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There are a number of anime that I approached in the past with the mentality of really wanting to like them. Whether it was because of a specific visual in a trailer, or a plot summary that felt particularly compelling, I watched them with the expectation that I was going to enjoy them. The best example of this which comes to mind is Food Wars, of which I sat through two and a half seasons before finally realizing how utterly mediocre it is.
Unfortunately, it seems as though I and many others have had a similar experience when it comes to Netflix’s latest anime film Bubble. In this case, a lot of what got people excited upon its announcement last year was the big names attached to the project, most notable of which are Tetsurou Araki (Attack on Titan, Death Note) and Gen Urobuchi (Madoka Magica, Psycho-Pass, Fate/Zero). Sadly, though, for as much talent as this project managed to pull, it only ended up being just ok.
Bubble tells the story of a seemingly magical Tokyo, where the appearance of bubbles followed by an extreme explosion created a unique anti-gravity environment that was flooded by the surrounding ocean. This new environment attracted an experimental project involving orphans and parkour where teams compete for resources while living in this now floating city.
Doing Too Much
Another thing that this movie made me imagine was a writer’s room filled with like 20 people where everyone was just kind of shouting out ideas to the head writer (Urobuchi in this case) and they just kind of write it all down and try to make it work in order to keep everyone happy. Kind of a shame really, since Urobuchi’s writing is generally very purposeful and slimmed down to only the most important elements.
Like, take a second to really think about how many plot points get introduced. A bubble storm that destroys Tokyo, orphans who invade the city while it is on lockdown, a then seemingly government-endorsed research project, a parkour sports league that may or may not be government-endorsed, a bubble that gains sentience and becomes obsessed with the main characters, a plot by one of the parkour teams to kidnap the lead researcher of the science project…what?
This movie drops picks up and drops story beats like Thor suddenly losing his connection to Mjolnir. Multiple times. Generally speaking, I tend to give more points to interesting ideas even when they are executed badly. After all, in an age where art is as well funded as it has ever been and now everything is a re-tread of something else, having genuinely new ideas is hard. Still, the media does need to execute for it to be worth watching, so ultimately the story fails in that department.
Well, It is Pretty
Honestly, that could be the tagline for most of the anime films I have covered over the last few years. However, Bubble does go the extra mile above simply having a few nice-looking frames, because my god is the choreography in this film phenomenal.
And no, the use of the word choreography here is not a mistake. Sure, the characters are technically playing a non-dancing sport, but the way they are animated to glide through the air while bouncing from building to building, car to rock, is absolutely breath-taking. While I am incredibly lazy and therefore cannot be bothered to check the entirety of the staff listing for both projects, it is clear that Wit-Studio and many of those who worked to bring the visuals of the 3D Maneuver Gear in Attack on Titan to life brought the same passion to the parkour scenes in Bubble.
Speaking of, parkour is actually such a cool thing to watch. There was definitely a time in recent history when the saturation of parkour videos on YouTube made it hard not to meme. Yet, it never stopped those videos from being fun to watch. I will not sit here and lie saying I watched them for hours, but I would also be lying if I said the occasional parkour compilation video did not get me hyped. Again, it is one of those ideas which feels genuinely unique to this film, and it does look nice, but it never feels like it adds anything to the story.
It feels like ever since the release of Your Name back in 2016, the standard for music in anime films has become Radwimps. Regardless of how one feels about the story of Your Name, and I know my opinions have certainly changed since then, the soundtrack is one area where its reputation has remained untouched.
Luckily, Bubble does not suffer much in this department either. For starters, both its opening and ending themes fit with the nature of the film, with the opening being more upbeat and EDM-based and the ending song being more of an acoustic ballad, with a more melancholic tone.
The rest of the soundtrack is composed by Hiroyuki Sawano (Again, the talent pool here is insane) and is definitely reflected in the more bombastic moments, like on the track “Tower.” However, Sawano knows how to flex his muscle a bit, as is evidenced by the more mysterious main theme which is titled after the movie and also sounds like the call of a siren. This feels appropriate since Uta is primarily compared to the little mermaid throughout the film.
Oh yeah, the characters…
This Movie Has Characters?
I was legitimately about to wrap up writing this post without touching on the characters at all, which should tell you just how much is actually going on in this mess of a film.
The main storyline, if it can even be called that, focuses on Hibiki, one of the kids who ran away into Tokyo after the explosion at Tokyo Tower. He is something of a genius at parkour, and at times seems to be the Defacto leader of the group Blue Blaze. After an accident near the tower where he almost gets sucked into a BLACK HOLE (yeah forgot to mention there are black holes in this movie), He is saved from drowning by a bubble-turned-humanoid which he later names Uta.
The most interesting part of either character is not even the romance, but rather Hibiki’s Auditory Hypersensitivity, which is used to explain why he often spends time alone and is constantly wearing headphones. Many in online discussion of the film have taken this to be a soft confirmation that Hibiki is autistic since that particular condition is often associated with being on the spectrum. However, the film seemingly never confirms this nor does anything with it outside of a two-to-three minute flashback near the end. Again, a nice inclusion, but it feels like this could have been a much bigger focus considering where the film ends up.
I would bother to list any of the other characters except that literally none of them are consequential or even really remotely interesting. In the interest of not spoiling the movie for anyone who still wants to check it out after reading this, the best summary I can give is the following: the romance is ok, except it does not actually go anywhere. As far as the ending goes, it is exactly what one would think it is going to be once the movie reveals a certain plot point.
I wish I had more to say about Bubble, except actually not really because this post is already over 1000 words, but I do not. For those who do not give a shit about a compelling storyline and are fine with just looking at nice visuals for almost two hours, by all means, be my guest. For everyone else…well, it is possible to get something out of this, but chances are not particularly high.
If you have seen Bubble already, how did you feel about it? Let me know in the comments.
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