An odd premise and predictable storytelling, heavily borrowing from the classic tale of the Little Mermaid, take away the sheen of the breathtaking visuals the anime has to offer.
Last Updated: 02.09 AM, Apr 29, 2022
Five years ago, the world encountered an unprecedented phenomenon, when mysterious bubbles started to fall, starting in Tokyo. In the aftermath of a huge blast that shook the city, Tokyo remained enclosed in a huge bubble even after the phenomena stopped in other parts of the world. The town soon becomes flooded after the mysterious bubbles start to burst and the ghost town of a city becomes inhabited by orphans, who make use of the desolate, ruined structures and flooded streets to engage in a dangerous game of parkour amongst each other. One among them is Hibiki, a star player, different from his peers due to his hypersensitive hearing that allows him to hear mysterious songs coming from a central tower, where the initial blast occurred. A near-death experience brings a mysterious girl into his life, who harbours her fair share of secrets.
Bubble comes from one of the most renowned studios, Wit Studio, which has several popular animes, including Attack on Titan, to its name. Add to the fact that the film is directed by Tetsuro Araki, who also has Attack on Titan to his credits, naturally, the expectations for the film were high among fans, but Bubble seems to have faltered in living up to its potential when it comes to its story.
The film follows the story of Hibiki, one of the many orphans who have made the destroyed city of Tokyo their home. The young boys spend their days engaging in a dangerous game of parkour, threatening their lives doing death-defying stunts, over the flooded waters strong enough to suck them into their doom. Hibiki is the most gifted among them, with an uncanny ability to use the floating bubbles to his advantage in the game. His hypersensitive hearing allows him to hear a mysterious song coming from the city’s main tower. Drawn by the melody one night, he makes his way to the tower and plunges into the waters, and is rescued by a mysterious young girl, who seems to have manifested from the bubbles, surrounding the tower. The girl reunites Hibiki with his friends, and is given the name Uta. As Uta and Hibiki spend more and more time with each other, they develop an inexplicable bond. But her growing affection for Hibiki comes under threat by the very bubbles she emerged from.
Bubble’s story is bizarre, to say the least, and its premise at times even borders on nonsensical. With no proper explanation of the phenomena that the entire story revolves around, the film’s story gets progressively more odd towards the end. Viewers are left with a bunch of questions by the time the film ends, and some of them definitely involve the way Uta comes into being and the way her story ends. Uta’s origin and her obsession with Hibiki, that started when she was in bubble form, seem to suggest that not only are the bubbles sentient but that they also possess powerful abilities including shapeshifting. But that explanation would give rise to many more questions as well, including the ones related to the actual purpose of the bubbles’ sudden onset in the city.
All of these are conveniently left unanswered by the writers, who seem to have chosen to focus more on Hibiki and Uta’s budding romance. Granted the pair do make for an adorable couple, but their pairing is as predictable and uninspired as they come. Hibiki is the talented, brooding young man with a tragic past, whose life is made all better by the arrival of Uta, the bubbly (quite literally) sweet young girl who becomes absolutely smitten with him. As if the clichéd and overused tropes were not enough of a downer, the entire film’s story reeks of lazy writing as the film progresses; which is a shame as the premise, although bizarre, seemed to have potential. In attempting to write a story that pays tribute to The Little Mermaid, the writers blatantly borrow from the classic tale almost in its entirety when it comes to Hibiki and Uta’s story.
Despite the lacklustre story, the film’s breathtaking visuals are impressive enough to try and make up for its lacklustre writing. Be it the splendid and imposing bubbles, or the fast-paced action sequences involving the parkour battles, the animators certainly seemed to have poured their soul into creating the visuals. The parkour and battle sequences in particular are praise-worthy. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it action would certainly have taken mammoth efforts to produce, and the results are indeed worth the watch.
Bubble is an anime that is as visually stunning as they come. But its inspired, bland writing and use of overused tropes do not work in its favour.