Experiencing Japanese Poems Through Anime: Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop

Lights in the summer night
make a false start
In the evening sunset

Haikus are literary icons. Japanese poems that follow the simple rule 5 7 5, three lines, 17 syllables. But the thing they never really teach in American English class is how broadly fantastic these poems can be in their native language. Within the Japanese language, there are three alphabets, Hiragana, Katakana, and the most familiar with nonspeakers, Kanji. Kanji in some cases being a single word while the other two function as standard alphabets. Because of this Kanji can obey the rule but craft complex poems English would never be able to craft.

And boy, did Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop display that beautifully.

The Netflix original anime film follows socially awkward Cherry. A quiet, quirky boy who uses his past time masterfully crafting haiku. Stepping in for his mom at local old folk’s home, Cherry finds himself aiding an older gentleman, Mr. Fujiyama on his daily search for a record simply titled, Yamazakura.

This adventure leads them to a local mall one day, while observing a baby race he is shoved into an internet-famous girl known as Smile. Now Smile’s whole bit is pretty much going live on Twitch and looking for anything she deems ‘cute’ to share with her followers. Now the funny thing about Smile, is that even though she actively promotes this bubbly always smiling notion, she hides hers behind a mask due to her hate of her own buck teeth.

Now, this fated encounter leads to her mask falling off, allowing Cherry to not only see her teeth but the braces that made her hate her smile that much more. Taken back by her sheer beauty, the awkward fellow just finds himself mumbling the word “braces”, a word she isn’t thrilled to hear.

Embarrassed and upset Smile scrambles to grab her phone before dashing out of the mall. Bewildered Cherry collects himself before returning to the Fujiyama. The two of them failing to realize they swapped phones until much later in the evening, starting a chain of events that would move the two closer as they look towards each other with smitten desires to improve themselves.

When I first caught wind of this movie and more importantly it was under the direction of Kyouhei Ishiguro, a man known for direction one of my all-time favorite series, Your Lie In April. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into but equally was excited to see the psychedelic colored film.

And much to my surprise, the movie is good, like really good. Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is a funny, awkward, wonderfully narrated coming to age story about two teenagers discovering themselves in both positive and negative lights. It takes the real modern look at issues, specifically social anxiety, and how it can affect two very different people in two very different ways.

Cherry hates talking to people, so much he wears headphones everywhere he goes simply so no one will talk to him. This of course is exacerbated in his inability to speak up or even talk properly at all when confronted. Smile, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. She loves to talk and interact with people, simply put she loves to make people smile but suffers from anxiety differently.

I think simply saying Smile hates her smile is a gross understatement to what the film is trying to paint, specifically when it comes to young coming of age females. Smile’s buckteeth were something she used to love, as a child it made her adorable but as she got older, the more she turns to hate her once charming attribute. Spending time physically trying to make sure her lips cover them it comes to a failing point as she gets braces, pushing her already obvious teeth more out. Without the ability to cover them she does the next best thing, masks up. The interesting choice in this is Smile’s willingness to permanently cover up something that made her, her. She wears it during moments of extreme, heat, eats alone or not at all when around people, and uses it as a vague crutch any chance she gets, even refusing to answer Cherry’s question of why she wears it, to begin with.

The charm to this of course comes in both the world play and the simple fact that Cherry thinks her teeth are adorable. Creating this banter between the two as he speaks from his soul in haiku, something she slowly allows to break down her barrier leading up to the final moments.

All and all I have to say I loved this movie from start to finish. It is full of cute, complex, and awkward moments that most of us had at some point experience in our adolescences. It then uses that very real take and illustrates it between two awkward anxious people, one through brilliant wordplay showing how complex and amazing haiku can be. The other doing through sheer jubilant joy instilling it in the ones around her.

If you are in the market for a good anime film that looks at coming of age in a light that I hadn’t seen before, Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is for you. Honestly, the only thing that I didn’t like about it was the animation was, well kinda scuff in some of the scenes but it wasn’t near enough to turn me off from those moments, even complimenting them with the overly colorful shots.

Oh, and it does this really cool thing where Cherry’s bud, Beaver, literally graffiti his haiku all over the town, meaning that scene after scene we are experiencing these unique poems along with the complexity that goes into them and the language. If anything the movie breaths a lot of love into the art-form of haiku and that alone to me was worth the watch.

As always thanks for the read!

Published by Johnathan

Freelance weeb and ranter.

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