Runtime: 100 Minutes
Directors: Tetsuro Araki
Writers: Gen Urobuchi, Naoko Sato, Renji Oki
Voice Stars: Jun Shison, Riria, Alice Hirose, Mamoru Miyano, Yuki Kaji
By Tom Moore
The newest film from Wit Studio (“Attack on Titan”) and director Tetsuro Araki (“Death Note”, “Attack on Titan”), “Bubble” (2022), is a flowing fantasy adventure full of visually epic action taking place in a beautifully realized world.
The film takes viewers into a Tokyo that’s been ravaged by a mysterious cataclysmic event that completely flooded the city. For a city that’s usually compact and bustling with people, it’s pretty wild to see Toyko’s large skyscrapers become crumbling iron islands floating in a seemingly endless ocean and only a few remaining residents, who are mostly considered orphans of the event. There are even some more fantastical elements that essentially detach Tokyo from the rest of the world, including bubbles that linger in the air, deathly vortexes, and shifting gravity fields. Frankly, for most, there wouldn’t be any reason to be in Tokyo while it’s in this state, but those that remain have found a new way to survive amongst the destruction and it’s “Bubble’s” strongest stylistic element.
Frankly, it’s surprising that there aren’t more anime movies or shows that outwardly use parkour for action, but “Bubble” makes excellent use of it. This ruined floating Tokyo is the perfect playground for parkour to thrive and boy does it. With the remaining residents using the destroyed city and their parkour skills for competitive races to earn survival supplies as well as glory, “Bubble” is the perfect parkour anime movie no one knew they wanted, and Wit Studio’s animation creates some mesmerizing action. The flow of movement is just spectacular and the way the environment is used makes the film’s parkour sequences totally thrilling. Crumbling structures and swirling vortexes add dangerous obstacles and up the stakes while the floating bubbles opens new paths to navigate the destroyed city.
Parkour is a versatile tool in “Bubble” that elevates the action and animation to breathtaking levels and serves as a strong introduction to main protagonist Hibiki (voiced by Jun Shison). Although most of the personalities within this parkour world are as lively and energetic as their sport, Hibiki is a quiet loner who still reels from the event that changed his world forever and struggles to connect with his team. He might be quiet, but he’s undoubtedly the most talented and watching him swiftly move through the ruins is astonishing. Things change for everyone though when Hibiki nearly drowns trying to climb the tallest remaining tower in the city but is saved by a mysterious girl he names Uta (voiced by Riria), who harnesses a special power of her own.
While Uta’s presence does allow Hibiki to grow as a character and even brings in some warm comedic elements to overall relationships within Hibiki’s team, the film struggles keep itself consistent. Everything surrounding the parkour action and the team dynamic remains great, especially as a strange rival team forms and tries to take charge. However, “Bubble” also plays with some fantasy romance elements that are too generic and overly reminiscent of other modern anime films. It’s nice how the story of “The Little Mermaid” is tied with Uta’s story, but the themes and meaning behind this connection don’t come across cleanly or have satisfying story moments. Honestly, the film has such a philosophical delivery of its thoughts and ideas that some of them never really stick and while its big final monologue about the beauty of life has some vivid imagery and strong emotion, it doesn’t have cohesive build-up.
Still though, there’s something about Hibiki and Uta’s collective story that works well and ends up tying together in a satisfying way. As Hibiki looks more and more back at that day and Uta’s origins become clearer, the film nicely ties their respective journeys together for a singular arc that provides a great end for both characters. Not to mention, the supporting characters work well within the main narrative and bring some strong humor and heart to certain parts of the story.
“Bubble’s” story and themes might hold together as strongly as its style, but its central viewing experience is well worth your time as its flowing animation, enjoyable characters, and strong world-building come together for an easily memorable watch.