(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.
(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!)
The Spring 2021 anime season decided to come back swinging with even more anime than the infamous Winter 2021 season. It was almost exhausting to watch so many, but there was a lot of anime that was quite fantastic! It will be some of the best anime we will be seeing this year. Even the worst anime of the season aren’t worse than Ex Arm and Redo of Healer. That’s why I’m going to split this one into two parts due to how many shows there were to cover. As usual, this is only covering the new anime of the season. No returning series and I’ll only cover anime reboots if they are important in some way shape or form. No rankings this time either. I’m giving my 3+ ep impressions on these shows in terms of what genre they are in. Animation is a medium of storytelling, and anime is very good at going in different directions with their stories. Let’s start, shall we?
Battle Athletes Victory Restart (Funimation)
Based on the manga by Yuki Nakano, this new iteration/reboot of the fan-favorite series is directed by Tokihiro Sasaki and is produced by Seven. Let me ask you a question. Remember in the Fall 2020 season there was that great Higurashi sequel reboot thing that got people to talk about Higurashi again? Well, this one will get people talking, but for all of the wrong reasons. This reboot is not good. It’s not only bad at setting up what kind of plot we are getting into, but the characters are also flat, cookie-cutter, and the animation is easily some of the worst this season has to offer. For a show that’s going to be about intense athletic challenges, the animation is very basic. No weight is put behind the movements and you think they would make the sports stuff look exciting and thrilling. It comes off like a show that was made because they made a deal to make it to keep the rights of the property more than any real passion behind it. Also, while this show may aim at a female audience, it sure loves to have a ton of male gaze elements like looking at character’s butts, and it is more interested with the yuri baiting than telling a more followable story. Also, since one character has prosthetics, couldn’t they have made it appear like something that wasn’t looking like they pulled some pantyhose over one arm and leg? Oh, and this show doesn’t earn its political space drama either. No one gives a rat’s behind about this world or the main story. Eh, either way, Battle Athletes Victory Restart is easily one of the weakest shows of the season, and the only thing it will get people talking about is the original anime from the 90s.
Burning Kabaddi (Crunchyroll)
Burning Kabaddi is a sports anime based on the manga by Hajime Musashino. It’s directed by Kazuya Ichikawa and produced by TMS Entertainment. I always look for a sports anime with a unique hook. For example, this is a sports anime where the sport in question is Kabaddi, which is full-contact tag. That sounds great! Too bad that this is one of the cheapest-looking anime of the season. It doesn’t have the best animation and for a sport that I said is a more aggressive tag, then that’s a huge problem. It doesn’t help either that this is by a studio and director that are busy with other projects. Unless said otherwise, it sounds like this anime got the short end of resources. The voice acting is decent, and some of the leads are amusing, but it doesn’t stand out. It makes me wonder if this project went to someone like Studio Mappa. The animation would have been better. Even then, it has a severe case of “been there done that” in terms of its story and characters. I was honestly looking forward to this anime, so it makes me sad that it wasn’t better. It’s, at the very least, earnest in its execution that I can’t fully hate it as much as some other anime this season.
Farewell, My Dear Cramer! (Crunchyroll)
Based on the manga by Naoshi Arakawa, this anime adaptation was directed by Seiki Takuno, written by Natsuko Takahashi, and produced by Liden Films. Unfortunately, this is yet another sports anime this season that suffers from major production issues. It’s a show where the visuals are at some points decent, but keep leaning into the wholly mediocre territory. For a sports anime about running and kicking a ball, it all feels so stiff and lifeless like Battle Athletes. The character designs look so wonky. A friend of mine described it as if they were given the eyes and lips of a fish, and I can’t unsee it that way now. At first, it looks like they were going for a more retro-inspired design for the characters, but it’s not gone far enough to warrant the “retro” vibe, and then there are some weird inconsistent designs. It doesn’t help that it’s hard to know who is the real main character of the show. Due to it being a team of girls, it keeps shifting between the ones who play a more important role in the story. I get why they keep focusing on so many, but with how slow-paced the progression of the story is going, it doesn’t seem like we are going to know anytime soon who is the main focus, and the story isn’t good enough to care about who wins, and that’s a shame. I love the drama angle of how popularity is dropping for women-driven soccer, but that needed to be the focus, not watching the team of the story fail and deal with intensely smug champion teams. I’m so bummed that this one isn’t better, because I was hoping to find a soccer anime that I could love, but this sure ain’t it.
