In Bubble, a new anime movie on Netflix, there are many the everyday hallmarks of a dystopic metropolis. The film takes place in a model of Tokyo that’s been virtually fully deserted, and there are many rusted vehicles, crumbling buildings, and greenery reclaiming its place amongst the city sprawl. But there’s additionally a vibrancy to town — one thing that was essential to director Tetsuro Araki. “We wanted to make it light and colorful because we wanted to present this dystopian landscape almost as a utopia,” he tells The Verge.
The motive for that tone may need to do with Bubble’s somewhat distinctive premise. It’s not a typical finish of the world story. Instead of a planet beset by battle or pure disasters, in Bubble, the earth is attacked by… bubbles. Five years earlier than the occasions of the movie, mysterious bubbles started to rain down everywhere in the world, and ultimately, a large one enveloped all the metropolis of Tokyo. From there, whereas the remainder of the nation went on largely as regular, Tokyo grew to become largely deserted. The solely residents are road children who reside on their very own and take part in a team-based model of parkour the place the winners get provides like gasoline and ramen. For these children, the sense of freedom within the metropolis is nearly like a utopia.
It’s actually a distinctive premise and one which’s additionally used to inform a coming-of-age story that pulls liberally from The Little Mermaid. According to Araki, who beforehand labored on exhibits like Death Note and Attack on Titan, it was the extra private a part of the story that got here first. “It all came from this idea that we wanted to tell a coming-of-age / love story,” he explains. “This was through conversations that I was having with my producer, Genki Kawamura. From there, we decided to use the motif of The Little Mermaid, and after that came Gen Urobuchi, of course known for his sci-fi work, and he joined us as the screenplay writer for this film. It was through him that we ultimately arrived that it would be about bubbles.”
Tokyo is a metropolis that has been depicted and reimagined many instances in popular culture, typically in post-apocalyptic eventualities. Araki says this ubiquity truly helped with crafting Bubble’s distinctive imaginative and prescient. The movie’s model of town is partially underwater, and there are additionally areas the place gravity has been distorted (which, along with trying cool, helps make the parkour sequences extra thrilling). “Tokyo is a city that is so familiar to us that it was easy to create this impactful backdrop because we’re showing it in a different way,” Araki says. “It’s a sunken city now. It’s just so grotesquely different from the Tokyo that we’re used to.”
The problem, he says, was ensuring everybody stayed on monitor with that imaginative and prescient. “I had to be very meticulous in directing it because whatever they would produce would tend to lean towards darkness,” he explains. “So I had to remind all of my people, ‘Listen, this has to be a utopia that we’re depicting here.’ Time and again, I would have to remind them.”
The group additionally needed to face the distinctive circumstances of making a largely deserted model of a main real-world metropolis throughout a time when the streets had been empty as a result of pandemic. (It was a similar challenge faced by the creators of the game Ghostwire: Tokyo.) Though the concept for the movie predated the pandemic, it nonetheless had an impression on the artistic course of. “It was almost like reality was catching up with what we were depicting in the film,” producer Genki Kawamura tells The Verge. “The streets were closing down, [Japan] did host the Tokyo Olympics where they tried to shield the Games from the effect of the pandemic by creating a sort of bubble system. This is a very sci-fi film, but the strangeness of reality helped ground it in reality.”
Bubble finally introduces a very specific twist, which I gained’t spoil right here, that ties collectively all of its seemingly disparate components, from the love story to the parkour to the bubbles themselves. It’s intelligent and sudden — even when it took a whereas to determine it out. “It was all one big, long, meandering exploration,” Araki says of the artistic course of.
Bubble is streaming on Netflix now.