The film is based on Himuro's novel which was first serialized, with illustrations by Katsuya Kondō, starting from the February 1990 issue of Animage magazine. The monthly instalments were collected in a hard cover book published in February 1993. Kondō served as the character designer and animation director for the adaptation. Production of Ocean Waves was controlled by Studio Ghibli, but much of the animation was produced with the assistance of J. C. Staff, Madhouse Studios, and Oh! Production, who had worked with Ghibli on past projects. This film is the first Ghibli anime directed by someone other than Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata. Tomomi Mochizuki, who was 34 years old at the time, was brought in to direct. The film was an attempt to make anime solely by the young staff members, mostly in their 20s and 30s. Their motto was to produce "quickly, cheaply and with quality", but ultimately it went over budget and over schedule and Mochizuki claimed he developed Peptic ulcer because of stress.