Bakuten! Aka Backflip! (Crunchyroll)
Oh my goodness! We have an actual good sports anime this season! This original anime is directed by Toshimasa Kuroyanagi, written by Toshizo Nemoto, and produced by Zexcs. This is the sports anime of the season that has everything the other sports shows are lacking. You have beautiful animation that masterfully matches fluid and expressive 2D animation with CGI, likable and hugely memorable characters, and a story with stakes that are just big enough to keep the story moving forward, but doesn’t treat the experience like it’s the end of the world. It has incredibly wholesome energy with the story, music, and character chemistry that makes for easily one of the best shows to watch of the Spring 2021 season.
Full Dive (Funimation)
Based on the light novels and manga by Light Tuchihi, this anime adaptation was directed by Kazuya Miura, written by Kenta Ihara, and produced by Studio ENGI. This was advertised as a dark comedy take on the VRMMO anime series like Sword Art Online, but this one has a devilishly solid gimmick. The VRMMO in this anime is so realistic that there are no traditional game gimmicks and so on. It’s pretty much a game that drops you into a hard mode crafted by From Software and the teams behind those obtuse adventure games. Sadly, for as great as the first episode starts, the rest of the show, so far, has failed to live up to that first episode. It seems more comfortable explaining the more “realistic” elements of the game itself than doing something fun with them, and the characters aren’t that interesting. It also loves to slide into mean-spirited dialogue and interactions, but not balance it out to where we are rooting for anyone. The main character is dull and has every right to be mad at how he got conned into buying this game, the female lead is irredeemably awful, and it doesn’t have that flow or execution that makes anime like Konosuba work. It’s trying very hard to reconcile the game with the real world, but it’s neither fun nor interesting to be in this game world. Maybe it will get better, but when you start with such a strong first episode, only to flop hard in the second and third episodes, it makes me not want to watch the rest to see what happens. Maybe I will give it an episode or two more, but so far, it’s easily one of the biggest disappointments of the anime season.
I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level (Crunchyroll)
Based on the light novels by Kisetsu Morita, this anime adaptation is directed by Nobukage Kimura and was produced by Revoroot. Yes, it’s another isekai, and yes, it is about an individual who died of being overworked. That’s why I was curious to see how they take the “I maxed out my level and now have god-tier powers, but all I want to do is be left alone.” angle the marketing made it out to be. On one hand, I think it is a smarter show than its very obvious all-woman harem elements offer. It does dive into how the lead makes sure none of her now newly adopted family members (who are of course cute monster girls) don’t make the same mistakes as she did back in the real world. It also does its job of being a cute fantasy-comedy as it has some very solid jokes. I’m just not pulled into the overall story yet. I think it’s because it feels like they took the premise and halted it for cute harem shenanigans, and while we now have two spirit girls, a dragon girl, and a clumsy elf girl, I have seen better versions of these characters before. I think it’s not hitting it out of the park fully, and maybe I’m just thinking about how Taoteba Last Dungeon and Konosuba took more advantage of their premises by the first episode. Still, I don’t hate this series, but I wouldn’t be shocked if I decided to drop it after another episode or so. I at least think the characters hold up the plot more than most isekai shows. It’s cute and harmless, and sometimes, that’s all you need.
