- Titles: Bubble
- Genre: Science fiction, action, drama, romance
- Durations: 1 hour, 40 mins
- Studio: Wit Studio
5 years ago Tokyo changed forever. 5 years ago, a beautiful rain of bubbles fell on the city and then, in a flash, Tokyo as we know it was no longer. Explosions and gravity distortions rendered the city difficult to recognize and even harder to live in. For some time scientists from around the world flooded it in to try to figure out what happened but when the mystery proved too hard to solve, they moved on. Now what was once Tokyo is only home to those that cannot find a home elsewhere. Orphans of the disaster that spend their days navigating the dangerous ruins still rife with gravitational anomalies and trying to piece together what happened and what do we do now. Hibiki is such an orphan who has never really figured out how to live. But with the arrival of the mysterious Uta, everything is about to change.
I remember watching a frantic short trailer for bubble and thinking it looked beautiful. As the opening credits of the movie were running, I also noticed that it was written by Gen Urobuchi so my expectations went up a bit higher. That was probably a mistake…
I’m going to try to make this make sense. I don’t particularly like the art style of Bubble. It’s not bad at all, this is just a personal preference thing. Both the character models and to a certain extent the backgrounds aren’t really my thing visually. Moreover, I’m a little disappointed that given the opportunities for creating some truly spectacular backgrounds considering the plot of Bubble, they went with a rather generic post-apocalyptic look with only the bubbles themselves adding something new.
What I’m picking at here is the design elements though. The fact is I can say the art style is not my thing and the environmental designs seemed too dull for the story, but I also thought Bubble was beautiful. A really great-looking anime with some breathtaking animation throughout. I have no issue recommending this movie purely for the enjoyment of the production. It’s lush and impressive. Occasionally the colours are spellbinding, and I do like how it uses colour contrasts to set the mood. My screencaps are not doing it justice, it looks better than that.
Story & Characters
Bubble is trying to be a modern retelling of the little mermaid with an environmental message added in. Not the Disney little mermaid but the original depressing little mermaid. And on paper, that’s not a bad idea, right? A lot of fairy tales have these very grim outcomes and morally dubious messages that have been sanitized with time and it could be interesting to make a new generation discover them.
The original Little Mermaid has some Christian, let’s call them themes… It’s a part of the story that only humans have souls which is why the mermaid turns into foam if the prince marries someone else. Oh, and the Prince does 100% fall in love with someone else because mermaids don’t have souls and this one can’t even talk so it’s a bit boring. I read somewhere that it was a cautionary tale so silly young girls don’t try to dream beyond their station. Moreover, only God can give you a soul and you shouldn’t try to defy his plans. Something like that.
Regardless of how you personally feel about this messaging, it has been a bit lost with time and I think it could definitely be crafted into an interesting wicked modern fairy tale. Maybe that’s what Bubble was trying to do. But I can’t really tell.
The messaging in Bubble is a bit all over the place and too wishy-washy to make much of an impact. You just drift along with changing character motivations in beautiful sci-fi backdrops and hope you don’t drown. There does seem to be something like a vengeful God in the story as the Bubble hivemind who is responsible for all the catastrophes and deaths also seems to be very quick to take offence. But they are also Uta’s sisters so this is basically just the plotline about the sisters giving their hair for a dagger that the mermaid can use to kill the prince and save her own life if he falls for someone else.
However, we’re never really told the stakes or the initiating incident of the story. Hibiki as a young boy is isolated due to his hypersensitivity to sound (he might also be on the autism spectrum). Because of that, on the day of the incident, he is the only one to hear a song coming from a bubble and they form a connection of some sort. Then all the other bubbles get mad and nuke Tokyo. We don’t know why. We also don’t know why exactly the bubble became a girl or what the limitations of her transformation are. If she can become a girl again in the future for instance. None of that.
She does seem to lose her form whenever Hibiki touches her but that’s it. Basically, the magic system of this story is completely unexplained which can make you think that the writers never bothered to establish one at all.
It made it difficult for me to care about what was happening too deeply as the consequences seemed sort of random. I don’t know the impact of an event so I just sit passively and wait for the story to tell me then move on to the next.
It’s this lack of proper emotional establishment that really bogs down Bubble. And I guess the main characters are sort of dull but the fact that the emotional punch is kneecapped is a huge problem.
I should probably let you know that I don’t like these types of stories. And by that I mean, there is a certain trope in fiction of introducing a character that is often physically superior to the average but is so “innocent” that they are child-like or even animal-like. They might be very strong, often beautiful and capable of feats most others are not, but they are simultaneously helpless. The main character has to teach them everything and basically raise them.
So far, the trope is not my favourite, but I think it works well in some scenarios. However, when you introduce an element of romance, as is often the case, I personally seem to have associated it with the notion of grooming and it just annoys me. This is a problem with my personal perception rather than with the trope itself. However, it makes stories like the Little Mermaid and in this case Bubble, really tough for me to enjoy at face value. As such I might be a little harder on this movie than I should. I am trying to put aside my personal bias though.
This s neither here nor there but the names are really on the nose in this movie.
At the end of the day, I think the best part of Bubble is the great animation and I think it is more likely to succeed in spite of its story than because of it.
You might like this anime if:
You prefer anime movies to series and want something that looks great.
My favourite character:
Makoto of course!
A Black Velvet (it’s beer and champagne!)
- Every time there’s a bubble – try to pop it
- Every time Hibiki hears music – take a sip
- Every time there’s an eye close-up – take a sip
- Every time someone says “mermaid” – take a sip
- Every time they Battlekour – cheer
- Every time Uta bubbles up – oh no
- Every time the cast shares a meal – get some snacks
- Every time they drink beer – join them
- Every time there’s a galaxy pattern – ooohhhhh
- Every time they mention ant lion – take a sip
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.
7 thoughts on “Bubble – A Shiny Shell Filled With Air”
I was interested in adding this to my list. Who knows I may watch it .
If you do, I hope you like it
Great review, I feel a bit the same. Loved the visuals but I wished I’d enjoyed the story more.
The show does look great, but it also looks a little… too 3D for my taste. That might be an issue when the show moves, depending on how.
Urobocchi is hit and miss with me; I liked Madoka and Fate/Zero. I moderately liked Psycho Pass up to the twist, which I thought didn’t work for the way I watched the show up to then (no idea what I’d think of it if I rewatched it with what I know now in mind; I didn’t like it enough even before the twist to rewatch it). I forgot the shows I didn’t like (maybe there was only one?).
I might like this, who knows? I quite like romance anime (though not always), so it’s likely the romance aspect wouldn’t bother me. I’ve never heard of this, and after your review I’m… in two minds about it. Curious, but not convinced one might say.
Although I think you might be ok with the 3D. The movement is smooth and I don’t think it would trigger motion sickness (but I could be wrong), I do think the story is just to shallow to be fun.
I was gonna say that I liked the art style 😭
Also I love the title of this post
It really was a pretty movie. I can’t deny that