Image Source: 映画『夜明け告げるルーのうた』 on Twitter

Take a young magical mermaid and put her at the heart of an 80s-style kid’s adventure and you’ll have a good idea what to expect from new anime film Lu Over the Wall.

Lu Over the Wall is the story of young high schooler Kai. After his Mom and Dad divorce, he moves to his dad’s hometown, a fishing village in the country. Living with his father and grandfather, he has to hide his true passion: composing music on his laptop.

Image Source: 映画『夜明け告げるルーのうた』 on Twitter

One day, his classmates Kunio and Yuho discover his secret and force him to join their band. However, due to superstitions about music attracting killer mermaids, the only place they can practice is at an abandoned amusement park on a small island in a neighboring harbor. Of course, it’s not long before the trio discover that the superstition is anything but as they befriend Lu—a magical mermaid who, rather than eating people, just wants to sing and dance.

When it comes down to the basic framework of the plot, Lu Over the Wall is a story you have likely seen before. Two young people from different worlds become fast friends in secret, having fun together and proving all the old prejudices wrong. But of course, once the adults find out, they soon react with fear as misunderstanding builds on misunderstanding, leading to a figurative war between the sides with our heroes trapped in the middle.

Image Source: 映画『夜明け告げるルーのうた』 on Twitter

Thus, the most obvious theme in the film is one of racism—the fear that causes it and how misunderstanding often leads to malice.

The inherent separation between the two sides, the normal and the magical, is even a part of the setting of the story: There is quite literally a giant wall separating the two harbors—the one where the mermaids live and the one where the humans do. The only ones who regularly cross through the wall are Kai, Lu, Yuho, and Kunio while the adults do not. In this way, it is visually shown that while the old tend to stick to their preconceptions (and misconceptions), it is the young that have the chance to overcome all prejudices and open a new and better future for all involved.

Image Source: 映画『夜明け告げるルーのうた』 on Twitter

But while Kai and his friends are dealing with the main plot, there are other subplots interweaving with it. Much of Kai’s problem stem from the fact that he comes from a broken home. In his mind, his mother abandoned him and his father basically kidnaped him, taking him to the ass end of nowhere where he can’t even pursue his love of music. When he befriends Lu, he finds a kindred spirit. But as she befriends more and more other people, he soon feels as if she is leaving him, much as his mother did.

Image Source: 映画『夜明け告げるルーのうた』 on Twitter

Yuho, on the other hand, is the big fish in the small pond that is this small fishing town. Granddaughter of the town’s biggest employer, she longs to leave and become a pop star in the big city. Kai and Lu are both her friends and a means to make her dream come true. But as the story goes on, she is confronted with the reality of show business—that sometimes you are the star and sometimes you are the backup.

As much as Lu Over the Wall is a story of prejudice, abandonment, or dreams versus reality, it is a story about the power of music. In the plot Lu uses music to connect with others—her joy about singing combining with her magic to literally make nearby people unable to anything but join in dancing.

Image Source: 映画『夜明け告げるルーのうた』 on Twitter

But the coolest thing about the music in the film is that a large portion of it is “in world” music. The opening theme of the film, for example, is a song that Kai is live mixing on his laptop. Thus when he closes the laptop, the music abruptly ends. There are numerous examples of background music in the film that seem like part of a normal background soundtrack, right up until the moment Kai alters it in some way by using his computer. By making the music part of the film’s world in this way, the music throughout seems more real and carries more impact than it would in a traditional score.

Image Source: 映画『夜明け告げるルーのうた』 on Twitter

The other big standout of Lu Over the Wall is the art style and direction. Coming from the mind—and director’s chair—of Masaaki Yuasa (The Tatami Galaxy, The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl) it has surreal visuals that have more in common with classic, comically distorted Loony Tunes animation than anime you tend to find in Japan. No place is this easier to see than in the numerous music and dance scenes.

Image Source: 映画『夜明け告げるルーのうた』 on Twitter

Lu Over the Wall is a fun family film. While there is little in the plot to make it stand apart from numerous other similar films, the animation, music, and themes keep it interesting and enjoyable throughout. So if you’re longing for a magical story that teaches good life lessons to kids and adults alike, Lu Over the Wall is certainly worth a watch.

Lu Over the Wall was released in Japanese theaters on May 19, 2017. There is currently no word on a North American release.

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