Bubble, the latest WIT Studio movie project, was just released on Netflix. From the initial announcement to the final week before the premiere, the movie was highly anticipated among anime fans, both those who eagerly looked forward to the story and those who were anticipating seeing what the well-known production staff ensemble will do. And now that the movie is out we were finally able to see the completed product – a visually stunning piece of animation, but with a somewhat lackluster story.
WIT Studio is probably one of the most loved studios at the moment, with many fan-favorite titles behind them. So it is not a surprise that the staff led by famed director Tetsuro Araki managed to deliver a beautifully animated movie, full of bright colors and amazing action scenes. Everything from the world setting and parkour to the emotionally powerful scenes near the end was amazing.
Music played a powerful role, as it completed the animation wonderfully. Hiroyuki Sawano’s signature sound was present throughout and it worked especially well with the action scenes. Uta’s song was in stark contrast with the rest of the soundtrack, as it was very simple and pure, yet powerful and sad at the same time.
The Plot (spoilers ahead)
Sadly, animation alone is not enough to praise something. Bubble has an issue with the story and although various explanations throughout the movie’s runtime tried to fix this, they were not entirely successful. Main offender – the parkour. What is the purpose of parkour in this giant bubble that now surrounds downtown Tokyo? Why are there children living there and competing for food while a scientist does research (on?) with? them and depends on them for food? Who are these high-tech parkour thugs that kidnap the said scientist for their social media following and sponsorships? The movie was initially announced as a parkour original story by WIT Studio, but sadly it felt like that plot point was there just so that the animators can show off their skills (which are, admittedly, amazing). The characters were decently written, but not all of them got enough screen time or a purpose other than parkour. It is also still unclear to me why the Lobster group leader likes to smell squishes. Where does he even find them?
Next up, we have the bubbles. There are various explanations inserted in random scenes throughout the movie – on how Tokyo was destroyed, what happened to the rest of the world, why the area flooded, and so on. It really felt like loose ends were supposed to be tied, especially with the big revelation that Uta is actually an alien bubble. However, the ending makes it slightly unclear as to what the future holds and whether the bubbles (who are now all Uta apparently?) are there to stay. The painful truth is that they were probably going for a modern sci-fi take on The Little Mermaid story (the original Hans Christian Andersen one, not the Disney version), in which the Little Mermaid turns into sea foam but spends her days with other spirits who coexist in the afterlife.
Gen Urobuchi, Renji Oki, and Naoko Sato worked on the script. Urobuchi’s influence on world-building is obvious and the story was not rushed in any way, which is a common issue with anime movies. But it sure felt like the world was too big for the 1-hour and 40-minute runtime and that by trying not to skip too much information they achieved the opposite effect. Some information was given in passing (the spider webs) and that was fine but it backfired when the epilogue was similarly squeezed in.
We could talk about the characters from Bubble for hours, as the sheer amount is a bit staggering, but the truth is that only two of them matter – Hibiki and Uta. Their relationship is the focal point of the story and everyone else pales in comparison and importance.
Although Hibiki starts off as a typical mysterious anime protagonist who is going through an edgy phase, Hibiki quickly grows on the viewer, especially once his backstory is introduced. A character with sensory auditory issues who hears a mysterious siren song was somehow refreshing to watch. Whether or not Hibiki has autism or just struggles with loud situations is unclear, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. He meets Uta and opens up to her, even though he himself is incapable of explaining why their connection runs so deep.
Uta is similar. An outcast among her own people, she is the personification of the Little Mermaid who is ready to sacrifice herself for a chance to be with someone she loves. In the end, she goes much further than that – she sacrifices herself to save Hibiki, but also the lives of countless humans, proving that she is capable of human emotion and worthy of being loved.
Bubble – Some Final Thoughts
Overall, Bubble is definitely a movie you should check out if you find yourself near Netflix this weekend. It may not be perfect, but the animation and music manage to carry it, even when the story doesn’t feel that great. The ending nearly makes up for the lackluster that came before it, but the epilogue again manages to bring it down a notch. Either way, the movie is a perfect choice for the fans of Your Name and Weathering With You and it does bring a slightly new twist to the classic fairy tale that we all read as children.
Bubble is now streaming on Netflix, with the Japanese theatrical premiere set for May 13.
©2022 “Bubble” Production Committee