Wild Mermaid Anime defies categorization

Somewhere in the psychoactive realm between “The Little Mermaid,” “Ponyo,” that mermaid subplot of “Beach Blanket Bingo” and the moment you accidentally ate a moldy tangerine and saw unseen colors for hours, there is a movie called “Lu on the Wall”. It’s gorgeous, it’s distinctive, it’s original, it’s definitely about mermaids, and it might just make you question your sanity.

“Lu Over the Wall” is a new animated feature film from Masaaki Yuasa, who is perhaps best known in America as the director of the ultra-violent and ultra-heartbreaking television series “Devilman: Crybaby”. Although the two projects have a very different tone, they share an improvised quality that is both intoxicating and overwhelming. It would appear that the worlds of Yuasa are full of danger and beauty, crushed together in improbable patterns.

On the surface, “Lu Over the Wall” sounds like another story from “The Little Mermaid”. Kai (voiced by Michael Sinterniklaas in the American dub) is an aspiring college boy and musician, a pessimistic loner who has no desire to communicate with his classmates. Much to her dismay, two of her classmates – effervescent YÅ«ho (Stephanie Sheh) and enthusiastic but embarrassed Kunio (Brandon Engman) – discover Kai’s musical talent and invite him to join their band, Siren, who secretly rehearses at Merfolk Island.

It’s not just a name: Kai and her band mates soon discover that the Merfolk are real and that a mermaid girl named Lu (Christine Marie Cabanos) is totally in love with their music. She’s a great singer to boot. It’s a huge revelation made all the more dangerous by the city’s troubling history with Merfolk, so when Siren enlists Lu in their musical act and accidentally reveals her to the whole city and the world, it leads to misunderstandings. catastrophic, kidnappings, flooding and attempted murder of fish.

“Lu Over the Wall” is made up of numerous films, all vying for the same screen time. It’s as chaotic as it sounds. On the one hand, it’s a film about a neglected teenage pop group, and it’s probably the most endearing embodiment of that story. Kai is a presumably moody teenager who comes out of his shell when he makes a new friend, and watching Siren deal with his little jealousies and secrets gives each character moments of joy and misery. It’s a brilliant and sensational story with delicious music to amplify it.

“Lu Over the Wall” is also a movie about mermaids, but not just any sirens: we’re talking about really weird mermaids here. It is a race of vampiric creature that ignites on contact with direct sunlight and can turn anything else into a mermaid just by biting it. When Lu’s father arrives (a giant leviathan wearing a suit and mustache for some reason), he sets out to bite all the dead fish in this seaside community. Soon after, they start to get up and walk away, even after they’ve been eaten, and the movie treats this as a relatively minor plot point, though it’s so odd it makes you want to be. pull out your hair and beg someone, anyone, to make a big deal out of it.

It is also a film about persistent generational animosity, xenophobia and racism. It turns out that this city was cursed many years ago, when the locals sacrificed one of the mermaids to the sun. Merfolk’s few sightings since have been shrouded in mystery and suspicion, so even Kai’s grandfather believes they are responsible for his own mother’s gruesome death. History repeats itself and lessons are learned, but if you thought it was a lively and cute fairy tale about beach bands and merry water sprites, the third act of “Lu Over the Wall ”could prove to be quite upsetting.

It’s hard to fault Yuasa’s film for its ingenuity; it’s a very vivid and incredibly distinctive animated fantasy, touching on familiar myths, only to suddenly push them in new and unexpected directions. It’s crisp and colorful, with exuberant music and (at the very least) a respectable American dub. The animation style goes from soft and traditional to wild and elastic. You never know what’s going to happen next.

But you never really know if you’re going to like it. Just when you’ve got your bearings and come to accepting “Lu Over the Wall” for whatever it seems to be right now, it turns into something different. Whether these mood swings are welcome or frustrating will vary from audience member to audience member, and perhaps from moment to moment.

Either way, there is no other mermaid movie like “Lu Over the Wall”, for better or for worse. Let’s go with “better”.

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