Fourteen years after his cult classic movie, Mind Game visionary director Masaaki Yuasa returns to theaters with a family-friendly film, Lu Over The Wall. Yuasa is known for trippy adult anime that pushes the envelope. How well will his directorial style translate into a kids film? I went to see the movie to find out.
It’s easy to draw parallels between Lu Over The Wall and Ponyo. I liked and disliked the same things about these two films. While the art direction is vibrant, the story is too tepid. There aren’t any laugh-out-loud jokes or life-threatening obstacles. Even when the entire town is being flooded, I didn’t feel concerned about the characters’ safety. The film would have benefited greatly from a clear goal and a threatening antagonist.
Lu isn’t your typical mermaid. As Yuasa explained in an interview, Lu was originally going to be a vampire before vampires became overdone. This is why Lu and the other Merfolk have an aversion to sunlight as well as why getting bitten by a mermaid will turn you into one. Lu also has a cubist water-bending ability which is always a joy to watch. Lu’s giant shark-faced father is also wonderful and deserved more screen time.
Yuasa’s directing is also strong. He is a director who doesn’t repeat himself or cater to industry trends. In this film, the art direction is more grounded and “realistic” for characters living on land. Whereas, the art underwater is fluid, exaggerated, and colorful. It’s a sophisticated juxtaposition between realism and Yuasa’s special blend of psychedelic surrealism.
Lu Over The Wall is an enjoyable watch due in large part to the appeal of its title character. Lu is lovable and her unique mermaid powers create really colorful animated sequences. However, the plot and the supporting cast are too shallow to make this a “must see” in theaters. I would advise audiences and particularly animation students to pick up a copy when it comes out on blu-ray. I also look forward to seeing fan-art for this film.