Netflix’s Bubble movie interview: Attack On Titan director Tetsuro Araki talks Zen parkour and more

Uta and Hibiki from the Netflix film Bubble.
Uta and Hibiki from the film Bubble. Pic credit: @fullcirclecinema.com

Bubble, the latest addition to Netflix’s collection of anime feature films, is the product of some impressive talent. It’s directed by Tetsuro Araki of Attack on Titan fame, who was recently interviewed by Anime News Network about Bubble.

Tetsuro’s interview questions and answers ,will be revealed throughout this article and you can watch the video at the bottom. Death Note’s Takeshi Obata created the character designs, hence why you may have looked at Hibiki during his EMO moments, squinted your eyes, and thought, “Light, is that you?”

Promare’s Hiroyuki Sawano composed the incredible music. Gen Urobuchi wrote the story.

This anime movie was destined for greatness and delivers in every way. If you’re still on the fence about whether you should “stream it, or skip it”. This is a must-stream movie! A sci-fi romance that has stunning animation, characters you can relate to and really feel for, and great voice acting, which truly brings those characters to life. Although, get ready for this movie to tug at your heartstrings.

Parkour taken to the next level and beyond

Bubble is set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, where strange bubbles that defy the principles of gravity have fallen everywhere around the planet. Tokyo seems to have suffered the brunt of this phenomenon and has become cut off from the rest of the world inside a gigantic bubble.

The survivors that live there are mostly young teens who are going against “official edicts” by living in the forbidden area. These youths wax nostalgic for the heyday of the city and its bustling populace.

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The greatest form of entertainment is parkour called Tokyo Battlekour where players can win supplies that are essential for their survival. What is “parkour”? Parkour is an athletic training discipline in which practitioners called “traceurs” attempt to get from point A to point B in the fastest, smoothest, and most efficient way possible without using any equipment.

Uta and Hibiki enjoying parkour together in the Netflix film Bubble.
Uta and Hibiki enjoy parkour together. Pic credit: WitStudio

If you still don’t know what I’m talking about Hong Kong’s action cinema and Jackie Chan popularized “parkour” during the 1970s to 1980s. Those movies showed Jackie Chan using his martial arts to not only fight but to navigate through urban obstacles with ease.

Tony Jaa also had a very memorable scene in his movie Ong Bak where he is being chased through Bangkok by a group of hoodlums and jumps, leaps, vaults, flips, and cartwheels his way through all the obstacles in his path.

Ong Bak - Chased through Bangkok
Tony Jaa gets chased through Bangkok. Anime News Network asked Tetsuro Araki about the parkour in Bubble:

Interviewer

“When did the idea of parkour enter the mix, and how was the parkour action brought to life?”

Tetsuro Araki

“We had parkour elements in our past works, such as Attack on Titan and Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress but this time around we really decided to put it front and center. We decided to deliver an evolved version of what we had done in the past. As for the process itself – I really drew heavily from one particular professional parkour athlete known as Zen. I talked to him a lot and had him show me his technique. I saw a ton of his clips. That’s how we were able to incorporate that into the film.”

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Interviewer

“Does that mean you tried parkour yourself?”

Tetsuro Araki

“Of course, I can’t do it at the level of these professionals, but I did participate in a sort of ‘trial lesson’ where they had us jump from bar to bar, which is about a meter jump. That’s about the extent of my own experience in parkour.”

Here is a video of the famous Japanese parkour athlete Zen:

ZEN PARKOUR 2012 【JAPAN】
Japanese parkour expert Zen does death-defying moves.

Bubble definitely takes parkour to the next level and beyond with its gravity-defying moments. The players in Bubble zip around from rooftop to rooftop, avoiding bubbles and massive black hole-like anomalies known as “antlion pits”.

One player, Hibiki, is especially skilled at the deadly game because he can use the bubbles in ways others can’t to overcome obstacles instead of having to avoid them. Hibiki hears familiar singing coming from the tower in the center of Tokyo and is drawn to it. The tower is also the epicenter of the initial bubbles’ appearance, but that doesn’t stop him from investigating.

A cyberpunk retelling of The Little Mermaid

When Hibiki manages to reach a certain area of the tower his life becomes endangered and a mysterious girl named Uta saves him. During their very first encounter, Hibiki mistakes Uta for being a mermaid.

Uta attracts the bubbles all around her in a special underwater-like field. What is Uta’s true identity and why is she able to interact with the bubbles? Hibiki is drawn into Uta’s surreal world as he starts to solve the mystery behind the bizarre event that changed the world, and slowly starts to fall in love with her.

