Anime Review: Lu Over the Wall

By Drew Hurley 06.08.2018

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Lu Over the Wall (UK Rating: PG)

Kai Ashimoto is struggling to accept his new life. After his parents divorced, he was forced to move back to his father's hometown and, ever since, he's become withdrawn, spending most of his time creating body percussion videos online. That is until some of his friends see his videos and drag him into joining their band. The band practices on "Merfolk Isle" and, during one of their jam sessions, they get a watery visitor, the titular Lu. Having a Merfolk join the band isn't easy, though, especially when the rest of the world finds out. Anime Limited originally brought Lu Over the Wall to the UK via the big screen, giving it cinema screenings across the country in December last year. Now fans have had a chance to bring it home, since 30th July.

Their band name of Siren (Seiren) becomes rather fitting considering their new member. Lu is a mermaid of Japanese mythology, a Yokai known as a Ningyo. Many in the town believe in the Merfolk, and all that do seem to hate them. Local beliefs are that the Merfolk ate people, and some of the townsfolk have lost loved ones, from the mad old woman who keeps watch over the sea with a harpoon, waiting for an opportunity to kill any Merfolk, to Kai's grandfather who lost his mother to the Merfolk.

Ningyo aren't quite the characters the West has come to recognise from the Hans Christian Andersen story, or from the more widely known Disney version, although there certainly are similarities. The Siren's song is here, but instead of drawing sailors to their doom, Lu's music causes a crazy infectious dancing. That dancing isn't limited to the characters in the film, either; the audience will find it damn-near impossible to get these beats out of their heads.


 
The dancing isn't Lu's only power, as it seems when she bites another person they transform into a Ningyo themselves! This is one of a few elements, like the light of the sun hurting or killing them, that make the Merfolk closer to the Western lore of the vampire. The turning of others into Merfolk is introduced during a truly lovely moment when Lu comes face-to-face with a bunch of stray dogs that are going to drown. As nice as this moment is, though, it's a heavy Chekhov's gun and one that kind of ruins the conclusion to one of the many story threads.

These numerous story threads are the biggest issue with the film. The story is an absolute jumbled mess, jumping from beat to beat; first the band forming, then something about a Merfolk theme park, then Merfolk joining the town, then the band fighting against a bad guy, and it's all just crazy. The pacing is all of the shop and although there are some absolutely wonderful moments, they can't redeem all the flaws. What it all boils down to is that this feels like it would have worked so much more as a season of anime than as a movie.

Being directed by Masaaki Yuasa, Lu Over the Wall has the same signature style that has been seen in his other works. There's a strange fluidity, a beautifully old-school cartoony style that is utterly charming. At times, that is. The film production is a combination of hand-drawn cells and computer-animation that gives some gorgeous moments, especially during some of the big dance sequences. However, outside of the big numbers, the film is stuffed with moments that look particularly low quality. It feels a rushed production, abandoning the hand-drawn cels entirely, and so looking like Flash videos from a decade ago.

This release comes with an English dub and the cast features some familiar voices for the fans of Your Name, and anyone who isn't a fan of Your Name falls into one of two categories; either they haven't seen it, or they are just plain wrong. Kai is played by Michael Sinterniklaas and Yuho by Stephanie Shah, with the pair also having a hand in directing the dubbed cut of the movie. There's also a French dub here and, as a bonus, there's a 30-minute interview with Masaaki Yuasa bundled up here, too.

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

While Lu Over the Wall is definitely one worth experiencing because it is so different to everything else out there, there are just too many issues to elevate this to something really special. The story is a train-wreck, with moments of greatness that would work much better with the help of a very heavy-handed editor who could cut the running time down to about half. Even the huge selling point of the unique art is regularly messy. All in all, a beautiful, psychedelic mess that doesn't live up to its pedigree.

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