The Other Side of Animation 259: Bubble Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Heads up: I was able to watch this film via a screener sent to me from Netflix. I received no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you Netflix for this opportunity.

Studio Wit is a rather fantastic studio full of talented artists that are mostly known for animating the first few seasons of the acclaimed Attack on Titan. It must have been frustrating to be stuck on such a big franchise, because for a while that is all that they helped make. Luckily, they broke free from that franchise’s clutches, because the production committee was being absurdly impossible to deal with. It seemed like after that, they were able to start working on shows and films that they are way more passionate about. This includes Vivy, Ranking of Kings, After the Rain, this spring season’s Onipan!, and are co-producing with CloverWorks the Spy x Family adaptation, to name a few of the projects they have worked on since or alongside Attack on Titan. Now, they have an original film that will be out on Netflix called Bubble that shows that hopefully, Netflix is still going to be committed to original animated ideas and features. 


Bubble is directed by Tesuro Araki and written by Gen Urobuchi. It follows a group of people who live inside a large bubble that has overtaken Tokyo after an environmental disaster where these floating bubbles that defied gravity appeared. The game played within the bubble is essentially a more extreme and dangerous version of parkour as teams fight for resources by traversing floating and sunken buildings, and avoiding undertow-like traps throughout the courses. Hibiki, dubbed by Zach Aguilar is a young male who has had a history of hating sound or being affected by it in severe ways enough to wear headphones at all times, but inside the bubble, is one of the top-tier parkour players of his team.  One night, he decides to venture to the Tokyo Tower where ground zero hit when the bubbles arrived on earth. As he ventures around Tokyo Tower, he encounters a mysterious girl later nicknamed Uta, dubbed by Emi Lo, who is new to this now sunken city and world of parkour. Can Hibiki, Uta, and their friends find a way to solve the mystery of the bubbles? What about Uta? What is her role in this fantastical story? 

So, who said they needed a film that combined anime with The Little Mermaid, and parkour? Because that is what this film is. It’s a modern anime take on The Little Mermaid with the mixture of anime, and, well, you do get a distinct take on the fairytale that makes it stand out from other animated films like Ponyo, Josee, The Tiger, and The Fish, and Lu Over the Wall. There is something fun seeing what studios do with incorporating elements or story beats of fairytale-like experiences and how they unfold within the narrative. However, it’s more like Belle from 2021 in some regards, because it’s not fully a Little Mermaid story, but more of how it implements themes of environmentalism, connection, bonding, and freedom to the Little Mermaid formula, and it works out pretty well. It even has some of those ethereal universal atmospheric moments you would see in Ayumu Watanabe’s adaptation of Children of the Sea. While this film sounds like it goes places and is action-packed, it does tend to have more downtime moments where the characters breathe and the world is expanded upon, which is always a nice thing to see. Still, when the film decides to focus on the action, there is this rush that you get only when you combine some incredible music and gorgeous visuals from Wit Studios. 

With this being a Wit Studios production, the animation is obviously some of the best that the industry can offer. The entire sunken city world inside the bubble looks like it took its multiple coloring and intense amount of detail from Makoto Shinkai. The human movements are fluid and fast-paced with this being partly a fun action-packed parkour showcase, and its mixing of both 2D and CGI elements are seamless in the combination of the two. It’s a visually stunning film, and I know it’s easy to take jabs at it because of how it’s taking a ton of inspiration from Shinkai’s work on a visual level, but when the end result looks this fantastic, well, that’s a good thing. The action itself is so much fun to watch. There are definitely different takes on parkour, and there are some shows that make fun of it, but when you take it into the world of animation, it makes it look thrilling and exciting. This is especially true with how the people competing make harrowing jumps from floating debris and try to avoid getting knocked into the water or these dangerous black hole-like entities that are placed all over the city. The designs by Takeshi Obata are definitely some of his best work and don’t feel like leftovers from his collaborations with Tsugumi Ohba. The music is a real deal hit with the music being composed by Hiroyuki Sawano of 86, Attack on Titan, and Promare fame bringing this majestic, awe-inspiring, and epic score that really elevates the already impressive visuals. Granted, the fact this film opens with an anime-like opening sequence with a song by the famed Eve is jarring due to how this is a movie, but Eve has been making bangers over the past few years, so that’s perfectly okay. The English dub cast is full of well-known names like Zach Aguilar, Keith Silverstein, Emi Lo, Erica Lindbeck, Robbie Daymond, Laura Stahl, Landon McDonald, Jalen K. Cassell, Chris Jai Alex, Kyle McCarley, Christina Vee, Bill Butts, Derek Stephen Prince, Aleks Le, Howard Wang, Kaiji Tang, Brock Powell, and Jeannie Tirado.

