Bubble, the latest addition to Netflix’s collection of anime feature films, is the product of an impressive talent. It is directed by Tetsuro Araki of Attack on Titan fame, who was recently interviewed about Bubble.
Tetsuro’s interview questions and answers will be revealed in this article. Death Note’s Takeshi Obata created the character designs, which is why you may have looked at Hibiki during his EMO moments, narrowed your eyes and thought, “Light, is that you?”
Hiroyuki Sawano of Promare composed the incredible music. Gen Urobuchi wrote the story.
This anime movie was destined for greatness and delivers in every way. If you’re still unsure whether to “stream or skip” it. This is a movie you must stream! A science fiction novel with stunning animations, characters you can identify with and really feel for, and great voice acting that really bring these characters to life. Although, get ready for this movie to touch your heart.
Parkour taken to the next level and beyond
Bubble is set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, where strange bubbles have fallen all over the world that defy the principles of gravity. Tokyo seems to be the victim of this phenomenon and has been cut off from the rest of the world in a giant bubble.
The survivors living there are mostly young teenagers going against “official edicts” by living in the restricted area. These young people become nostalgic for the heyday of the city and its vibrant population.
The biggest form of entertainment is parkour called Tokyo Battlekour, where players can gain supplies essential to their survival. What is “parkour”? Parkour is an athletic training discipline in which practitioners called “tracers” attempt to get from point A to point B in the fastest, smoothest, and most efficient way possible without using any equipment.
If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, the action cinema of Hong Kong and Jackie Chan made “parkour” popular in the 70s to 80s. Those movies showed that Jackie Chan used his fighting skills to not only fight, but also navigate urban obstacles with ease.
Tony Jaa also had a very memorable scene in his movie Ong Bak where he is chased through Bangkok by a group of mobsters and makes his way through all the obstacles in his path.
“When did the idea of parkour come into the mix and how was the parkour action brought to life?”
“We had parkour elements in our previous works, such as Attack on Titan and Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, but this time we really decided to put it center stage. We decided to deliver an evolved version of what we had done in the past. As for the process itself – I really drew a lot from one particular professional parkour athlete known as Zen. I talked to him a lot and showed him his technique. I’ve seen a lot of his clips. That way we were able to incorporate that into the film.”
“Does that mean you’ve tried parkour yourself?”
“Of course I can’t do it at the level of these professionals, but I did participate in a kind of ‘trial class’ where they made us jump from pub to pub, which is about a meter jump. That’s about the extent of my own experience in parkour.”
Here’s a video from famous Japanese parkour athlete Zen:
Bubble definitely takes parkour to the next level with its gravity-defying moments. The players in Bubble zoom from roof to roof, avoiding bubbles and huge black-hole-like anomalies known as ‘antlion pits’.
One player, Hibiki, is especially adept at the deadly game because he can use the bubbles in ways that others cannot to overcome obstacles rather than having to dodge them. Hibiki hears familiar singing coming from the tower in downtown Tokyo and is drawn to it. The tower is also the epicenter of the appearance of the first bubbles, but that doesn’t stop him from exploring.
A cyberpunk tale of The Little Mermaid
When Hibiki manages to reach a certain part of the tower, his life is in danger and a mysterious girl named Uta saves him. During their very first meeting, 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 can she communicate with the bubbles? Hibiki is drawn into Uta’s surreal world as he begins to solve 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 for Bubble’s story. Can you tell us a bit about the development of that idea and how it’s portrayed in the film?”
“When we started the project, we had these conceptual illustrations that we were going to present and then came the screenplay. The writer, Mr. Gen Urobuchi, presented the idea that our heroine comes in the form of a bell or bubbles, but is also an alien life force that we are dealing with. I also thought that this bubble motif is very symbolic of this ephemeral, kind of slip through your fingers, kind of love. That is how we finally arrived at this concept.”
Bubble has strong undercurrents of contemporary anime romances like Your Name, as well as classic fairy tales like The Little Mermaid in-game. Add a touch of youthful optimism and coming-of-age themes normally seen in Studio Ghibli films.
A hopeful feel-good film reminiscent of Studio Ghibli
“The public usually expects a dark and gloomy setting for a ‘dystopia’, but Bubble is very bright and colorful. Was this a conscious decision?”
Tetsuro Araki replied: “I think that in these abandoned types of landscapes, the ruins are something very beautiful. This time we tried to tell a very beautiful and ephemeral love story, so it was also a conscious choice to make the world very colorful and the touch very light. We wanted this dilapidated, futuristic Tokyo to present itself more as a utopia than a dystopia. We also tried to portray this idea of ’a boy’s heart being released’. What we wanted to show is something similar to say, the feeling of a boy’s summer vacation.”
“Can you elaborate on the depiction of Hibiki’s auditory sensory disorder and how it got into the story?”
“The idea came from the fact that Hibiki is exceptionally talented as a parkour player and if you have someone who is very talented then there must be other areas where he is lacking. That was the kind of origin of the idea and where we decided to the auditory sensory disorder in. Actually, I got the idea of a real person who has the same symptoms. There is a certain company called Paragura that does barrier-free screenings and there is a certain person who goes by Minami-san with an auditory sensory disorder I had Minami-san tell me what it was like to have this condition. This is where the ideas that I poured into Hibiki came from.”
“You have had an extensive career and had the opportunity to work with many people in the anime industry, such as Yoshiyuki Tomino of Gundam. 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 have to think, ‘Okay, is the character facing left or right?’ And then, never cross that imaginary line, right? So, for example, when we do these parkour scenes, it should be very obvious that Hibiki’s team is progressing to the left. You never confuse the audience there. You have to abide by those rules to avoid confusion with the public. While it’s a very basic principle, it was something Tomino was very meticulous and special about. You can see that principle in Bubble.”
Singer-songwriter Riria lent her voice to Uta – both as the character and singing the theme song Ja Ne, Mata Ne. This is Riria’s first voice acting role and she was personally approached for it by director Tetsuro Araki and producer Genki Kawamura. Fans were impressed by Riria’s vocal performance and felt that she was able to add friendliness with a hint of mystery to Uta’s voice.
The ending is in a sense left open to further possibilities, and may even lead to a possible sequel. Know that when Uta says her memorable tearjerker, “Let’s meet again someday,” it’s perfectly possible.
I like how the story explored the cyclical nature of life and how anything can happen as part of a spiral. This is definitely a movie full of 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 love that Hibiki really gives everything to save the girl he’s fallen in love with.