By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Releases Feb 5, 2019
The home video release of Lu Over the Wall by Shout! Factory and GKIDS is right around the corner and one of the two bonus features includes an interview with director Masaaki Yuasa and producer Eunyoung Choi. Fans can hear about how he felt when this anime won the top prize at the 2017 Annecy International Film Festival. The audio commentary is even better as it discusses the creative process behind this movie. At first, they thought of introducing a vampire and thankfully changed their minds. They also discussed how integral the music had to be. In between wanting to craft a supernatural tale, the emphasis on Kai (Kanon Tani) had to be important.
His parents divorced and he is not adjusting all too well. He’s also whisked away from life in a big city to a remote fishing village where he lives with his dad. Although he has two friends Kunio (Soma Saito) and Yūho (Minako Kotobuki), they still don’t quite understand him. They try to lift his spirits by inviting him to join their band but he’s not entirely into it. When he spots Lu, a ningyo (mermaid) who happens to like the music he’s composed, integrating her to the show was not all that difficult. She adds a charm to the roster and her quirkiness leads to trouble. This partnership also leads to two worlds suddenly colliding.
The villagers of Hinashi Town are a superstitious lot and they hang dry husks of sea urchin painted white to ward off the ocean spirits. They believe disaster will fall upon the community if they let one in. This tale nicely delves into exploring local folklore with a bit of Shintoism on top. In order to understand why the two realms are eternally at war, the tale has to be understood from both sides of the wall. With a romance also potentially brewing between Kai and Lu, this tale is not one that can be considered akin to Romeo and Juliet or The Little Mermaid.
Many comparisons have already been made to Ponyo and director was not averse to paying tribute to this particular Studio Ghibli work. Lu is quirky enough to be different. Even the anime has a different artistic style that is borderline surreal with pop art and music mixed in. It is at times funk and other times Electric Light Orchestra.
This work is a marvel of kinetic animated expressionism for a very familiar story. It also comes complete with a monstrous half shark half man which reminds me of the NFB’s The Mountain of SGaana. Oceanic tales can be interpreted in many ways. In this work, I feel it’s about rebirth. Kai is feeling empty following his parents split, and Lu shows it possible to overcome this obstacle by making a leap of faith, hence this film’s title.
4 Fishes out of 5