The 2020 Japanese animated film “Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop” is one of those movies that have a weak first half and pick up steam quite unexpectedly, hitting you with a wave of emotions. I have to admit – I actually gave up watching the film after 40 minutes, not because it was bad, but because it was slightly slow. Finished it only the next day.

Directed by Kyohei Ishiguro, the story is about how an introverted boy called Cherry who likes to write poetry (haikus) meets shy girl Smile who is quite popular online. The basic premise in the beginning seems like the boring old “opposites attract”, things move at snail pace, even though there are some cute little moments in the first half. Cherry is old school – he is not very social and unlike youngsters his age who are busy playing games and chasing girls, he loves to write poetry and is constantly tying to improve his vocabulary. He literally has a mini-dictionary stuck along his phone cover.

When I resumed watching it on Netflix the next day, the story took a whole new turn – Cherry & Smile team up to find a record for an old man called Fujiyama, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

“I used to hear it all the time, if I could only hear it one more time, I will remember” Fujiyama says, staring wistfully at an empty record cover that he carries with him all the time.

“Remember what?” Smile asks him. And the old man tears up, crying, saying he doesn’t want to forget, but cannot remember either. It was the first powerful moment in the film, cathartic, starkly reminding us how fickle the human memory can be. The scene also was a strong metaphor for the power of music and how they can hold key to our past. When we hear a song we haven’t heard in years, it might trigger a memory associated with it, an incident we thought was buried and lost in some part of a brain forever.

From the second-half, the film is poignant and gripping. While the animation isn’t as beautiful or sharp as some of the other popular films in the genre, like the 2016 movie “Your Name”, it’s decent enough, with a loud bright color scheme. The story also has the typical exaggerated Japanese animation style of emoting, so if a character feels embarrassed, their whole body would turn red. A lot of viewers love Japanese anime due to these overdone effects that add a lot of hilarity. Same goes for this film too.

The climax was quite typical and dramatic, but there is a heartwarming message at the end of this young romantic story. “Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop” offers a calming, slow and sweet romantic story set in the digital era, but without any complications that come with the age of social media. It’s a 6.5/10 from me.