Given the absurd amount of talent behind the latest anime movie from Netflix, Bubble, that is, to put it mildly, shocking how little substance there is to show for it. Despite expected and exemplary animation, especially in high-octane sequences of weightless parkour matches, Bubble offers a little through the story, character development or pace, instead of relying on familiar and tired tropics (down on his luck the boy meets a magical and mysterious girl). Directed by Tetsurō Araki (Attack on Titan) It should come as no surprise that the action sequences are the crown jewel of the film, but given the talent on board and his enormous abilities, even they seem to pale in comparison to his previous works. Bubble is not offensive in its clarity, but it is certainly a disappointment to those who expect more from the visionaries behind the scenes.
The universe takes place mainly in an area known as the “Tokyo Battle Kour”, which is flocked to by wayward young people, and the universe takes place at a time after a bizarre and supernatural event, where gravity-defying bubbles rained down on them, effectively cutting off Tokyo from the rest of the world. One day while attending a parkour group match with his team, Hibiki (Jun Shison) crashes into the sea, where he is rescued by a mysterious girl. Inspired by HC Andersens The little MermaidUta, as he names her, learns from those around her how to be human until another disturbance threatens her, Hibiki and the rest of Tokyo’s residents.
Despite what could have been an exciting concept – especially as it moves on to Andersen’s version of the story as opposed to Disney’s family-friendly version – the script asks viewers to blindly follow what is ultimately a half-baked conceit and underdeveloped world. All of this would have been easier to overlook if the film had had a real feature. Instead, the rules of the world are murky, the characters are sparsely drawn, and the motivations are poorly explained. We know the basic outline of the story they tell, and we are expected to make the heavy lifting in filling in the blanks, as the film aims at sheer spectacle rather than substance, when it could easily and should have had both.
Even the effervescent score of Hiroyuki Sawano can not do much to inspire greater excitement despite his penchant for compositions that enrich the final product (suffered no further than Promare where his score added additional fuel to an already high-octane film.) This is especially unfortunate as it is in these elements that the film should shine.
Produced by Wit Studio, who have just released one of the best anime in recent memory with Ranking of kings and written by Gen Urobuchi (Magic Madokes magic girl), the film suffers from too many hollow moments to allow the best and brightest sequences to land with equal effect. Despite some generic character designs, there is at least one difference to each of them, and the action sequences are spectacular to watch unfold, for the most part since the world they exist in and the fluid parkour fit right into the creator’s wheelhouse.
The strongest are the climatic ones, where the whole team is forced to harness their strengths with sequences that unfold as visual feasts that take place so much that it’s hard to absorb every single bit of choreography. It combined with vivid backgrounds allows the film to be visually engaging, even if it fails to muster much interest in the characters. It’s just a shame, because if the characters had been interesting and if the story had put as much effort into the script as it did the central set pieces, then the worst thing was Bubble would have been the fact that audiences were not able to experience it all in cinemas on a big screen.
Bubble is now available on Netflix. Watch the trailer below.