Almost every romance would come down to their own insecurities about their own flaws. They would question themselves “Am I good looking enough?” “Does my personality fit?” “Will he/she accept my quirks?” Whether the others will accept or not, it is clear that these people are trying to find connections amidst their flaws. And that lays the theme foundation of Kyōhei Ishiguro ‘Words Bubble up Like Soda Pop’ (2021).
From the male perspective, we have Cherry, a dull, lifeless introverted teen with the habit of using headphones to avoid noises and conversation. But inside, he’s actually trying to convey his feelings through Haikus (a form of Japanese poetry) by sharing his works on social media in hope for others to understand. From the female perspective we have Smile, a popular streamer seeking “cuteness” that always hides behind her mask due to her buck teeth.
Both of these “flawed” characters finally had a fateful encounter in the mall during a gloomy summer. Sure, there is no sudden, excessive narrative to lure the audience’s emotion but that is the charm of this film romance. We slowly learn why Cherry is in the mall at that time. Or why Smile tries to pursue the meaning of “cuteness”. As they both exchange conversation about how they perceive the world individually, we’re sucked into the film’s universe and get lost in the heartwarming, love-budding development of these two lovebirds.
Speaking of the film’s universe, there’s just something unique about how Director Kyōhei Ishiguro conveys through animation. ‘Words Bubble up Like Soda Pop’ doesn’t really have the look of standard anime. Instead, the animation had a pop distinct style with bursts of shapes and colors that blend into its own world. It’s up to people’s preference whether the excessive style plays well or becomes a distraction for enjoyment. But there’s no denying that it integrates well with the character’s personality of losing into their own world, especially Cherry.
That being said, the inconsistencies start to appear in the 2nd act and gradually increase as the narrative progresses. I’ve mentioned before how ‘Words Pops up Like Soda Pop’ took mostly the slice-of-life route. But after the first-third, it isn’t really the best slice-of-life direction that they could take. Instead of elaborating to deepen the relationship, a montage of their relationship took place in a lazy manner. Then the film starts to change direction about finding a record.
It is fairly debatable that the film needs to end somewhere and how the record search arc provided those steps. Besides, the arc never really diverted from the theme of connection that both characters are trying to find. However, what could be a great romance with gradual pace of development changes into a sudden cliché of romance troupes we’ve seen before. It is certainly a magical summer for both of them that got halfly translated into the audience’s heart.
Still, ‘Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop’ isn’t a romance we would ask for you to skip. There’s still greatness to be found with a message of accepting the flaws in themselves and connection with each other through this unique deliverance of medium. Just don’t expect this to sit with you for long, but do find time to enjoy the taste of soda until you can find the best word to describe in your Haikus.