Starring: Kanon Tani, Shôta Shimoda, Minako Kotobuki
Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Running Time: 107 mins
Lu Over The Wall is a Japanese film about a middle school student living in a small seaside town who has an unexpected encounter with a mermaid living in the local bay, and his relationship with her begins to change his life, as well as that of the entire town, forever.
I really enjoyed this film. It’s an upbeat, colourful and very imaginative movie full of joy that is sure to put a big smile on your face. With a cute, cartoonish animation style to go with its generally light-hearted atmosphere, this is an absolutely delightful watch from start to finish, and although some of its intended deeper meanings may get lost in the process, you’re guaranteed to have a great time with Lu Over The Wall.
So, let’s start off by reaffirming that point once again: this film is really enjoyable. It may not be a moving piece of animated artwork, nor is it a constantly riveting and exciting action adventure, but it’s comfortable enough in being a light-hearted and imaginative fantasy adventure with a great sense of humour, and that was absolutely enough to have me grinning ear to ear throughout.
If there’s anything that sums up what this film is really like, it’s the animation style. Rather than being a hand-painted extravaganza like a Ghibli movie or a detailed and hardcore-styled anime, Lu Over The Wall is simply a bright and lovely film to look at. With a very soft yet hugely colourful visual style that matches the overall film’s light-hearted vibes, the delightful animation here is enough to have you smiling within seconds.
What’s more is that this film doesn’t shy away from being excessively cute, and goes so far to the point that it doesn’t feel all that cheesy. Lu, the mermaid, is absolutely adorable from the moment she first appears, and that actually helps to make the story a lot more investing, as you care enough about her as an adorable baby-like character that you support her and those around her to succeed in the story.
And although there are some elements of the middle school students’ story that feels a little cheesy, it’s all done with a great sense of fun and humour, meaning that you can sit back and look past some of the sillier elements of the story in exchange for nearly two hours of solid entertainment.
A lot of people have pointed out the similarities in plot between this film and Ponyo, and although that’s undeniable, I’ll tell you why I think Lu Over The Wall brings this story to life even better. It’s a film that’s completely gleeful in everything it does, knowing full well that it’s filled to the brim with some ridiculous fantasy elements, but taking that in its stride to make a properly enjoyable movie that all ages can enjoy and smile at. It’s never too serious about itself, and rarely gets bogged down in its storytelling like Ponyo does, and that’s why I think it’s a perfectly pleasant movie that you can’t miss.
With all that said, there are a few issues that I do have with this film. On the whole, it works brilliantly as a light-hearted and enjoyable adventure, but there are moments when the film tries to say something a little deeper with regards to mob mentality, segregation and exploitation. Some of those themes come through better than others, but in general, they’re not covered strongly enough in the story to make the desired impact, instead getting lost within the sea of colours and smiles that really make this film special.
What’s more is that the film’s final act is a little too drawn out for its own good. As fun as the finale is, it really feels like it goes on for a very long time, even suffering from multiple different endings all being crammed into one climax. It doesn’t have a huge impact on the smile factor, but there are moments when the plot becomes a little tiresome.
Overall, however, I had huge fun with Lu Over The Wall. Colourful, happy, imaginative and fantastically light-hearted, it’s a wonderful animation that will definitely have you smiling from start to finish, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7.