WARNING: The following contains spoilers for WandaVision Episode 9, "The Series Finale," streaming now on Disney+.
WandaVision delivers an ambitious depiction of grief that has taken the internet by storm. Specifically, the Disney+ original explores the overwhelming feelings the MCU's Wanda Maximoff suffers with after losing her beloved Vision during the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. The show’s nine-episode run recently concluded, and viewers may now be looking to get their fill elsewhere. If you love stories that take a full dive into the emotions accompanying tragic loss with a supernatural twist, Masaaki Yuasa’s anime feature, Ride Your Wave, may have you covered.
In Endgame, the Avengers successfully brought back everyone taken by Thanos’ snap. Vision, however, was killed prior to the snap. Thus, he doesn’t return and he and Wanda cannot reunite. This sets the stage for WandaVision, in which Wanda uses her supernatural abilities to project a perfect life with Vision, effectively bringing him back to life. In the process, she takes over the lives of an entire town of people to keep her perfect dream alive. The show brilliantly portrays grief as dangerous, cascading events if treated incorrectly.
Much like WandaVision, Ride Your Wave is a story about a character struggling to recover after losing their romantic partner. Hinako Mukaimizu is a 19-year-old girl who loves to surf the waves. She meets Minato Hinageshi, a firefighter with a noble heart and a strong sense of justice -- much like Vision. The two begin a warm, lovestruck romance that they proclaim will last forever. Unfortunately, it is cut short following Minato’s untimely death. In her despair, Hinako starts to have weird hallucinations of Minato appearing in bodies of water. These hallucinations prove to be a supernatural phenomenon, allowing the couple to interact again freely. But only Hinako can see him. Her story concerns itself with riding the waves of life in the face of tragedy.
The director in charge is none other than Masaaki Yuasa, also known for his work on The Tatami Galaxy, Devilman Crybaby and Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!. All of these series under Yuasa’s belt are critically acclaimed. He is joined by writer Reiko Yoshida who also developed the screenplay for A Silent Voice.
The 2019 film draws a lot of parallels to WandaVision. While Ride Your Wave doesn’t frame itself as a thrilling superhero mystery, it’s hard not to see the similarities in the setup and themes portrayed. Both female protagonists find ways to prolong the existence of their lover, which results in self-inflicted wounds. Both projects cover why people grieve, the healthy and unhealthy ways they do so, and what it means to find closure. And both worlds use inventive imagery and magic to push along the substance at the heart of their metaphors.
Yuasa’s film uses a beautiful, vibrant palette of colors to sell its summery water-centric adventure much in the same way that television becomes the instrument of Wanda’s emotional journey. The stylistic choices in the film help convey a softer tone more reminiscent of a shojo romance. Nevertheless, the anime still carries a ton of emotional weight from its beginning all the way to its conclusion. It may not be as dark as Marvel’s illustration, but it offers a nuanced perspective while hitting the same heartbreaking beats.
Fans certainly won’t want to overlook the similarities between the character archetypes, either. The friends who come to Hinako’s aid in Ride Your Wave are akin to Monica Rambeau in WandaVision. And of course, the love interests are very much alike. There’s are clear reasons why both main female characters are so distraught.
Still, Hinako’s own journey draws a distinction from Wanda’s. It’s full of hardship, denial, and its own set of abnormalities. However, for those feeling the void from a lack of weekly character study focused on loss and healing, Ride Your Wave could be a great anime to watch.
Ride Your Wave is available now on HBO Max.