crush” into Masaki's reactions to Sho. Sure, those looks can be passed off as his adoration of Sho's surfing ability, but the framing and delivery of those scenes seems to deliberately be at least allowing for the other interpretation. Masaki's little sister, who also appears overwhelmed by Sho's looks, may have some romantic competition! (Seeing the series go in that direction might be funny, though I doubt the writing will pursue that angle.) On an unrelated note, an announcer in the opening scene wonders why the otaku surfer calls his one surfing move Perforated Attack, but given that he's standing on an image of a blushing anime idol painted on his surfboard itasha-style, I can think of at least one rather dirty explanation.
The make-or-break point for a lot of people on this series might be the technical merits, which are erratic in quality. Some shots look quite pretty and animation attention is sometimes devoted to what's going on in the backgrounds on beach shots, but other shots look much rougher. The episode uses 3DCG for many of its surfing maneuvers in much the same way that idol shows often use it for group stage performances, and while it is a mile better than anything in EX-ARM, it is still obviously CG and the transitions between it and regular animation can create an unwelcome visual contrast. So what's your preferred flavor for boys doing sports this season? You have a lot of variety to pick from, and this one is at least worth considering.
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