Bubble, the newest addition to Netflix’s collection of anime feature films, is the product of an amazing talent. Directed by Attack on Titan’s Tetsuro Araki, who was recently interviewed about Bubble.
Tetsuro’s interview questions and answers are revealed in this article. Death Note’s Takeshi Obata did the character designs, so you might have looked at Hibiki during his EMO moments and squinted and thought, “Light, is that you?”
Promare’s Hiroyuki Sawano composed the incredible music. Gen Urobuchi wrote the story.
This anime film was destined for greatness and delivers in every way. If you’re still undecided on whether to “stream or skip” it. This is a must stream movie! A sci-fi romance with stunning animation, characters you can relate to and really feel, and great voice acting that really brings these characters to life. However, get ready for this heart-tugging movie.
Parkour taken to the next level and beyond
Bubble is set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, where strange bubbles defying the principles of gravity have fallen all over the planet. Tokyo seems to have suffered the most from this phenomenon and is cut off from the rest of the world in a gigantic bubble.
The survivors living there are mostly young teenagers who are violating “official edicts” by living in the forbidden area. These youngsters become nostalgic for the city’s heyday and its bustling population.
The biggest form of entertainment is parkour called Tokyo Battlekour, where players can win supplies essential to their survival. What is parkour? Parkour is an athletic training discipline in which practitioners called “traceurs” attempt to get from point A to point B in the fastest, smoothest, most efficient way without equipment.
In case you still don’t know what I’m talking about, Hong Kong’s action cinema and Jackie Chan popularized parkour in the 1970s-1980s. These films showed Jackie Chan using his martial arts not only to fight but also to navigate urban obstacles with ease.
Tony Jaa also had a very memorable scene in his film Ong Bak where he is being chased through Bangkok by a group of crooks, jumping, leaping, vaulting, flipping and cartwheeling his way through all the obstacles in his path.
“When did the idea of parkour come into play and how did the parkour action come to life?”
“We had parkour elements in our previous works like Attack on Titan and Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, but this time we really decided to focus on them. We decided to deliver an evolved version of what we had done in the past. As for the process itself, I took really big inspiration from a certain professional parkour athlete named Zen. I talked to him a lot and had his technique shown to me. I’ve seen a lot of his clips. So we were able to work that into the film.”
“Does that mean you’ve tried parkour yourself?”
“Obviously I can’t do it at the level of these pros, but I took part in a kind of ‘trial lesson’ where we jumped from pole to pole, which is about a meter. That’s about the extent of my own parkour experience.”
Here is a video of the famous Japanese parkour athlete Zen:
Bubble definitely takes parkour to the next level and beyond with its gravity defying moments. In Bubble, players dash from rooftop to rooftop while avoiding bubbles and massive black hole-like anomalies known as “ant-lion pits.”
One player, Hibiki, is particularly adept at deadly play because he can use the bubbles in ways others cannot to overcome obstacles instead of having to dodge them. Hibiki hears familiar chants coming from the tower in central Tokyo and is drawn to it. The tower is also the epicenter of the bubbles’ initial appearance, but that doesn’t stop him from investigating.
A cyberpunk retelling of The Little Mermaid
When Hibiki manages to reach a certain area of the tower, his life is in danger and a mysterious girl named Uta saves him. In their very first encounter, Hibiki mistakes Uta for a mermaid.
Uta attracts the bubbles around her in a special underwater-like field. What is Uta’s true identity and why is she able to interact with the bubbles? Hibiki is drawn into Uta’s surreal world as he begins to unravel the mystery behind the bizarre event that changed the world and slowly begins to fall in love with her.
“In a recent video you talked about the idea of a ‘mechanical little mermaid in a dystopian world’ as the basis of Bubble’s story. Can you tell us something about the development of this idea and how it is portrayed in the film?”
“When we started the project, we had these conceptual illustrations that we wanted to present, and after that came the script. The author, Mr. Gen Urobuchi, presented the idea that our heroine comes in the form of a bubble or bubbles, but is also an extraterrestrial life force that we are dealing with. I also thought that this bubble motif was very symbolic of this ephemeral kind of love that slips through your fingers. That’s how we finally came up with this concept.”
Bubble has strong undercurrents of contemporary anime romance like Your Name as well as classic fairy tales like The Little Mermaid at play. Add a dash of youthful optimism and coming-of-age themes typically seen in Studio Ghibli films.
A hopeful feel-good film reminiscent of Studio Ghibli
“Audience normally expects a dark and sombre setting for a ‘dystopia,’ but Bubble is very bright and colorful. Was that a conscious decision?”
Tetsuro Araki replied: “I think that the ruins in these ruined landscapes are something very beautiful. This time we tried to tell a very beautiful and ephemeral love story, so it was also a conscious decision to make the world very colorful and the touch very light. We wanted this derelict, futuristic Tokyo to present itself as more of a utopia than a dystopia. Also, we’re trying to portray that idea of ”a boy’s heart unleashed.” What we wanted to show in a similar way is the feeling of a boy’s summer vacation.”
“Can you elaborate on the depiction of Hibiki’s hearing impairment and how it got into the story?”
“The idea came from the fact that Hibiki is exceptionally talented as a parkour player and when you have someone who is very talented then there must be other areas where they are lacking. That was kind of where the idea came from and where we decided to bring in the auditory sensory disorder. Actually, I got the idea from a real person who has the same symptoms. There’s a certain company called Paragura that does accessible screenings, and there’s a certain person named Minami-san who has a hearing impairment. Minami-san told me what it’s like to have this disorder. That’s where the ideas I poured into Hibiki came from.”
“They’ve had an expansive career and the opportunity to work with a lot of people in the anime industry, like Gundam’s Yoshiyuki Tomino. Are there any anecdotes you can share that have shaped you as a director?”
“I’ll tell you a story about something Tomino-san taught me that influenced Bubble, in a good way of course. It really goes back to the basics of animation. Tomino is very meticulous about the so-called “imaginary line”. You need to think, “Okay, is the character looking left or right?”. And then you never cross that imaginary line, right? For example, when we’re doing these parkour scenes, it has to be very clear that Hibiki’s team is advancing to the left. They never confuse the audience there. You must stick to these lines to avoid confusing the audience. Although a very basic principle, it was something Tomino was very meticulous and precise about. You can see this principle in Bubble.”
Singer-songwriter Riria lent her voice to Uta, both as a character and as the singer on the final theme song, Ja Ne, Mata Ne. This is Riria’s first voice acting role and she was approached personally by director Tetsuro Araki and producer Genki Kawamura. Fans were impressed with Riria’s vocal performance and feel she was able to infuse Uta’s voice with kindness and a touch of mystery.
In a way, the ending leaves open to further possibilities and maybe even leads to a possible sequel. Know that when Uta says her memorable tearjerker line, “Let’s meet again one day,” that’s entirely possible.
I like how the story explores the cyclical nature of life and how everything can occur as part of a spiral. This is definitely a film filled with hope and endless possibilities for the future. And for those of you who hated the useless prince in Hans Christian Andersen’s original The Little Mermaid, you’ll like that Hibiki really does whatever it takes to save the girl he’s fallen in love with.