Updated: Sep 18, 2020
*This review is for the Japanese dub of Lu over the Wall*
Masaaki Yuasa is an auteur who has become a softly whispered yet dominant household name among the anime community, with works such as The Tatami Galaxy, Ping Pong: The Animation, and the more recent and critically acclaimed Devilman Crybaby and The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl. His works range from thought-provoking to disturbing to whimsical.
None of Yuasa’s works are similar to one another. Devilman Crybaby, a series full of blood, gore and demons, varies stylistically and tonally from the whimsical, free-spirited tone that encapsulates The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl. The first film you see will be wildly different from the next. "Lu over the Wall" happily makes its own place in his filmography as a fun, lighthearted take on a tale about mermaids and music.
To many, the first thing that comes to mind when the words “mermaids” and “music” are mentioned is Disney’s 1989 film The Little Mermaid. However, Lu over the Wall stands on its own as a unique story. The premise of the film is that a boy named Kai discovers a mermaid named Lu after playing music he’s written. In this world, mermaids are attracted to music and it gives them special abilities, such as Lu’s fins turning into feet when she hears music so she can dance along to it. As the film progresses it is easy to become impressed with the powers that music gives the water dwellers, aptly named “merfolk.”
The plot drives on misunderstandings and the deep resentment that most of the people in town have toward the merfolk. There could have been a compelling story about racism here, but the film nonetheless does a great job of displaying how impactful people’s fear of “the other” and the “unknown” can be. Despite this though, the film does not go deep enough for any of it to really matter.
Yuasa is known for his eclectic style and bringing in a wide array of characters that contribute to his stories. In Lu over the Wall, these characters can be a hit or a miss, with some being compelling and understandable and others having such grating personalities that you just want to throw them out of the film altogether. Granny Octopus, for example, hates the merfolk because her boyfriend was taken by one when she was young. What is great about Lu Over The Wall, is that minor characters like Granny Octopus may not get a lot of screen time, but they get enough that the audience can get a feel for how other residents in town feel about merfolk in contrast to Kai, who has nothing but love for the mermaid he has befriended.
As is the case with any Yuasa film, the animation is excellent at being used as a character itself to help tell the story. Everything is so vibrant and lively. The details such as the glimmer in different characters' eyes to the fish that swims around in Lu’s hair can all undoubtedly catch the attention of anyone who sees it. The switches in animation style, from smooth to almost watercolor-esque also bring a great deal of artistic weight to the film. But the fluid, gorgeous animation is enough to hold anyone on during the 112-minute runtime.
The best part of “Lu over the Wall” though, has got to be the music. The score is a perfect match for the wild zany world that is presented. The toe-tapping songs are a flood of fun. The slower songs beautifully mix together with the film’s more intimate moments. There are several renditions of a few songs in the film, but they are mixed in such creative and well-crafted ways that they are never a chore to listen to.
Lu over the Wall may not be a deep film, but it does not have to be. It is a colorful, wild, funny and heartfelt movie. There are many moments that will have one clutching their chest purely because of how adorable the film is. It is a winner as a film and an excellent addition in Yuasa’s filmography.