Original Story: FlyingDog
Art: Imo Oono
Translation: Timothy Kevin Gifford
Lettering: Bianca Pistillo
What They Say:
He’s a shy haiku writer who wears headphones to keep people at a distance. She’s a streamer who always hides behind a mask. After their worlds suddenly collide, these two strangers find themselves sharing secrets they’ve been desperate to keep under wraps. Even though their methods of self-expression couldn’t be more different, they’ll find they understand each other better than they ever expected…
Sometimes, it feels like my phone is my sole portal to the outside world. I communicate through it, shop through it, entertain myself with it, and even use it for work at times. However, I’m an older millennial; I was already an adult by the time smartphones became ubiquitous, and I can remember what life was like without them. I often find myself wondering what it’s like for younger people, kids who have never known a time before technology allowed you to basically live on the internet via your phone.
Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is about exactly that phenomenon. Sakura, called “Cherry” writes and shares haiku online, and claims that it doesn’t matter where his family moves as long as he has his phone. Yuki, nickname “Smile,” is a popular streamer who has a million fans online, despite her massive insecurities about her looks. When the two of them are literally slammed together and drop their phones, they have to deal with a new relationship that is alien to both of them.
Without her phone, Smile complains that she’s going to die. At first, it seems histrionic, but if you think about it for a while, she’s actually right. With no phone to stream, Yuki won’t die, but “Smile” absolutely will. And what does all of this have to do with a sad old man who wanders the local mall?
I read this twice. At first, I really liked the detailed art but wasn’t that keen on the story; it was a little slow and repetitive for me. When I went back and read it with a keener eye, I was surprised by just how much the theme of “Digital vs. Analog” runs through the entire story. Even background characters, who seem just like comic relief at first, are all doing something that relates to this divide. Furthermore, considering that manga tends to be youth-dominated (well, most entertainment media is), it was oddly refreshing that a lot of the story takes place at a senior center.
As I mentioned, the art is great. Studio Cocolo is credited with assisting with the backgrounds, and there are many detailed backgrounds, even in small panels. The localization is also impressive. Cherry’s haiku were originally in Japanese, but the poems in the English version all still conform to the 5-7-5 syllable rule, even though they’ve been translated into another language; that must have taken painstaking effort. Speaking of the haiku, they were all composed by different poets, who are credited in the back of the book. I’m not a huge poetry fan, but if you are, this is all pretty impressive.
One thing to be aware of is the fact that this title is an adaptation of a film; the end matter includes a brief note by director Kyohei Ishiguro. Ishiguro lets us know that there are some events in the Bubbles manga that weren’t in the film, so even if you seek out the movie, there’s still a point to reading the adaptation.
This is definitely slice-of-life fare, which won’t appeal to everyone but will likely resonate with fans who have the patience for something a little more nuanced and thoughtful than usual. Personally, I’m really interested to see how Cherry and Smile’s quest together continues in volume 2.
Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: Teen
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: June 20th, 2023
MSRP: $13.00 US/$27.00 CAN