WELCOME BACK O.B.C FAMILY!
Movie night with the family and I’m looking for something… different. One of the things Netflix has done right lately is expanding their anime library, and one of the movies, Bubble, catches my eye. And doesn’t let it go. Beautiful, dynamic scenes of cityscapes, water, and bubbles that must have created a lighting nightmare for the artists yet was executed perfectly. Let’s settle in to see what this movie is about.
Plot- SPOILERS AHEAD
If you’re looking for an alternative to isekai and boss battles, Bubble may be a good choice. The story is set in the near future after the world has been taken over by mysterious bubbles that break the laws of reality. An explosion at Tokyo Tower concentrates the bubbles in Tokyo and makes the city largely uninhabitable, except for small groups of people that defy the government restrictions and giant whirlpools that suck objects into nothingness. These renegades compete in parkour games for resources, and our protagonist Hibiki happens to be the best. The visuals of people flying across the screen over water and abandoned buildings is probably one of the best parts of this film.
Hibiki is an odd duck even amongst the other nonconformists. He suffers from hearing ultra sensitivity so he often avoids others and wears headphones constantly. Due to this condition, however, he can hear the song of the bubbles, as well as the song coming from Tokyo Tower. One day, Hibiki tries to get to the tower, the center of the mysterious phenomenon of bubbles, and sees the figure of a boy. Though he is the best at parkour, the gravity anomalies are too much for him and he falls into the ocean. His last breath combines with other bubbles around him to create Uta, who then saves him from drowning.
Uta, who has taken the form of a girl she sees on a poster, follows Hibiki back home. She learns about how to be human in an adorable way, and we see her come to understand how her story is similar to that of another- “The Little Mermaid.” But not the cute Disney version, the original story by Hans Christian Anderson where the mermaid turns into bubbles at the end.
Hibiki trains Uta in parkour, and she teaches him how to use the bubbles and his ultra sensitivity for superhuman results. In a parkour competition against another group, Hibiki and Uta soar through the city and exult in the freedom of movement, and as a watcher it was easy to share in those feelings. The race and consequent win is a pivotal moment for the two, and it was the first big sacrifice Uta made for Hibiki.
It is obvious at this point the bubbles at Tokyo Tower, Uta and Hibiki are connected. Bubble activity begins to rise again, and Uta, determined to save Hibiki, goes to the Tower to stop it. Hibiki, also wanting to save her, makes it to Tokyo Tower and rediscovers his past and his connection with the bubble phenomenon. Uta ultimately sacrifices herself to save Hibiki which removes the bubbles from Tokyo, making the area livable once again.
I enjoyed watching this movie mostly because of the amazing work Wit Studio pulled off yet again. People might recognize the studio from Attack on Titan, Vinland Saga, and Spy x Family. I cannot overstate how gorgeous this movie is. Anime lovers will probably also recognize Eve’s voice in the opening song “Bubble feat. Uta.” The music throughout the movie was on point, as expected of a seasoned professional like Hiroyuki Sawano (Attack on Titan, The Seven Deadly Sins, Blue Exorcist, and many more). With all of this talent, including veteran voice actors, why wasn’t this movie the next Your Name?
The plot, graphics, and music were all amazing, but what fell short was the writing. Neither Hibiki nor Uta are big talkers, so a lot of the explanations were left to secondary characters. The awkward “don’t you remember?” before an explanation meant solely for the audience happened a few times, and there were points in the movie that were not even explained to that extent. Overall, it felt like the audience was simply looking at a snapshot of a few people’s lives without becoming too attached to them. The only point that made my eyes tear up was during the final part when Uta turned into bubbles, but that was primarily because I wasn’t expecting them to actually follow the ending of the original “Little Mermaid.” Touché Mr. Urobuchi.
Is this the best movie of the year? Probably not. Although the graphics are amazing, the character and story development are a bit lacking. But if you’re looking for a nice movie to sit back and watch with your family without worrying about awkward scenes or deep emotional baggage, this is it. Grab some popcorn, or better yet some boba tea, and enjoy Bubble.
Written by: Kathryn Vallejo