Characters beginning a romance from two places of insecurity and growing with each other is probably my favorite thing about slice-of-life romances. The awkwardness and insecurities ground the characters in a way that gives a path to growth that is both individual and connected. That’s exactly what Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop, a Netflix Exclusive anime feature does.
Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is produced by record label and anime producer flying DOG (Samurai Champloo) as a 10th-anniversary project and animated by Signal.MD and Sublimation. The original film is directed by Kyohei Ishiguro (Your Lie in April) and written by Dai Satô (Cowboy Bebop). The film itself begins as a story of boy-meets-girl, complete with a phone switching meet-cute and evolves into more, depicting how words and music to bridge the gap between people. First, it connects Cherry, a boy who is terrible at communicating with other people and Smile, a girl who hides behind a mask because she’s conscious about her teeth. Second, it connects them to other generations as they embark on a quest to find a missing record for one of the old folks that they help take care of.
The way that each of the character’s quirks is tied to their insecurities is executed in a way that feels both emotive and wholesome. For Cherry, he always wears headphones to void talking to people he doesn’t know and channels the feelings he can’t say into Japanese haiku. On the other hand, we have Smile, a social media personality with a lot of fans, a loud voice, and an outgoing personality. But she does it all behind her face mask that she uses to conceal her large front teeth and braces. Both have talents that go against their actions.
Cherry’s haiku are emotional, and they resonate with those who read them. They’re liked to the point that Cherry’s friend paints the words all around town. That said, Cherry tries his hardest to not speak those words out loud and retreats to the safety of his headphones to block out everything else around him when he’s feeling overwhelmed. For Smile, her entire brand is cuteness, though she struggles to feel cute herself. Their identities are shaped by their emotions, and hindered by them as well, making the pair complete each other but also makes them deeply relatable as well.
Their romance seems like it’s central at first, but it the overall focus of the film is about communicating and connecting to those around you in an authentic way. It’s about finding the words and the ways to be truly yourself and to reach each other. This culminates by connecting the pair to another love story from 50 years prior. While the dialogue is important to the film, as is the character design, there are two key elements that makes Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop stand out against the genre it lives in: music and color.
First, music is central to the emotive design of Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop as well as the story. From the score to the Freddie Mercury Easter Egg, and the narrative itself, music is the heart of the film that serves as the connection between characters and between the film and the viewer.
Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is hyper-stylized with some of the most vibrant backgrounds that I’ve ever seen. A slice-of-life anime feature, the beauty and intensity of the green grass, the bright buildings, and more make the entire production sing. Toned down isn’t even a concept in this film, vibrant fuschias, lime greens, striking yellows, all o it feels like it would be too much at one time but somehow, it isn’t. The intense color palette is part of the film’s charm that is balanced by the softness of the music used for the score.
Overall, Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is a sweet and vibrant film about human connection and the way music and words can tie us to each other across years, across insecurities, and more. And for that theme alone, this film is a must-watch. Plus, it also has one of the best confessions in a romance I’ve ever seen, steeped in vulnerability and heart.
Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is streaming now, exclusively on Netflix.
Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop
Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is sweet and vibrant film about human connection and the way music and words can tie us to each other across years, across insecurities, and more. And for that theme alone, this film is a must-watch. Plus, it also has one of the best confessions in a romance I’ve ever seen, steeped in vulnerability and heart.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.