The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent (Funimation)
Based on the light novel series by Yuka Tachibana, this adaptation is directed by Shota Ihata, written by Wataru Watari, and produced by Diomedia. I was first hooked on the premise of a regular working-class woman who gets swept to another world, only to find out she was swept to this world by accident with the real “chosen one”. It’s something I haven’t seen tackled in a lot of isekai, and I fell for this show even more once she decided to sit back and do her own thing. She didn’t want to save the world or deal with some demon king, but instead, she wanted to make potions. Sei Takanashi, our lead character, ends up making the world she is in a better place by simple actions of healing and helping out the individuals that would otherwise get looked over in other isekai stories. It does have a male harem element with three guys that may or may not be crushing on her all at once, but it doesn’t feel as skeezy as other anime with these types of setups. It’s a slow burn, but it’s a burn that has been worth it.
Dragon Goes House Hunting (Funimation)
Based on the manga by Kawo Tanuki, this adaptation is directed by Haruki Kasugamori and is produced by Signal. MD. You would think with a premise about a dragon wanting to find his own home with the help of a demon lord real-estate agent it would have a limited range in humor and writing, but it’s a show that knows how to expand on its setting and isn’t stuck on the elevator pitch of a premise. It’s got a great dynamic between the dragon and our real estate agent, and it uses every situation with getting the dragon a new home to have some kind of expansion on the world, the characters, or the story. It might not have the best animation since it feels like it wants to stay heavily on model due to how detailed the characters are, the show does do a good job transitioning to more comedic animation, and the jokes are funny! It’s a show that was an early favorite this season, and I’m so glad it feels like a fully realized comedy and fantasy anime. It’s probably my favorite comedy this season since shows like Combatants Must Be Dispatched have underperformed.
Blue Reflection Ray (Funimation)
Based on the game developed by Gust, this video game adaptation is directed by Risako Yoshida, written by Akiko Waba, and produced by JC Staff. It’s boring. It’s supposed to be this dramatic battle royale anime with powers that revolve around girls teaming up with other girls and being defined by emotions. It does a really bad job at explaining how it all works, the characters are pretty forgettable, and I had a hard time remembering the names of the two leads. The art direction looks nice, but there is a real lack of movement. Characters will stand around to drag out scenes, and I know this is typical for anime shows, but it feels so restrictive and with such a distinct visual style, it only makes the stiffness stand out even more. There could have been a really interesting way to tackle this story and world, but I gave it the three-episode rule, and well, I won’t be watching any more beyond that.
Pretty Boys Detective Club (Funimation)
Based on the novel series by Nisio Isin, this anime adaptation is directed by Akiyuki Shinbo, Hajime Ootani, written by Akiyuki Shinbo and Shaft, and produced by Shaft. Well, with a name like Pretty Boys Detective Club, you have to assume it’s going to be a very pretty show, and boy howdy does it have some of the best visual eye candy in terms of this show’s visual presentation. Great designs, fluid animation, and stylish visuals carry this entire show. The impressive visuals also carry into the writing of the show that is fairly dense with the first three episodes’ storyline of helping a girl find a star in the sky. It turns from a solid mystery of a heartbroken girl to the girl having the eyesight to see something she wasn’t supposed to see. It takes a huge leap, and while the dialogue is a bit much and some of this is familiar ground, if you are looking for something like a mix of Ouran Highschool Host Club with some bonkers detective work, then this will easily be the show for you!
Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song (Funimation)
This is an entirely original anime by creators Tappei Nagatsuki and Eiji Umehara. It’s directed by Shinpei Ezaki, written by the creators, and produced by WIT Studios. Vivy is a wildly ambitious sci-fi story about time travel, the commentary about man and machine, and morality. The story about a futuristic AI being sent back in time to prevent a robot uprising that kills the human race in the future is some truly compelling stuff when you realize who this AI has to team up with to save humanity. The other side of the equation is the first AI android who the future AI goes to find doesn’t believe this super AI from the future is telling the truth. The real drama and driving force are the different ideals of the two AIs as they try and fix the past so the future doesn’t unfold into bloodshed, but then small wrinkles come up from time to time that throw a wrench into the situation, and it makes for an extremely compelling story. I wish it was dubbed because the future AI talks way too fast and it’s hard to keep up with the subtitles at points. Otherwise, it’s one of Spring’s most intriguing anime.
