You are familiar with The Little Mermaid. I am familiar with The Little Mermaid. We all know the story of The Little Mermaid. Do you know what it looks like when you add parkour battles to a post- apocalyptic Tokyo?
From Attack on Titan director Tetsuro Araki and Japanese animation studio Wit Studio comes the latest masterpiece from the streaming service, Bubble, which blends the disaster-caused apocalypse genre with Hans Christian Andersen's tragic mertale.
Five years ago, the world experienced aBubble-fall Phenomenon in which transparent orbs dropped on every corner of the globe. A huge explosion occurred in Tokyo after they arrived. There were bubbles in the Japanese capital. People abandoned the city when the bubbles burst.
Boys like our main character, Hibiki, and his crew, The Blue Blazes, started living in a crumbling city with a full-on bubble dome around it. The residents were not content to let the complex gravity field around the tower get all the glory and began using the shell of a city for five-on-five parkour battles.
Hibiki is Tokyo's best at parkour — for now. Credit: Netflix
Are you waiting for the mermaid element? Through a series of events, Hibiki meets a girl who saves him from being drowned. He introduced her to the crew of the Rieyo, a Japan Coast Guard ship, as she was seemingly unable to speak. It is here that Uta Andersen encounters the fairy tale The Little Mermaid and finds parallels to her own existence. She puts him in the role of prince and herself the mermaid.
Mamoru Hosoda's film takes inspiration from a well-known fairy tale and a French fairy tale. There is more to Bubble's comparison to the Disney version. There is a scene when Uta rescues Hibiki that has real Eric/Ariel beach-meet vibes, and Uta's tower song could be compared to the tune Ariel constantly sings. Ponyo is an animation by Studio Ghibli that is inspired by Little Mermaid.
Uta assigns herself the role of The Little Mermaid. Credit: Netflix
Bubble is simply magnificent, with not a frame wasted on anything but pure, iridescent magic in a blend of 2D and 3D. Each moment in the film feels like a wonder and impossibility, not your average mood in a post- apocalyptic context. The bubbles appear to float off the screen. When Uta breaks the yellow yolk on a fried egg during her first meal, the animation shines; it almost dribbles out of the TV and onto your floor.
Bubble is not content with prettiness. The creativity and logic behind Bubble's sequences are as engaging to watch as the fights in The Last Airbender are. The Mad Lobsters and The Genki Ninjas are playing against each other, while The Under Takers are playing against the dirty-playing villains.
Defying gravity. Credit: Netflix
Music plays a big part in Bubble. The same haunting notes play a key role in the narrative of the film.
If you know the story of The Little Mermaid, Bubble's plot doesn't really throw many surprises at you. The film has character designs by Takeshi Obata, but it spends a small amount of time on their development. I would have liked to learn more about the members of The Blue Blazes and their competitors, and why they decided to move back into a flooded Tokyo. While Makato is here for research, and others have found their way to the group, some as young orphans, the most we really get comes from the group's mentor, Shin. While leader Kai tries to bring the team together, Hibiki broods in his solidarity, spending his time tuning into the sounds of the bubbles, trying to find answers, and tending his secret garden.
Uta was rendered relatively voiceless throughout the film, finding strength in singing the notes of the tower or quoting The Little Mermaid, and she deserved more valuable room to explore her character outside of mimicking Hibiki. Even Leeloo from The Fifth Element knew how to wield a multipass strategically while taking charge of her own destiny, even though Eleven from Stranger Things was allowed to form her own opinions after finding freedom.
Bubble has an original disaster concept, magnificent animation, and a swirling score to adapt a well-known fairy tale, resulting in a dazzling new take on the apocalypse genre that usually resides in a world of blood, mud, and crumbling humanity.
Bubble is available on the streaming service.