Bubble had great potential and every element to make it a big hit. However, certain shortcomings prevented it from being truly great.
What can fans expect from the director who brought the phenomena of Attack on Titan onto the screen? Presumably, high-octane action, drama, emotion and even a bit of romance. Netflix’s Japanese take on the iconic story of The Little Mermaid is set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo with breathtaking visuals and an equal standard of action sequences as seen in AoT. Nonetheless, Bubble doesn’t even come close to the narrative of the highly acclaimed anime series because the movie had so much potential that simply went to waste.
Bubble is by no means a complete failure or a box office bomb, but it could’ve easily stood in line with the likes of Makoto Shinkai’s best works. Bubble had all the elements of becoming one of the best anime movies of the year, yet it fell short when it came to storytelling. The plot was confusing at times because while anime movies often try to overcomplicate their plots, they still manage to pour in those missing details near the end. What Bubble does is keep that plot twist element throughout the runtime — but the twist never comes, and neither do the details.
It’s never actually explained why the bubbles came in the first place. What was this mysterious specie’s motive? Why was Uta the only one to escape? Undoubtedly, Bubble makes for an epic bittersweet love story, but it could’ve been iconic if the plot wasn’t so all over the place. The visuals, music, emotions and characters are all on point, but all these elements are unable to cover up for the lack of plot details. Hibiki and Uta’s characters are immediately likable, with Hibiki coming off as a typical tsundere boy while this obviously isn’t the case. Uta, on the other hand, is definitely the crowd-puller with her innocent vibe and love for Hibiki.
Bubble is downright gorgeous, but the sudden back-and-forth of action sequences breaks the rhythm of emotions that the audience is intended to feel. While Uta and Hibiki are the heart of the movie, their characters feel underdeveloped, especially Uta’s. The audience only truly gets to experience her feelings and depth of character at the end of the movie, which is too little, too late. In Your Name and Weathering With You, the female characters are given special attention — there’s a deep focus on their respective roles in the story — while Uta feels two-dimensional on many occasions.
Fans wanted Bubble to live up to the hype that movies of its caliber and visuals have created many times in the past. It’s not a bad watch, and it’s certainly aesthetically, but the lack of emotional connection is evident, at times making viewers almost want to sympathize with its very shortcomings.