Cherry is a shy and quiet boy who loves writing haiku about what he sees every day. At a shopping mall, he has a one-in-a-million chance encounter with Smile, a bubbly but incredibly self-conscious girl. He has serious trouble speaking in anything else other than the haiku he writes, and she hides behind a mask so people don’t see the braces on her front teeth. Then one day, the two of them hear from Old Man Fujiyama, that he is looking for an old record. And so, the search begins for this record that changes both Cherry’s and Smile’s summer for the better. What can the two of them enjoy before the season ends, and they both return to their humdrum lives?
Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is an original movie that was released simultaneously in Japanese cinemas and on Netflix on July. 22. 2021. Produced by Signal.MD (Recovery of an MMO Junkie, Birthday Wonderland) and Sublimation (Dragon’s Dogma), and directed by Kyohei Ishiguro (Your Lie In April, Children of the Whales), this movie was a bit of a sleeper release. Netflix had devoted a lot of time and money on promoting some better-known shows that were coming out on their platform, like Beastars, Great Pretender, and A Whisker Away. Even their show based on the hugely successful MOBA game Dota 2 was getting a lot of promotion. I continue to defend Netflix’s place in the anime scene, despite the things that have stood them apart from the other streaming platforms – the big one being, of course, them releasing shows in their entirety instead of episode-by-episode. If there’s one thing that seasonal anime followers want in the world, it’s to want to see the latest episode of their favorite shows as soon as physically possible.
Here in Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop, however, the situation was a little different. The movie came out on Netflix at the same time it came out in Japanese cinemas. With this movie being a sleeper release for them, was choosing to have an early release a good decision? Would it make the movie stand out alongside the big Netflix releases like Beastars, Great Pretender, and so on? The simple answer to that is yes. Absolutely. Bright colors stand out and make us sit up and take notice. The simple animation we see in the movie is vibrant and engaging and suits the bright colors perfectly. It almost feels like any other style of animation just would not work at all. This might seem like a sleeper release to some, but that doesn’t mean it can disappear into obscurity like some other anime shows on Netflix unfortunately have.
Let’s start with our two main characters. Cherry is a boy that likes to keep to himself. He enjoys writing haiku poems as he watches life go by, and hides behind headphones to get away from the unpleasant noise around him. Meanwhile, Smile is a bubbly live streamer who uses her phone to document her daily life. He is currently filling in for his mother, who has a bad back, by working at a day center for older people, where he gets to share his haiku hobby, yet he himself has difficulty speaking in public, as he sees haiku as something that should only be written and not spoken. And she hides behind a mask so people won’t see her buck teeth and bracers, but still wants to open up and let people (not just her friends and family, but the people who watch her live streams) see her beautiful smile. These two meet by chance after the mall troublemaker, Beaver, gets in both of their ways, and despite how different the two of them appear to be, they have something very big in common: both of them want to hide something. Cherry notices one of the visitors of the day center, Fujiyama, is searching for an old record that meant a lot to him, but somehow got lost. Moved by his search, both Cherry and Smile join him at his vinyl record store to see if his record is still there.
It’s worth noting that Words Bubble Up Like Pop was made with the help of Japanese record label FlyingDog, and as you watch the movie, it isn’t just the simple yet eye-opening animation that stands out. The movie’s score is, for the large part, taken up by electronic beats, with added emphasis on ambient noise. We get to see Cherry and Smile’s mission to find this old record, and we find ourselves immersed and invested in it too; we really want them to find it, and we really want Fujiyama to hear his old record again.
All of this might sound like something that isn’t really that outstanding in an anime movie, but I’ve always liked the term ‘less is more’. It’s something that Hidamari Sketch, one of my all-time favorite shows, has; it uses very simple yet stand-out animation and characters we fall in love with instantly, And so here in a movie like Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop, less is definitely more. We don’t need extravagant animation, an epic orchestral soundtrack, or a highly detailed character design. Cherry and Smile, along with the rest of the cast, are all characters that we get to like immediately.
One thing that I also notice is how a lot of emphasis is on haiku itself; the Japanese name of the movie, Cider no Yo ni Kotoba ga Wakiagaru, can be even written as a haiku in its original Japanese characters. Haiku written across walls and buildings act like ‘chapters’ in the movie, as well as significant moments that happen to both Cherry and Smile. Cherry even keeps a special dictionary in his phone case to help him write haiku in kanji text. Traditionally, haiku poems have been written to convey emotions and feelings, and these ‘significant moment’ haiku poems that we see on walls and buildings make them even more powerful and convey that much more emotion. Both Cherry and Smile keep emotions and feelings hidden or locked away, whether it be by written haiku or soundless headphones, or a mask; it is only when the two of them meet and fall in love when these emotions and feelings are let out. And so through this, the title of the movie couldn’t be any more fitting.
With Netflix being Netflix, various dubs have been made for the movie. For the English dub, it brings in voices that are typically not heard in animated movies, with Ivan Mok playing Cherry, and Kim Wong playing Smile. However, as I heard the dub, the more conflicted I was. The reason for this is that because the movie emphasizes so much on Japanese haiku poems, their meanings are lost when heard in English. Of course, haiku poems can be made with their traditional format in the English language, but as the movie gives out so much emotion, I believe that it is something that can only sound right in the original Japanese language. This is a real shame, because aside from that, the English dub is pretty good, and gives real-life to all of the characters, and not just Cherry and Smile, as opposed to a straight translation of the original script.
The opening theme is “Soda Bottle Baby” by Kensuke Ushio. The ending theme is “Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop” by never young beach. The song Cherry, Smile and Fujiyama were looking for is “Yamazakura” by Taeko Ohnuki. Here’s the Netflix trailer for the movie:
This has been a very up-and-down year so far, with everyone trying to get back to some level of normality after the year previous, I think it’s great to see that all of this hasn’t gotten into the anime industry that much, and they continue to work hard to give their audiences quality content. It doesn’t matter if it was a sleeper release; I think Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is going to be one of those movies that so many Netflix devotees will enjoy, regardless of whether they go for animated movies or not. Netflix’s Aggretsuko succeeded in that a few years ago, and there’s no question that this movie will do the same.
Simple but effective animation, a great script, and a minimal score blend so well together to make a movie that everyone needs to see. The English dub is commendable, however, Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is a movie that just screams to be watched in the original Japanese. A fantastic ‘pick-me-up’ movie to watch for the summer.