Review for Lu Over the Wall - Collector's Edition
You know a film’s promotion has a problem when the key art instantly puts you in mind of a completely different film. See the poster for Lu Over the Wall, and I bet you’ll think of Ponyo! That’s despite Lu Over the Wall being All the Anime’s latest expression of love for all things Masaaki Yuasa, after having recently released Mind Game and The Night is Short, Walk on Girl. He’s as non-Ghibli a director as you’re likely to get, offering mind-bending storylines with eccentric visuals. Having said all that, Lu Over the Wall, a tale of a boy and his mermaid is about as mainstream and family friendly a tale as you’re likely to get from Masaaki Yuasa. And it’s animated completely in Flash.
Kai is a city boy with a passion for making music, especially collaboratively online. The only problem is that following the break-up of his parents’ marriage, he’s moved with his father back to the small fishing town where his grandfather lives. But when a girl named Yuho makes the connection between Kai and the online persona he used to make music, she asks him to join her band, along with her friend Kunio. He’s not interested until they tell him that they practice on Merman Island, a part of Hinashi Town where people don’t go. There’s a whole lot of superstition about mermaids on the island, none of it good, with Kai’s grandfather telling him how they are drawn to music, and how they eat people.
Sure enough, once Kai, Yuho, and Kunio start jamming on the isolated island, a genuine mermaid shows up, dancing and wanting to join in. Far from being an evil, man-eating killer, Lu’s a cute young girl who wants to make friends, and who loves to dance and sing. And when she dances and sings, everyone joins in, whether they want to or not. They try, and fail to keep Lu a secret, but for some people in the town, Lu might just be the tourist attraction that saves the island economy. That might be worse than being persecuted as a superstition!
Lu Over the Wall gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer. The image is clear and sharp, and there are no problems with aliasing or compression. There were a couple of moments of juddery motion, but I suspect that’s down to the source material. Flash animation does suit Masaaki Yuasa’s typically flat style, and the character designs and worldview are certainly familiar, but the animation does get inventive and can grab the attention.
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English, French, and Japanese with subtitles and signs in English and French, all depending on which menu you choose at the start. The audio options are locked during playback. The subtitles are presented in All the Anime’s usual white font with overly thin black borders. Not all of the on screen text is translated though (notably Yuho’s ‘final’ tweet). As you might expect from a film about music, the tunes are quite catchy, and with regards to the story, the school band is nice and amateurish as opposed to the instant perfection other anime school combos can display. The film’s surround audio is quite well done, and the action sequences are put together well.
The disc boots to animated menus.
The large extra on the disc is the Interview with Masaaki Yuasa, which runs to 28:15. There is the odd typo in the subtitles here.
You also get the Japanese, GB, and French trailers for the film.
I haven’t seen the physical extras that come with this Collector’s Edition release to comment.
Lu Over the Wall is entertaining most certainly, and with Masaaki Yuasa’s somewhat askew perspective on storytelling, there is a freshness and originality to the style that catches the attention, even if the story is anything but fresh. Lu Over the Wall is a rather derivative and predictable tale, very much targeted at younger audiences, and reminiscent of other shows and movies. For me, it felt like a tame remake of Splash, made in the wacky style of Tsuritama. The downside is that both the anime series and the Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah rom-com are better.
The trouble with it being a family oriented story is that it’s a little overlong for younger audiences, with a couple of plot threads (particularly a town commerce project) that feel like padding for what is a simple story. Boy meets mermaid, boy and mermaid fall in ‘like’ over the bonding power of music, boy loses mermaid, boy has to come to terms with his own feelings and defeat adversity to get mermaid back again. Although in this case a happily ever after remains elusive, the journey that the boy goes on, from depressed outsider lamenting his mother’s departure and having to live in a dead end town, to well-adjusted teenager is the emotional arc of value in the story.
The characters are engaging though, with Kai’s growth in the film interesting. Yuho’s a peppy and confident girl on the outside with a vulnerable and easily discouraged side. Kunio’s pure sidekick material, the goofy kid who’s trying to keep his musical ambitions secret from his priest father, and Lu is simply adorable, the cute mermaid whose love of life is infectious, as is her love of music. When she sings, much crazylegs dancing ensues, and music has the effect of turning her tailfin into legs.
I had a good time watching Lu Over the Wall, but it is a little overcomplicated and bloated for its own good, a little too much narrative for the story that it wants to tell. Normally that would have the effect of colouring in a world, giving a story dimension, but in this case, it really just serves as a distraction.