Now, as for the criticisms for Bubble, it feels like it was drafted in the first half to be an anime series before getting turned into a film. There is a ton of exposition, and it always isn’t the best paced. The film is full of distinct side characters, but outside of a few who get some subtle or upfront character beats or backstories, most of them are forgettable. They are there to help push the story along and that’s about it. Even the other teams don’t have too much to themselves outside of some visual characteristics. It comes off at points, again, that it was meant to be a TV show. It would have definitely helped give the characters who aren’t Hibiki and Uta more time to be fleshed out. 

While it may be light as a bubble in some areas, Bubble is a fantastic original experience from a talented studio and team that I would definitely be on the lookout for if they team up again to make another animated feature offering. It will be on Netflix April 28th, and if you like action, lush animation, and something a bit different from your animated films, then definitely put this film on your watch list. Now then, since we are talking about distinct animated experiences from Japan, I think it’s time to check out a film that should have been covered on The Other Side of Animation for quite a while. Next time, we will be talking about Tekkonkinkreet






Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 239: Poupelle of Chimney Town Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Studio 4C is one of the premiere animation studios from Japan. While they might not be as well known as Science Saru, Ghibli, Chizu, or Madhouse, their work is some of the most visually stunning and impressive to be seen. The thing is, you probably have seen their work. If it’s not Masaaki Yuasa’s Mind Game, then it may be their shorts seen in anthologies like Batman: Gotham Knight, Memories, and The Animatrix. You may also have seen their anthology films like Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond. Their other films include Tekkonkinkreet, Spriggan, Princess Arete, the Golden Age Arc Berserk films, Harmony, Birdboy: The Forgotten Children, or the visual masterpiece from 2019, Children of the Sea. Whether you gel with their experiences or not, you can’t deny the immensely talented animators, directors, and artists they have that craft some of the most distinct films out there. They are also one of the earlier adopters of CGI among the many studios in Japan. It’s not always perfect, but when you live in a world that has both Ex-Arm and Tesla Note, you can do so much worse. Plus, a lot of Studio 4C’s work is quite good! This includes their newest CGI feature film, Poupelle of Chimney Town. 


Directed by Yusuke Hirota, the story follows a young boy named Lubicchi, dubbed by Antonio Raul Corbo. He lives with his mother in a large city known as Chimney Town, a grime-and-smoke-covered city where the only lights visible to the people are from the buildings, as the smoke is so thick that it covers the sky. Before he went missing, Lubicchi’s father Bruno, dubbed by Stephen Root, told Lubicchi about stars in the sky and a world not covered in smoke. Unfortunately, anything relating to said stars or any kind of optimism is squashed by a zealous cult that gets rid of people that bring that kind of stuff up. One day, Lubicchi encounters a being made entirely of trash, who is dubbed by Tony Hale. Lubicchi learns that this trash individual may have been from beyond the smog-and-smoke-filled sky, and decides that he wants to see what the outside world is like while avoiding the grasp of an evil cult. 

A good way to go into this film’s story is that it plays out more like a fairytale. It has very dream-logic  and fantasy world-like logic, but if you try to put too much logic in what is going on, then you will probably not like this movie. Luckily, there is more than one way to tell a story, and luckily, this film has a lot of substance behind its fairytale-like story with commentary about the environment, family, connection, believing in the truth, and is scathing towards organized cults and capitalism. The entire plot and why Chimney Town is in this condition is based around someone trying to solve the problem with greed. It’s a film with an ambitious story within its whimsy, and it finds a way to properly balance out both. It takes a lot of time to let the characters bond and let them breathe within its smog-filled world. Some characters are not as memorable as our two leads, but there are enough characters that are appealing that will make up for some of the film’s lesser characters. 

Animation-wise, this was going to be one of the interesting elements to the film. The original picture book has such a vibrant style that would be a challenge to bring it to life in film. The film and studio decides to go the route of using CGI animation, which to some animation purists is a sin when it’s really not. Sometimes, CGI is the only way to properly bring certain visual styles to life. While Japanese animation studios are still getting used to working with CGI, the visuals are really good here! The animation is snappy and expressive, the world around the characters is oozing with small details, and the world they have crafted feels fully realized. The music is also whimsical and even has a random Halloween dance number. It’s all composed by Yuta Bando and Youki Kojima. Voice acting-wise, the English dub is the first time I have seen Eleven Arts dive into the world of bringing on celebrity voice actors. At least they brought on great character actors with Tony Hale and Stephen Root having some of their best performances not only as voice actors, but actors in general. Antonio Raul Corbo is also good as our child lead. For one of his first voice overperformances, he does an excellent job. You also have Misty Lee, Hasan Minhaj, Ray Chase, Kari Walghren, Aleks Le, Mick Wingert, James Mathis, Laura Post, Greg Chun, and Fred Tatasciore. It’s a cast that does a fantastic job with their roles. 

