Bubble is now streaming on Netflix.
When it comes to post-apocalyptic storytelling, of course, a common thread is how bleak the future of humanity is. Whether the end came through nuclear war or voracious zombies, the doom and gloom that accompany these stories is off the charts. With the wildly imaginative Bubble, a film by a four-time dream team of anime writers and directors, the bizarre threat Earth has fallen under is mind-boggling and dangerous. But it’s also the key to opening a Tokyo youth’s closed heart and the secret to understanding the mysteries behind life’s ongoing destruction and rebirth. All this makes for a captivating and beautiful piece of sci-fi that should earn a permanent place in any anime fan’s collection.
The film is set in a strange reality where mysterious bubbles descend from nowhere around the world. The film explores the impact these spherical anomalies have had on the human population. The Bubble Fall, as it is known, set off a series of dangerous explosions, with the epicenter of the blast coming from Tokyo Tower. What’s left of Earth started to heal after the bubbles eventually dissipated, but Japan was hit harder than the rest, with Tokyo trapped under a giant dome.
With the city cut off from the rest of the world, despite evacuation orders, teens are retreating to the once bustling urban area to explore and indulge in some hardcore parkour. They compete for basic supplies and food in what they call Tokyo Battlekour, which involves racing across the rooftops, jumping from the leftover bubble to the bubble, and avoiding massive black-hole-like anomalies known as “antlion pits.” Loner Hibiki (Zach Aguilar in the English dub) is a parkour savant, who forms an unlikely connection with the strange but beautiful Uta (Xanthe Huynh in the English dub), and we soon learn that there’s a lot more to her than seems at first glance.
Juxtaposing humanity’s darkest moment with a group of teenagers having fun with the hand they’ve been given is one of Bubble’s most interesting aspects. Not only does it make the horrific nature of the situation more dramatic, but it also feels much more natural than the belief that spirited youngsters would stay put and avoid dangerous, confined areas. They would create TikToks and post on Instagram. Bubble’s kids are the same, except they practice sci-fi parkour.
The Bubble Fall, as mankind calls it, is endlessly intriguing, especially since the film introduces a whole cast of supporting characters to analyze it and make sense of such a strange event. It’s not so great to think that huge, volatile bubbles could one day appear and eventually explode. We’ve seen much stranger things. It’s a recognizable kind of fear, and the idea that it could happen tomorrow – that’s what initially clings to your seat. And Bubble is aware of this, giving you a reason to commit to a movie that could otherwise be a heartfelt love letter to grow up, as so many Studio Ghibli movies eventually become.
Bubble isn’t afraid to throw true tragedy into the mix, though, with a mix of characters not clinging to familiar archetypes and a central issue that can’t just be wished away or reversed. Mankind must rebuild from its brush with calamity. And while Uta is key to unlocking the ultimate understanding of the Bubble Fall and why Hibiki has a connection with her, she never feels like the deus ex machina savior character so many anime movies lean on for clear resolution.
While it’s amusing in its own right to learn more about the disaster that is ravaging what’s left of humanity, the romance that slowly blossoms between Hibiki and Uta is one of the less frustratingly sweet-sweet examples of anime love in the world. more recent movies. Hibiki is an introvert with hypersensitive hearing, a problem he cannot share with everyone. Watching him organically spend time with Uta without forced flirting and won’t-they-or-don’t-will scenes is comforting and refreshing, a reminder that love can develop where you least expect it.. …even if you’re literally worried about a bubble exploding in your face.
Watching the rest of humanity come to terms with the end of life that once was is strangely relatable now that we’ve lived through a global pandemic that continues to claim lives. But there’s a lot of hope nestled in Bubble that elevates it from simple post-apocalyptic sludge to a romantic venture with bright undertones. Hibiki and Uta, as we discover, were destined to get together. But humanity, despite its hardships, is also destined to recover from all that plagues it. So even if what two individuals — or all of humanity — are going through is fleeting, there’s always a reason to face tomorrow, especially if it’s as enjoyable and as comfortably effervescent in its efforts to inspire as Bubble.