TL;DR – a boy who only expresses himself through haiku and a girl who is a popular vlogger meet at a shopping centre over summer break. Slice of life, romance anime that follows a simple storyline that is well executed.
Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop has striking animation and colours that remind me a lot of the Great Pretender anime series also on Netflix. The introduction scene as the camera pans across a highway with endless fields of green on both sides and then onto a shopping mall within Oda city is so full of colour and life that I was instantly drawn in. The instrumental soundtrack that accompanies the opening scenes is light and bubbly like… well… soda pop and makes you feel like you’re floating in the sky looking down on the many lives going to and fro through the mall.
The story is straight forward. We have Yui Sakura (nicknamed “Cherry” because sakura means cherry blossoms), a teenage boy who constantly wears headphones as a means to not be overwhelmed by the outside world (and noise) and also signals to others that he doesn’t want to be disturbed because people think he’s listening to music. He has a passion for haiku as a way to express himself and posts the short Japanese poems he creates onto his social media platform. Cherry works at the welfare centre in the mall part-time in place of his mum who is recovering from back issues.
Then we have Yuki Hoshino (nicknamed “Smile”). She and her sisters uploaded a video based on the idea of cuteness and under the name “Smile For Me”. Yuki continues on as a solo artist and has obtained a substantial number of followers. The irony is she has self-confidence issues because of her buck teeth. When she was much younger, everyone thought her teeth were cute. But now that she’s a teenager, she doesn’t like her teeth and has undergone orthodontic work and obtained braces. As a result, she constantly wears a face mask so people can’t see her teeth. She continues to upload videos and streaming her adventures around the Oda city asking her followers to ‘like’ and ‘smile for her’.
Cherry’s headphones and Smile’s facemask are effective motifs to reflect the awkwardness and self-confidence issues of teenage youth. There is one particular scene where, after spending many weeks together, Smile discovers that Cherry is moving away. He had wanted to tell her earlier but every time he plucked up the courage, they were always interrupted. Cherry knows that he has hurt her and as she continues to walk home without him, his own heart breaks and the outside noise suddenly becomes too much and he puts his headphones on to block it out.
The supporting cast of characters are all eclectic and enjoyable to watch. The main story that pulls them along surrounds one of the elderly gentlemen at the welfare centre who owns a record store and has misplaced a record called “Yamazakura”, which contains songs from his deceased wife. Cherry and Smile go on a research hunt to try and find the record or details of where a copy can be obtained leading towards their growing affection for each other.
The climactic scene is nothing new, both boy and girl overcome their confidence issues to acknowledge their genuine connection. Counter to the headphones and mask motifs are the running themes of poetry and music that help Cherry and Smile evolve as individuals as well as a couple.
Unlike other more dramatic and heart-wrenching slice of life animes like Koe no Katachi (A Silent Voice) which deals with the bullying of a deaf girl or Tenki no Ko (Weathering With You) which tells a story of a runaway boy and orphaned girl struggling to survive in Tokyo, Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is effervescent with just enough emotional pull to make you stay on for the entire ride.
There’s nothing earth shattering here but it does not aim to be, which is perfectly fine to me when it still captures what is intended, a slice of life heart-warming tale that should appeal to all ages.
8 out of 10