Book Review: Ride Your Wave by Mika Toyoda

Title: Ride Your Wave
Author: Mika Toyoda, Masaaki Yuasa, Reiko Yoshida
Released: February 16, 2021 (Paperback)
Series: N/A
Rating: ★★★★☆

Description: The novel version of the acclaimed anime film about surfing, summer love, grief, and a hint of magic.

Carefree Hinako moves to a small seaside town to surf. When her new apartment catches fire, she’s rescued by Minato, a gentle firefighter with a heart of gold. The two soon begin surfing together, and before they know it, they’re falling in love. But their young romance comes to an abrupt halt when tragedy strikes. Now Hinako is determined to rescue Minato, just like he once saved her. A moving tale of love and yearning based on the award-winning anime.

Please keep in mind that this review contains spoilers for the entire book. Read with caution. If you click on the “Read More”, it is under the assumption you either don’t care about spoilers, you’ve already read the book, or you’ve seen the anime movie.

This is my disclaimer that I haven’t seen the anime movie itself and while I do plan to, I want to talk about this book from the perspective of someone who hasn’t seen it before.

On the first impression, the page count for the light novel is way shorter than it appears to be. I was actually able to read this in an entire night but that could be because of how engrossed I was in the story itself. Unfortunately, you can absolutely tell this is the reverse – instead of the anime movie adapting the novel, this is the novel adapting the anime movie. While I did enjoy this story, I wanted to get it clear out of the way that it really felt that this book was describing what’s on the screen instead of “behind the screen”. 

It’s almost a very surface level of describing certain emotions. Please don’t misunderstand – I really did enjoy this book a lot! But I wanted to talk about this first before I start talking about the rest of the book itself. I think this is my problem with novels as adaptations versus the other way around. When I read the original source, the rawer emotions are there and are easily digestible – this is probably one of the reasons why adaptations are usually not done very well. It’s hard in a visual medium to show the inner workings of a character unless you know everything about it. And I think that repeats itself in the novel-writing adaptation. Because everything is already set up in the anime movie itself, which I haven’t seen yet, everything feels very surface level. Perhaps the novel did give me more insight into the characters’ thoughts during the scene itself and that’s not a bad thing, but I feel it was almost a teasing of those emotions. Again, everything feels very surface level. This was written like a movie.

However, that didn’t mean that I wasn’t attached to the characters. With the exception of the side characters, I cared very much about the main couple and rooted for them the entire book, except when the magic hijinks started. When Minato “came back to life”, I was hoping that it wasn’t one of those stories where the lead would try to “join” him in the afterlife but then things happened that causes Hinako to realize she’d need to move on eventually, thankfully. I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of stories like this lately where the main couple will have wonderful romance only to be torn apart by tragedy, and they must learn a lesson.

And then it doesn’t consider someone who might’ve missed them the most – their family. Minato has a sister, Youko, who is “foul-mouthed and blunt”, but considering she was also dealing with her brother’s drowning, she didn’t really seem to like Hinako for some reason. But, Youko didn’t seem to like Hinako even before the drowning. It hardly seemed that her brother’s death affected her as much as it affected Hinako. And this is why the adaptation frustrated me for her character – she’s a one-note character who doesn’t seem to feel anything until the end when it finally focuses back on her.

This is the biggest problem of adapting in a novel format. There’s actually more freedom to explore certain relationships, emotions, repercussions, and more but because this is clearly more for fans of the anime movie, it fell short for me. I cared about Hinako very much as a lead and even teared up when she realized the truth about both Minato’s wish and why he called her hero. I cared about her journey and I cared about how was she going to move on (and her inability), but anyone else who knew Minato wasn’t “as sad” as Hinako was.

It could very well be a plot issue than an adaptation one; this makes it sound that I don’t enjoy it as I seem to pick on plot issues and other problems in the story’s narrative. Keep in mind – I’ve never seen the anime movie itself so the only way for me to have any attachment to the characters is through this novel.

So, if I feel this way for the novel, why did I rate it this way? Because I loved the couple and it was a good snack to have. Light novels are often compared to junk food but I could easier compare this to a light fluffy cake. Even though there isn’t a lot of substance, there’s still a lot of flavoring and it’s sweet and light and fluffy. Sometimes, I don’t always want to deal with the deepness of grief. Sometimes, I want to see a girl see her ghost boyfriend in the water and try her best to push forward. And sometimes, I just want something light and fluffy… with a pinch of magic only a light fluffy cake could offer.

Absolutely, it could have been expanded upon more, and I can see the author (and translator, by extension) trying their best to go more into detail – but at the end of the day, this is about someone else’s work from their point of view.

This novel is fine for fans of the anime movie, especially if you do better with your own imagination, but this is also a nice treat for people who haven’t seen it yet. Just don’t expect too much from it and enjoy the free dessert given to you.

About Lily

A fujoshi who won't shut up about anime, manga, video games, BJDs, nendoroids, and anime conventions. She apparently can't stop writing either.

Posted on February 18, 2021, in ★★★★☆ – 4 Stars, Book Reviews, Light Novels, Oneshots and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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