Lu Over the Wall is a light-hearted youth film that was made, according to his creator, with the purpose of ‘re-inventing anime again’. It was an attempt by Masaaki Yuasa (the man who created Devilman Crybaby) to step out of his usual comfort zone and invest his creativity in something more family friendly, and even though he included some great avant-garde experiments in the film, it still ended up being somewhat generic.
Kai is a young middle schooler who lives in a fishing village called Hinashi Town with his father and grandfather. He is a rather lonely boy with a very pessimistic view about his life and the only thing he enjoys doing is writing songs and music. One day, he meets and befriends Lu, a fun-loving mermaid whose singing seems to draw everyone’s attention. But the townspeople have always thought that mermaids bring disaster…
Plot & Story
The story might be a bit more mature than your average children adventure movie but unfortunately it’s not something new or mind-blowing. A young boy finds a mermaid that can sing well and controls water, she meets people who hate mermaids, and they keep making music together while hiding her identity, which brings up trouble. You can understand the plot of the movie in the first twenty minutes but that is not necessarily a problem. What this movie doesn’t get right is the storytelling and pacing of the plot. The beginning is quite exciting and immersive but as it goes on you get the feeling that there is no more depth to it and you are just seeing characters singing and dancing just for the sake of it. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching family films and all but I’d rather watch something that is consistently interesting throughout its entirety and doesn’t seem to have just great visuals and character design.
Art & Music
The unconventional style of Yuasa’s art is vibrant, lively, and matches perfectly with the upbeat feel of the movie. The direction is as spectacular as expected and you can definitely grasp the fact that this production was better funded than usual. The animation flows perfectly with the music presented during the song sequences and overall you can see that the animation was the biggest focus of the film. The use of color, the water animations, (the fluidity of the water is truly something to behold), the mermaids, and the character details (especially Lu who likes to dance and splash around the screen), the song choreographies and dancing, everything is just pleasantly directed and well-designed that manages to put you in a great mood. To make my point more clear, this movie definitely wins in the aesthetic department.
The soundtrack of this movie is incredible and the songs are so well-executed. It manages to give it so much personality, and even though you might hate the sound of Lu’s voice, you can’t help but easily identify it after hearing it once.
Themes & Trivia
Why is the protagonist a mermaid? According to one of Masaaki Yuasa’s interviews on his creative process for Lu Over the Wall, he mentions that: ‘I wanted to have the main character being cute, but also a bit scary. A mermaid can still have this core cuteness while also accessing a lot of more scary sides. Mermaids are in between cuteness and scariness. I liked the idea of taking another creature that can carry both of these qualities so that’s why I migrated to doing a mermaid story.’
You can read the rest of the interview here.
As someone who has seen a fair amount of animation films, I find Lu Over the Wall an attempt by Masaaki Yuasa to do something a bit more westernized and more specifically something very similar to French animation. France is the country that has created the most original animation movies for over a decade now and getting inspired by its animation industry is certainly not a ‘new idea’, especially when Ghibli has even worked together with French animation studios to produce movies like The Red Turtle (even though it is not considered an anime title). What I am trying to say, and it might sound a bit rough, is that even though he tried to make something new and innovative, it ended up being a mediocre film. Plus, people will compare it so much to Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, and it’s pretty much a given which one will be favored more…
You shouldn’t be practicing near the water
- The animation and directing style are superb
- The colors, the characters, and the atmosphere is lovely
- The way that guy used chopsticks to clean the fish bones has fascinated me to a dangerous level.
- Very catchy soundtrack
- The plot was a bit generic
- The whole spirited away idea was a bit weird
- Yuho’s character was so unlikeable. That spoiled little brat.
So would I recommend this film or not? Well, it is certainly worth watching for its aesthetic value and amazing directing and I think it could act as a good introduction to the unconventional art style of Masaaki Yuasa. But yes, if you are looking for something to entertain your kids with or just a nice heart-warming family film to watch on a nice Sunday afternoon then sure, this is a great choice.
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