Netflix’s latest anime film to grace the streaming service is Bubble. Tetsurō Araki‘s latest film after his work on Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress: The Battle of Unato is based on a script by Gen Urobuchi and its character designs are from the mind behind Death Note, Takeshi Obata. So, the film has gathered quite a talented group to explore a world where strange bubbles have scattered across the world and turned Tokyo into a strange post-apocalyptic world that has been flooded after a mysterious explosion created a new world for the young people to turn into their personal playground. Can the latest film by WIT Studio offer a compelling mystery and heartfelt story?
Our story mainly focuses on a young boy named Hibiki, who is voiced by Jun Shison, and a group of kids that made the best of the strange gravity phenomenon that has reshaped Tokyo. Various groups have formed that started their own game to capture the flag while running around the overgrown and flooded city. Hibiki is his team’s ace as he has the strange ability to use bubbles as a way to get across dangerous rifts, but prefers working on his own. That is until a mysterious girl saves him and he starts to open up to others.
Hibiki’s story is generally the strongest aspect of this film, as we see this longer slowly open up and fully embrace the importance of working with his team. Uta, the name given to the girl, becomes a key part of that journey and there also are some underlying romantic teases added in to further build their relationship. At the core of the story, it’s more a character study than anything else and it’s given a beautiful package, as the animation is definitely a stand-out in this project.
It really needs to be praised for just how beautifully animated the film is. The bubbles from the title are visually stunning and there’s a great combination of 3D with traditional animation. Yet, when the series decides to close in on a character’s face, especially Uta, they push their animation budget to its limit. The finale especially had some stunning visuals that were quite memorable, as they make the most out of a simple concept of a bubble-filled world. It also has some creative camera work to add some tension to the Parkour that is heavily present in this film, as they jump from one collapsed building to the next.
With all this praise, I sadly have to say that the overall experience with the film didn’t quite land for me. The world they live in is quite memorable, and while I do wish I spent more time with it, the way it ties its world-building to the core narrative feels quite disconnected. We set up a grand mystery on why Tokyo ends up being flooded, especially as it’s the only location that is going through this scenario. The youth seemingly used it as a safe haven to live their life and barter resources through competitions of capture the flag. All sounds good and helps flesh out this world, but the problem is that it acts more like a distraction than an integral aspect of the story.
The games feel like a great bridge to introduce characters at a fast pace, while also giving us some genuine fun action sequences. At first, the parkour inclusion felt natural but as the film went on, you slowly get this sinking feeling that the film was built around that concept rather than vice versa. The film takes a sudden break for a music video of parkour and bubbles. It looks great, but sometimes it just turns into a music video or the biggest threat is the environment. We get introduced to concepts that should add, but we never get a feeling of just how dangerous it really is. At times, there’s a lack of really letting sink in just how dangerous this post-apocalyptic environment truly is.
Throughout the film’s runtime, it feels like two separate stories are meshed together rather than them weaving in and out of each other. There’s a moment that comes out of nowhere to paint and briefly derails the story for a bit before introducing the actual threat for the finale. There’s no real build-up throughout the film to really sink in what their life is like, which isn’t helped by the pacing throughout. The only real connective tissue from one event to the next is Uta and a musical theme that introduces a rather abstract concept into the story.
Bubble‘s strongest moments are when we just get some slice of life. Every time this cast of characters interacts or talks, it’s a fun film as they play off of their dynamic. You get a feeling of how they live in this world. While I do think it could’ve used more showcase of how dangerous it is, especially as later moments suddenly amp up the dangers which weren’t present earlier, it was great to see this group make the best of the situation. We get some adorable moments, and great character development but sadly just not a strong enough focus on what exactly the story wants to be about.
It’s definitely a visual spectacle and the team behind it must be huge fans of parkour for how many movements they threw in. Sadly, it does seem like that takes over and downplays a really interesting world to play around with. I would gladly revisit a story in this world, but I do feel like the one presented here struggled to really bring its ideas together. So, even with my complaints the film is worth checking out but may be a one-time watch.