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Hibiki encounters Uta for the first time and he thinks she is a mermaid.
Hibiki’s first encounter with Uta who he mistakes for a mermaid. Pic credit: @gudanganimeindo.com

Interviewer

“In a recent video, you talked about the idea of a ‘mechanical little mermaid in a dystopian world’ as the foundation of Bubble’s story. Can you talk about the development of that idea and how it’s represented in the film?”

Tetsuro Araki

“When we started the project, we had these conceptual illustrations that we would present and after that, in came the screenplay. The writer, Mr. Gen Urobuchi, presented the idea that our heroine comes in the form of a bubble or bubbles, but is also an extraterrestrial life force that we’re dealing with. I also thought this motif of a bubble is very symbolic of this ephemeral, kind of slipping through your fingers, type of love. That’s how we ultimately arrived at this concept.”

Bubble has strong undercurrents of contemporary anime romances like Your Name, as well as classic fairy tales like The Little Mermaid at play. Add a dash of youthful optimism and coming-of-age themes that are usually seen in Studio Ghibli movies.

Uta and Hibiki share a romantic moment.
Uta and Hibiki start to develop feelings for each other. Pic credit: @mycluub.co.uk

A hopeful, feelgood movie reminiscent of Studio Ghibli

Interviewer

“Audiences usually expect a dark and somber sort of setting for a ‘dystopia’ but Bubble is very bright and colorful. Was this an intentional decision?”

Tetsuro Araki replied, “I think that in these derelict sorts of landscapes the ruins are a very beautiful thing. This time around we were trying to tell a very beautiful and ephemeral love story, so it was also a deliberate choice to make the world very colorful and the touch very light. We wanted this derelict, futuristic Tokyo to present itself as more of a utopia than a dystopia. Also, we’re trying to depict this idea of ‘a boy’s heart that is unleashed’. What we wanted to show something similar to say, the feeling of a boy’s summer vacation.”

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Interviewer

“Can you elaborate on the depiction of Hibiki’s auditory sensory disorder and how it came into the story?”

Tetsuro Araki

“The idea came from the fact that Hibiki is exceptionally talented as a parkour player and when you have someone who is very talented, then there must be other areas where he is lacking. That was the kind of origin of the idea and where we decided to bring in the auditory sensory disorder. Actually, I got the idea from an actual person who does have those same symptoms. There is a certain company called Paragura that does barrier free screenings and there is a certain person who goes by Minami-san who has auditory sensory disorder. I had Minami-san tell me what it was like to have this disorder. This is where the ideas that I infused into Hibiki came from.”

Interviewer

“You’ve had an expansive career and the opportunity to work with many people in the anime industry, such as Gundam’s Yoshiyuki Tomino. Are there any anecdotes you can share that helped shape you as a director?”

Tetsuro Araki

“I’ll tell you a story about something Tomino-san taught me that affected Bubble, in a good way, of course. It really goes back to the very basics of animation. Tomino is a very meticulous about the so-called ‘imaginary line’. You have to consider, ‘Okay, is the character facing left or right?’. And then, never cross that imaginary line, right? So, for example, when we’re doing these parkour scenes, it has to be very clear that Hibiki’s team is progressing leftwards. You never confuse the audience there. You have to adhere to those lines in order to avoid any confusion on the audience’s part. Although, it’s a very basic principle, it’s something Tomino was very meticulous and particular about. You can see that principle in Bubble.”

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Singer-songwriter Riria lent her voice to Uta – both as the character and singing the ending theme song Ja Ne, Mata Ne. This is Riria’s first voice acting role and she was approached by director Tetsuro Araki and producer Genki Kawamura personally for it. Fans were impressed by Riria’s vocal performance and consider that she was able to add kindness with an air of mystery to Uta’s voice.

The ending is, in a way, left open for further possibilities, and maybe even lead to a possible sequel. Know that when Uta says her memorable tearjerker line, “Let’s meet again someday” – that this is perfectly possible.

I like how the story explored the cyclical nature of life and how everything can occur as part of a spiral. This is definitely a movie filled with hope and endless possibilities for the future. And for those of you who hated the useless prince in the original The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, you’ll like that Hibiki truly gives it his all to save the girl he’s fallen in love with.

Attack on Titan's Tetsuro Araki on Creating Netflix's Bubble Anime

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