The Lu-ttle Mermaid.
Lu Over the Wall is easily one of the most bizarre and trippy movies I have watched in a long time. This anime film from the makers of Devilman Crybaby follows an over-the-top storyline surrounding the young mermaid Lu and her bond with a boy named Kai. While that initial premise may sound a lot like a certain Disney animated classic, the similarities completely end there.
Lu Over the Wall tries to accomplish so much in just under two hours that it lacks any sort of focus whatsoever. What at first looks like a simple tale of the friendship between a human and a mermaid quickly diverges into so many subplots that it’s nearly impossible to keep up. For example, the very beginning of the movie plays up Kai contributing his DJ skills to a band that two of his classmates have put together. While it’s basically the only storyline to get adequate enough time dedicated to it, I still felt like it could have been a completely different movie on its own.
This is because the band is just one of many beats crammed into the film. Others include Kai’s grandfather who hates mermaids because of a past experience, a young woman who failed to make it in the big city, Lu’s merman father teaching fishers how to fish, an abandoned amusement park, and still several more. Lu Over the Wall tries to pour time into each of these and, by the end, left me wondering what the movie was really supposed to be about. In fact, a major emotional moment towards the end between two characters tied back to a very insignificant scene early on that I was barely able to remember, making it hard to care.
This results in the movie dragging on far longer than necessary. A perfect ending point happens around the middle of the movie, which shocked me when it kept going for another 45 minutes. The entire final act feels like it would have been better off as a sequel. The villain is just as shoehorned in, entering and leaving in an instant.
That isn’t to say that there isn’t any enjoyment to be found in Lu Over the Wall. Actually, the film is at its best when it embraces its sheer weirdness. The multiple musical sequences are each strong due to the hilarity of them all. Lu has magical powers that allow her to make humans dance whenever she sings. This creates some entertaining sequences in which I couldn’t help but laugh. Lu’s magic is strange but hilarious, allowing her to float people in green jello-like water, to turn innocent puppies into merdogs, and so on.
My favorite part of the movie was the only time that, despite being about mermaids, we are taken under the sea. This trippy sequence is filled with vibrant colors and crazy transitions at a breakneck speed that had me enthralled in its psychedelic nature. It’s unfortunate that it only lasted a couple of minutes with the rest of the movie struggling to find a balance between the drama and comedy. This dissonance is prevalent throughout, and it isn’t just relegated to the story.
The animation is just as bizarre as the film’s organization. The setting of Hinashi Bay is beautifully realized with detailed environments and picturesque landscapes that are lost behind the unappealing character designs. The main characters look so simple and out of place next to the gorgeous fishing town. The animation lacks a cohesive style, causing the characters to appear bland and uninteresting.
It’s a shame because I found myself craving more of the rich lore that is briefly explored in the film. The fishing village of Hinashi has a complicated history with the mermaids in its bay. The mermaids featured in Lu Over the Wall aren’t the ones I’m used to, able to transform humans by biting them and burning when exposed to sunlight. The world-building and legends are fascinating so it’s unfortunate that there weren’t more of both.
Lu Over the Wall opens in select U.S. theaters May 11th.