Sometimes a story doesn’t need to revolutionise its genre or bring in a whole new twist. It can be enough to follow a tried and tested recipe exceptionally well through good writing, characters, and visuals. Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is one such story. It’s a charming little love story brought to life by stunning animation and a sweet, cosy soundtrack.
Soda Pop is a Japanese Animated movie directed by Kyouhei Ishiguro of You Lie in April fame. It stars Somegorô Ichikawa as Cherry, a teenage boy who helps to look after elderly people. He likes to write haikus to express his feelings, but can’t bring himself to read them out loud. He soon meets Smile (Hana Sugisaki), a young girl who enjoys live-streaming but always wears a mask. This is so that no one can see that she has buck teeth and wears braces. After accidentally swapping phones, the two form a friendship and go on a quest to find music for one of Cherry’s elderly charges.
The overall story is simple enough and many of its plot points are somewhat predictable. Out protagonists meet, grow closer and eventually confess their feelings—this isn’t exactly giving much away. The film even includes a rather drawn-out third act, revolving around a rather contrived cause for conflict and misinformation to briefly split into the two apart. Of course, they eventually come together again for the finale. It’s a bit annoying to see the pacing grind to a halt when you know the film is readying itself for the climax.
Thankfully, all of this isn’t that big of a problem. As with most romance stories, the value comes in the journey, not the end. This is where Soda Pop truly excels, courtesy of its characters and execution.
The lead characters are both very likeable and with strong chemistry. Cherry is a quiet young man that loves to write haikus but is extremely shy to read them to anyone besides his close friends. Smile on the other hand loves to express herself over her live streams but fears showing anyone her true face. The metaphors for each character’s growth are blatant but they contrast with each other nicely, making their partnership feel all the more satisfying
Most importantly though, they’re just cute. It’s cute watching the bright and bubbly Smile bring the awkward and easily flustered Cherry out of his shell, showing him how to talk to a vast array of people even when it’s scary. It’s cute watching the down-to-earth Cherry show Smile that he likes her even with her buck teeth through his poetry. He helps her learn how to be happy with who she is and not hide behind a mask. The interactions feel lively and warm, creating a feel-good atmosphere throughout the movie.
This however would not be possible without the film’s greatest strength; the animation and the vibrant pastel art style. The world of Soda Pop really does pop. Bright colours occupy the backgrounds from the shops and buildings to the fashion of the characters. It’s a casual, youthful aesthetic that creates an inviting and comfy feeling when watching the movie.
The art and cinematography even further add to the personalities of the two main characters. The visuals are used to show how the two live and express themselves through the use of social media. Cherry’s room is small and uses more dull colours, giving it a claustrophobic, mundane feel to highlight his closed-off nature. He barely uses social media, while only his parents and close friends get to read his poems. Cherry on the other hand has a huge colourful house filled with fashionable furniture, showing her more extroverted character.
There is a fantastic split-screen scene showing characters using their phones throughout the day. Smile uses her a lot more, but Cherry’s usage seems more intimate, focusing mainly on the people directly in his life. As you’ve probably guessed, communication is the central theme of the movie. Our two teenage leads ultimately use different methods of communication to overcome their insecurities and connect with each other.
The final key part of this picture is its soundtrack; the characters are trying to find a record after all. The film is filled with light charming tracks that brilliantly convey the emotions of the scene. The highlight however is the signature vocal track ‘Yamazakura,’ a simple slow guitar song that acts as the heart of the movie. The soft melodies that play throughout serve as a reminder of how both characters slowly connect with one another as they work together towards their goal. The song that plays towards the end , as Smile and Cherry confess their feelings, allows you to share in their warmth. During this finale, with a sweet song played over vibrant visuals about a couple of cute characters, it’s hard not to smile as you watch.
Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is the kind of film made for a slow day, where you can cuddle up on the couch and forget their worries if only for a short time. It is hardly a realistic take on young love, it’s a cute and fluffy slice of life to put you in a good mood. If you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli films like Kiki’s Delivery Service or Whisper of The Heart, it has a similar feel. Soda Pop is a warm-hearted love story with two adorable main leads and coated in a vibrant colour palette.
Words by Alex Daud Briggs
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