Cherry is a boy who has trouble communicating but has found a growing voice through the art of haiku. Smile is a popular streamer who wears a mask to hide her large front teeth. One day at the mall they have a chance meeting, or rather collision, that results in a budding friendship. As their bond grows, Cherry is able to talk more and more with Smile, and he finds that when he’s around her, “words bubble up like soda pop.”
Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop Vol. 1 is the beginning of a manga series based on the 2020 anime film of the same name. The manga begins with Cherry on his way to his part-time job at day service at a shopping mall (in Japan, a day service is similar to a senior center—a place that has activities for elderly people). Cherry reflects on his inability to communicate with people. He wears a pair of headphones as a semblance of peace and to dissuade people from initiating conversations with him. However, he has found an outlet in the Japanese poem form of haiku, and he shares his creations on the social media site Curiosity. So deep is Cherry’s affinity for haiku that he carries a dictionary of seasonal words meant to help inspire poets.
Throughout the course of Cherry’s day at the mall, the reader is introduced to an eclectic cast of characters including Cherry’s coworkers at the day service, some of the elderly people who frequent the day service, Cherry’s friends Japan and Beaver, as well as Smile. Cherry and Smile’s friendship grows from there.
The art and writing combine to set the scene for a touching story between two people getting to know each other as well as themselves. One neat touch is that even Cherry’s internal thoughts are in haiku – using the 5-7-5 syllable format. The translation notes at the end are helping to bring context to the title, as Cherry sees a bottle of cider that inspired him to think up the phrase “words bubble up like soda pop,” as in Japan, “cider” indicates “carbonated beverage” as opposed to apple cider. The original title of the manga in Japan is, in fact, Words Bubble Up Like Cider.
The first page and the title spread of the volume are in color before transitioning to the traditional black-and-white palette of most manga.The characters are unique and easily distinguished from each other since the artist employs different facial features, hairstyles, and body shapes. When drawn, the backgrounds are detailed and help ground the characters in their environment. When there is a lack of background scenery, patterns, such as small dots, are employed to offset the character. The shading is clean and crisp.
Despite the unique situations in which Cherry and Smile find themselves, the two characters will resonate with teens facing their own challenges and insecurities. The romance is light in the first volume and seems accessible for young teens who may be new to the romance genre.
The manga is currently being translated into English. Due to the short length of the manga series and its appeal of being a media tie-in to the anime of the same name, Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop Vol. 01 is a good option for a teen collection, particularly collections needing more accessible manga for younger teens.
Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop Vol 1
Art by Imo Oono
Yen Press, 2023
Publisher Age Rating: Teen
Related media: Movie to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)