Odd Taxi (Crunchyroll)
This is a very cool original anime this season. It’s directed by Baku Kinoshita, written by Kazuya Konomoto, and produced by OLM Inc, and P.I.C.S. It does have a manga, but it was an original series first and foremost. This is a mix of a drama, a thriller, and a slice-of-life anime about the world that revolves around this lone walrus taxi driver and the storylines that spin-off of his encounters with both familiar faces and new individuals. It’s an anime I can’t quite compare to many that are out these days or not right off the top of my head. It’s like someone took the tone of something like The Wire or Fargo and mixed it up with Zootopia and Beastars with the designs from Animal Crossing. It’s an anime that truly stands out among the pack from not only its visuals, but its low-key story and perfect writing. I want to see what happens with all of these characters to see how the mystery around this missing girl unfolds and how these stories interact and finish. It’s an anime that was made with my kind of sensibilities. If I was ranking these anime individually and not by genre category, it would easily be in my top five. I highly recommend people check out this show because it hooks you within the first episode and doesn’t let go.
Slice of Life
Super Cub (Funimation))
Based on the light novel series by Tone Koken, this anime adaptation was directed by Toshiro Fujii, written by Toshizo Nemoto, and produced by Studio Kai. So far, from what I have seen, there is a real polarizing reception to this show. You either love how low-key and slow it is, or you find it too much of a slow burn to get through. I’m in the middle. I do like it due to how low key it is, but it is a touch too slow. The writing can also come off as making the lead character, Koguma, a touch dafter than she is. The CGI is also hit and miss as it doesn’t always blend well with the 2D characters or backgrounds. However, something about this show just clicks with me. I love the low-key vibes, I like the 2D visuals, the interaction between the leads, and the calming music. It reminds me of an indie game where all you do is drive around and listen to the music and just have a no-stress time. It won’t be for everyone, and I wouldn’t consider this a top 10 anime of the Spring season, but at least it is what is advertised and it doesn’t fall apart like Full Dive and Combatants Must Be Dispatched.
Fairy Ranmaru (Crunchyroll)
Hey, look, another original anime this season. This one is produced by Studio Comet, written by Jo Aoba, and directed by Kosuke Kobayashi and Masakazu Hishida. At first, I was enjoying the abstract dumbness of this one. A bunch of hot men who come from different fairy clans comes to earth to help clients expel the toxic and negativity in their lives via abstract combat. Within the combat encounters, the men transform in extremely horny ways into their fairy forms. It’s a dumb trashy anime that could have worked. I love the music, the transformations are delightfully horny to give the middle finger to male-focused fanservice. And yes, this isn’t the first anime to do such a thing, but it’s so rare, that it’s delightful to see it when it does happen. I like a lot of the little ideas about the leads and how the rules work. However, it’s a hot mess and it doesn’t always blend. It seems like it’s always at the edge of going down the right direction with its content but then doesn’t go far enough. I wish it went full dumb, but it also wants to be about something. I don’t know if I want to see what happens next after the three episodes I watched. If you like dumb but sincere anime, then, by all means, watch this one, but I can easily list a few other shows that go all the way with their fun dumb premise that do it better than Fairy Ranmaru.
Shadows House (Funimation)
Based on a manga by Su-mat-to, this adaptation is directed by Kazuki Ohashi, written by Toshiya Ono, and produced by CloverWorks. Okay, before we continue, let’s get the joke out of the way first, this is where all the resources that were for The Promised Neverland Season 2 went after the Neverland committee simply gave up on the second season. Anyway, Shadows House is a great show! I love the mystery behind this world of shadowy individuals, living dolls, and the commentary that can be picked from not only the environment but the dialogue and the ideas at play here. The dolls are rather complex characters, and their dynamics with the Shadows are really interesting to watch in motion. It has nice animation, the designs are distinct, and the writing has kept me invested in this show, which is why I’m going to so far, stick with it.
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!