Since his theatrical debut "Mind Game" (2004), director Masaaki Yuasa has been known for warped, psychedelic films and TV series that stretch the limits of the imagination. Over the past few years, though, Yuasa has signaled an interest in making more accessible films. The culmination of those efforts, at least so far, is "Ride Your Wave," which is by far Yuasa's most "normal" film to date. The good news for fans is that this film still feels distinctly Yuasa.

Written by Reiko Yoshida ("Liz and the Blue Bird"), "Ride Your Wave" is the story of Hinako Mukaimizu (Rina Kawaei), a first-year college student who's chosen to attend a school close to the sea to indulge in her favorite hobby, surfing. Soon after she moves into her new apartment building, it catches fire, but all's well that ends well: The accident provides the film's meet cute, as Hinako and her surfboard are rescued by young firefighter Minato Hinageshi (Ryota Katayose). The two begin spending time together, growing closer in a series of charming scenes that reminded this reviewer, at least, of the pure joy in falling in love for the first time. It's during this time that the two bond over a song called "Brand New Story," a point that becomes important later.

Sadly, the joy is not to last. Minato, trying to improve his surfing, goes out by himself on a stormy day and, ever the selfless firefighter, loses his own life while rescuing someone else.