Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Runtime: 112 min., color
Synopsis of Lu Over the Wall
In Lu Over the Wall, a quiet and solitary boy named Kai attempts to find his place in the slowly crumbling fishing town of Hinashi. Though Kai spends most of his time moping around with zero inspiration to study or work toward a comfortable career, he does find himself drawn to music and its creation. After two of his classmates discover his online alter ego “Merman,” a beat creating prince of the sea, they invite him to join their band. At first, Kai is reluctant to join, but upon hearing that they practice at the abandoned theme park on Merfolk Island, he agrees to attend a practice.
While practicing at the abandoned theme park, the group’s music attracts the small mysterious creature, Lu. Her singing causes them to dance uncontrollably as they practice. Kai and Lu strike a quick friendship that must be kept secret. The town’s history with mermaids has left their town cursed and the people fearful of the death mermaids bring to those they encounter. The story tackles the misunderstanding of the other and aims to break down the walls between the townsfolk and the mermaids. It also digs into complex, familial relationships and the tides between parent and child to explore at what point the child is ready to make their own life.
A Q&A With Director Masaaki Yuasa
This screening of Lu Over the Wall was the world premier of the film as an English dub. As part of the Kids program at Sundance Film Festival, a large group of children were in attendance and got the opportunity to experience this foreign film in a language that was accessible to them. We were lucky to have the director and many of the people behind the film in attendance for a Q&A session. Not only that, the children were able to have their questions answered by the director himself.
One question was about his inspiration behind the film. Masaaki Yuasa revealed that the story of the mermaid and boy was a classic Japanese folk tale. This was his iteration of the story and he really aimed to push the theme of expression. The main character struggled with expressing himself or admitting what he wanted. The lesson he learned was to be honest with himself and his love for music. Yuasa also explained that he was inspired by classic animation and the stylings of Hayao Miyazaki in Panda! Go, Panda!
Yuasa also went into the design for Lu. The original concept began as a vampire tale but evolved into a mermaid instead. The final version of the mermaid in this story definitely retains a couple vampiric qualities that harken back to the original idea. Ultimately, the goal was to create a cute mermaid that went against the typically scary image of the siren. The first design for Lu was intended to be the same height of the protagonist, Kai. That original look did not fully achieve the cute aesthetic they were aiming for, and Lu was shrunk down to a child’s height. They also wanted to give Lu rubbery legs that allowed for a lot of expression during the dancing sequences.
Another question was about the timeline of the film. Yuasa explained that the story was written over the course of a year and the animation for the film was completed in a year and a half. The english dub was completed in the span of 3 weeks to be included in the Sundance film festival. The film is currently up for the audience choice award at this year’s festival. An impressive feat considering the amount of work that has to be done to prepare a full length feature film for a foreign audience.