Now, it might get overshadowed by the other foreign features being released during award season, and sadly, we might not be seeing this in limited release until 2022, but when you can find a way to watch the film, please do. It’s one of the most charming animated features from 2021 and one of the best and most visually stunning films from the acclaimed studio. It’s great that Eleven Arts is bringing over more animated fare and we can all hope they do more of that. Now then next time, we will be talking about another Netflix original series as we are diving deep into a few screeners. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Essential

The Other Side of Animation 214: The Legend of Hei Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

While I have been praising the Chinese animation scene, let’s not forget that the country has had a very fruitful and bountiful scene for decades. It’s not like any of this is new. I know it feels new because of the recent smash hits like Nezha and White Snake, but their history of animation has been around for decades. They have even put out films from back in the day that matched Disney in animation quality. Heck, some of their work even succeeded it with how ambitious their use of watercolor was. Unfortunately, like with most animation history, there were times where the art and products became more propagandistic, and when Disney had their second wind in the 90s, something changed for the worst in Chinese animation. They found themselves crushed between powerhouses like Disney and the increasing popularity of animation from Japan. This led to a lot of lower-quality products and films that were trying to ape off of Disney and other companies. Luckily, with 2015’s The Monkey King: Hero is Back, the animation industry in China decided to bite back against the competition, and it has been putting out films with challenging art styles and distinct stories. This is where The Legend of Hei comes into play.

Directed by Mtjj, this 2D animated film is a prequel to the events that take place before the famous web series. It was shown off at Annecy 2020 Online in the Contrechamp section but lost. Luckily, it got pretty great reviews and was a financial hit in China. Another piece of good news is that the film itself while being at the New York International Children’s Film Festival, will be getting a US release thanks to Shout! Factory in May. So, does this film keep adding to the winning streak Chinese animation has been having? Well, let’s find out! 

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The story follows Hei, a small cat-like spirit that gets forced out of his forest home due to humans. After struggling to find a decent living situation, Hei is picked up by a group of spirits led by an individual named Stormend. After relaxing in his new home, Stormend and his gang are attacked by an individual known as Infinity. After the crew escapes, Hei is left behind with Infinity. Hei then makes a deal between him and Infinity to get off the island and find out where Hei belongs and what exactly is up with Stormend and his crew. 

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I think the coolest aspect about this being yet another film with the morality of humans vs nature commentary is how morally grey this film approaches those themes. I think the stigma of “people hate stories about saving the environment” is that people don’t hate these types of stories, but rather the problem comes down to how black and white they end up being. Yes, humans suck and big corporations are indeed killing our environments, but it always leads to an extremely boring story, which will make the always admirable message of “please for the love of everything, save our forests and oceans and stop killing the wildlife” fall flat due to how predictable the story is. With Hei, the story falls more in the middle. It’s not taking a side because both the humans and spirits with their actions are put under the microscope. It even has an overall hopeful message about the human’s relationship with nature with a few moments of cynical comments. It feels more realistic and will give you vibes with how Princess Mononoke handled its commentary of humans vs nature. Not every story needs to be morally grey or just one-sided, but it makes for a more interesting story when both sides are examined in detail. It all depends on how you execute the story that people won’t mind another story in this range. Luckily, there are strong character dynamics that also carry the themes and commentary. A lot of the film is spent with quiet montages between Hei and Infinity, and they are the two that carry the story. I love that we are seeing stories from China that are full of these strong character-building moments because you will even feel for Stormend and his plight. 

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The animation is gorgeous. This is some of the most fluid 2D animation I have seen from China. The designs are identifiable, they move with a good flow, and that leads to some extremely followable action sequences. I know it’s nothing new to see Chinese animated films have stellar action sequences, but boy howdy are these some of the most intense fights, and it does a great job of making you feel how heavy the strikes are. The music is also very beautiful with some tunes almost coming off like they were composed by Joe Hisaishi. If anyone is curious, there will be a sub and dub version available in May, but I saw the dub version at the New York International Children’s Film Festival. I adored the dub, and while I know there is some debate about how the dub changes the names of the characters, I am not here to talk about that. What I want to do is shout out the cast that includes Aleks Le, Howard Wang, Kaiji Tang, Caleb Yen, and Suzie Yeung. 

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I think my one real problem with this film is how many characters it introduces. I think they show off a few too many and while I get this is a prequel to the web series, they feel like they were placed there more for the fans, and unless you have seen the series, they are going to feel like a flavoring to spice up the world around the viewer. It still doesn’t make it any less awkward when they introduce a ton of new characters, but take it like the side characters you meet in films like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. They don’t do much, but they make the world feel more complete. Still, they could have dialed it back at points. 

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Whether you are aware of the web series or if this is your first time jumping into the universe from which this film is set, The Legend of Hei is a fantastic thrill ride. It’s easily one of the best animated films of the year so far, and one of the best animated features that have come out of China. Like I said earlier, Shout! Factory is going to be releasing this film in May on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital, and if you are up for something a bit different, then you should check it out! Well, I need to take a break from festival films, and next time, I will be talking about another Netflix series. I can’t tell you which one, but you will have to find out in the future. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!




Rating: Go See It!