Bubble: When Sensory Appeal Scores a Hundred…Or does it?
Sometimes, perhaps once in a blue moon, one gets to read or watch something magical (or well, listen to; but not a big fan of audiobooks)- an artistic rendition that lights a spark in them, gets the Neurons all buzzing about in excitement as they try to decipher the incoming information that stimulated them so, and urges repeated watches or reads ranging from just once more to multiple times.
And other times it is a, oft quite complicated, case of shutting shop and asking what’s next? Such is the viewer’s dilemma with Death Note and Attack on Titan director Tetsuro Araki’s latest passion project, an anime movie named Bubble (2022). Whilst there is utterly and absolutely no question about the brilliant animation direction as well as the stellar background score by Hiroyuki Sawano (Attack on Titan, Gundam, etc), the overarching plot, or a lack thereof, leaves much to be desired.
Bubble encapsulates a sci-fi/romance story that starts on a rather strong note. Simply put, the world gets taken over by bubbles.
If that sounds ridiculous to you, well, it should. Bringing sense into absurdity in unique and exciting ways is a hallmark of a good piece of science fiction. Add to that a sprinkle (or even a heavy dose) of romance and saucy melodrama, and, lo and behold- You have yourself a competent tale to enrapture your audience.
Carrying on, (minor spoiler alert) the basic premise follows Hibiki, our overpowered featherweight protagonist, his team of fellow parkour enthusiasts (Parkour tournaments with other teams being their primary source of obtaining rations, aka Bubble Economics) and their encounter with a mysterious girl, Uta, who seems to have emerged from an explosion centered at the Tokyo Tower.
Having laid this out, coming to the film’s biggest plus point- the action sequences (and of course, Eve’s amazing OST). Hats off to Wit Studio for basically reproducing the amazing Levi and Kenny chase scene from Attack on Titan S3, but on a FAR grander scale including multiple character perspectives, a bright and visually stimulating colour palette, and an equally exhilarating soundtrack to breathe life into the action. Perhaps one should watch it just for these scenes, and the ingenuity of the characters in making use of the alien environment to their advantage.
Or, on second thought, let us talk about what this movie abysmally fails to bring about in its audience: an emotional connection, and satisfying their intrigue regarding the lore. Half-baked character development for characters with great potential, a terribly paced romance that nobody managed to bother about, and quite a generic finale regarding character conflict and resolution (generic is not necessarily a bad thing if used well). Furthermore, if not emotional arousal, maybe double down on the interesting lore build-up? Nope.
Where do the bubbles come from? How are some of them capable of being bounced on, while others simply burst into pools of water, and are even shown to be somewhat sentient? What is their relation to the Tokyo Tower explosion? And how in the world do they transform into a living and breathing human being (Uta), who then sort of bubbles away when she touches Hibiki?
All of these very reasonable queries, and much more, are simply boiled down to some random flashbacks, bad fairy tale symbolism (specifically The Little Mermaid), and a have at it, viewer approach, having sprinkled in superficially thought-provoking imagery in the form of spirals, the Golden Ratio, etc.
That being said, even though I do not agree that great art and aesthetics are all it takes to create a good film, I would still conclude that Bubble, purely by virtue of its audiovisual extravagance, is worth around 1 hour and 40 minutes of your time.