“Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop” is a sweet film but lacks some substance

Romance anime movies are growing on me. Usually, I’m not a huge romance person. I’m not even that into shipping drama but these little slice-of-life high school romances are pulling at my heartstrings.

Ride Your Wave, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, Josee, the Tiger and the Fish all had death be a major plot point. It got depressing. So it was nice to finally watch an anime romance movie where nobody died.

Netflix’s Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop not only without any death but also without any major drama in it whatsoever. And I didn’t realize how much I needed that in my life right now. 

The anime focuses on a boy nicknamed Cherry, who is socially anxious but loves writing haikus, and a girl nicknamed Smile, who ironically wears a mask to cover her buck teeth and braces, and has a huge social media following.

The two start falling in love with each other and team up to find a missing record, so an old man can listen to it one last time while overcoming their own anxieties. It’s a very gentle and visually interesting film.

The art style reminds me a lot of Maasaki Yuasa’s work – in that it’s highly stylized and the characters have exaggerated movements. There’s also a very liberal visual star motif – the characters’ houses have star wallpaper, the fireworks explode into little stars…etc. It’s an interesting little touch that I really liked.

It made the world really pop. Though the characters were simple – they were very relatable in their issues and how they dealt with things. No dramatics. Just everyday teen anxieties. I can totally understand why a young influencer like Smile would want to hide her braces. Looks play a big role in that world.

And since she doesn’t want anyone else to know about her teeth, she hides them as much as possible. It’s not until she comes across the photo of Sakura Fujiyama, who also has buck teeth that she begins to feel less self-conscious

It’s a nice little touch – it’s all about representation. Even little things can help people overcome their anxieties. And then, of course, you have the socially anxious Cherry, who can barely speak in public.

They never go into why this is the case – they explain that he doesn’t like loud noises, but they never go into why he’s so shy. Probably for the best – most people who are shy don’t have that One Moment ™ which causes them to break down. It’s usually just a lot of little things. Or it’s just the way they are.

Language plays a huge role in the film. Cherry keeps a dictionary of seasonal words to use for his haikus. His friend, Beiber, also spray paints Cherry’s poetry onto cars, buildings, street signs…anywhere so people can actually see his poetry.

It’s not until Smile shares one of his haikus on social media that people start paying attention to him. But even then, he doesn’t get over his shyness. He has to overcome his social anxiety on his own.

But the main “conflict” of the movie, if you can call it a conflict, is that an older man, Mr. Fujiyama who Cherry is in charge of as his job in a sort of elderly daycare place, has always carried around a record sleeve.

He hopes to find the record that belongs to it, so he can listen to it one last time. With very little to go, Cherry and Smile decide to find the record. Their journey takes them around their city and they get to learn about the history.

But guess what? The record was in Fujiyama’s record shop the whole time…it got wedged between the fridge and the wall. Nobody had bothered to move it. It was obvious from the moment they found the record, that things weren’t going to be that simple. The climax of the movie…again, happens when Smile accidentally breaks the record before anyone can listen to it.

Can lightning strike twice?

Of course, it can.

I won’t say how but the movie does make use out of its very limited setting and does well with its visual cues. The moment when the elderly group performs their dance to the record, instead of the folk song during the festival is adorable and moving.

While the idea that music helps us remember the past, has been done before – it was still adorably done here. There’s not much else to say about this film: it was sweet and simple.

Like soda pop.

And that’s the scoop


Grade: B


Year of release: 2021

Length: 1 hr 27 min

Director: Kyōhei Ishiguro

Writer: Dai Satō

Voice Actors (Japanese) : Ichikawa Somegorō VIII, Hana Sugisaki , Megumi Han, Natsuki Hanae, Yūichirō Umehara, Megumi Nakajima, Sumire Morohoshi, Hiroshi Kamiya, Maaya Sakamoto, Kōichi Yamadera, Kikuko Inoue 

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