I’m a skeptic by nature. When the blandly attractive heroes and heroines in romcoms talk about “love at first sight” and “true love,” I find it extremely difficult to suspend my disbelief.
…when it comes to Western live-action movies, anyway. Japanese animation is a different matter entirely. Perhaps because the medium is inherently fantastical, all of those insufferably mushy “L-word” clichés become significantly more cute and charming and endearing when given a cel-shaded coat of paint. After all, if giant robots and magical girls can exist, then why can’t soulmates?
It certainly helps that the conflicts of romance anime tend to arise organically from the characters, rather than being imposed upon the plot by contrived situations. The protagonists in my favorite examples of the genre (Whisper of the Heart, A Silent Voice, Tsuredure Children) are kept apart not by meddling parents or farcical misunderstandings, but by their own flaws and anxieties; more often than not, they must learn to love themselves before they can properly love one another.
Kyohei Ishiguro’s Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop may just be the purest expression of this theme that I've ever encountered. It tells the story of two self-conscious teenagers that hide their insecurities behind convenient props (namely, a pair of noise canceling headphones and a surgical mask). As their relationship develops, however, they gradually shed these obstacles between themselves and the world. Ultimately, they teach each other to see the value in their apparent “blemishes.”
Needless to say, the experience of watching them evolve as both individuals and a couple is as light and bubbly and satisfying as… well, sipping on a sugary-sweet can of soda. Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is the perfect feel-good film to watch on Valentine’s Day. I highly recommend checking it out on Netflix; it’s guaranteed to melt even the most stubborn cynic’s heart.