Lu Over the Wall
by Rachel Willis
To give away too much of the plot of Lu Over the Wall would be to steal the joy of experiencing this unique, quirky film. Director Masaaki Yuasa has crafted a sweet fantasy that explores the moving friendship between a boy and a mermaid.
The first half of the film offers an unpredictable journey that follows Kai as he gets to know the buoyant Lu. Along for the ride are Kai’s friends, Yuho and Kunio.
Before Lu, Kai is sullen and morose, having recently moved from Tokyo to a small fishing village with his dad following his parents’ divorce. Yuho and Kunio try their best to engage Kai, even talking him into joining their band. But it isn’t until Lu appears, drawn by Kai’s music, that he begins to open up to the world around him.
Though the first half of the film is unusual, and, at times, downright weird, the second half falls into a more predictable pattern. However, the shift into a more traditional story doesn’t detract from the film. And though the second section is more certain, the quirks and oddities of the story are maintained through the animation. Lu and Kai, along with Yuho and Kunio, face challenges as old prejudices and new curiosities are aroused by the arrival of Lu.
At times, the animation is reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki’s work, but it also occasionally has the slapstick style of Tex Avery’s old Bugs Bunny cartoons. The blending of styles, along with the film’s own specific elements, merge together to serve the unconventional story well. From the monstrous creatures to the everyday people to the village’s shops and streets, the visuals are the most memorable part of the film.
Music also plays an important role, but the soundtrack is a little stale when paired with the rich animation. Too often, the score and soundtrack fade forgettably into the background when the movie would be better served by sound that enhanced the animation onscreen.
Though often strange and unusual, Lu Over the Wall is a touching tale.