Director: Yasuo Baba
Starring: Ryoko Hirosue, Hiroshi Abe, Hiroko Yakushimaru, Kazue Fukiishi, Yuko Ito
With the suicide of her mother and under the weight of bone crushing debt, Mayumi (Ryoko Hirosue) views the appearance of one of her mother’s former acquaintances, Shimokawaji (Hiroshi Abe) with more than a little trepidation. As it turns out, Shimokawaji is a prominent member of the Ministry of Finance and he has a surprising secret; her mother Mariko (Hiroko Yakushimaru) is not only alive, but in the past, courtesy of a time machine she herself invented to prevent the collapse of the Japanese economy! So Mayumi sets out for the year 1990 to search for her mother and just maybe save the future of Japan!
One of the most striking things about this science fiction comedy is how lightly everything is taken for the film. While certain typical tropes concerning time travel, such as paradoxes and duality, are considered, the film thankfully chooses not to dwell on cause and effect and instead focus on fun storytelling with some very likable actors. Director Yasuo Baba directs this breezy comedy with entertainment at the forefront and if you can accept that, this film just may be for you.
Abe and Hirosue split time fairly evenly for the duration of the picture, and the chemistry they have is pretty believable and great. Abe in particular shows off some great comedic timing in his younger self that is very much the antithesis of his much more dark and serious older self. Hirosue is in full on adorable mode and fans of her work will find a lot to like in this performance. She’s cute, funny, and definitely seems to be having a good time. The rest of the cast is good and turn in a handful of memorable moments, including Hiroko Yakushimaru and Masato Ibu, but these two leads carry the film admirably.
Comedy is the name of the game here and the vast majority of jokes hit accurately. The expected cultural misunderstandings and foreknowledge comedy are better than average and the chops of the actors really sell it well. Hirosue in particular really puts herself out there and isn’t afraid to look foolish for the movie. While there is a real subtext present in the film, the country’s debt and lack of a realistic solution, it is never preachy and the movie stays light and well-paced.
The film does a decent job of mimicking 1990s Japan. Clothing, hairstyles, technology, and even popular media are used to brig viewers back to this decadent and more carefree period in modern Japan. Something I enjoyed immensely was the inclusion of many songs from the period being used. Sizzling beats from the 90s certainly had me laughing a bit and seeing Japanese students dancing to MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” was classic. The score fares worse however, I can’t even recall any music from the film except for the licensed music. There are a handful of visual effects used in the film, but they are competently rendered and while hardly amazing, they get the job done.
Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust is a fun little low stakes scifi comedy that has a good cast and good sense of humor. While I would hesitate to call it essential viewing, it is a lot of fun and populated with more interesting characters than expected.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Summer Time Machine Blues or Girl Who Leapt Through Time