There’s “animation for grown-ups” and then there’s Masaaki Yuasa. The idiosyncratic director of Mind Game and Ping Pong has made a status for himself with a resumé of visually imaginative, largely aged-audiences-handiest movies and TV sequence. Potentially the most up-to-date, a reboot of the perennially rebootable Devilman franchise, finishes off its pilot episode with a neon-colored pansexual orgy that ends in a bloodbath. The next logical step used to be obviously an adolescent’s film.
Lu Over the Wall, produced by his hold Science Saru studio, is every bit as imaginative as the the leisure of his physique of work, but whereas old Yuasa works would veer from ominous to immoral to candy to recount to metaphysical, Lu is completely happy to prevent at candy. And so am I, slightly frankly: Yuasa will also be without a doubt perfect at candy, something that’s recurrently overshadowed by his extra mile-a-minute trends. A roughly Shape of Water-for-juniors that also occurs to be a dance film, Yuasa’s honest-measurement foray into G-rated territory is as unexpected as it is disarming. (“Hope no one gets eviscerated in this one!” reads one observation on an Instagram submit by U.S. distributor GKIDS.) (No person does.)
Kai is a miserable, affectless teen hopelessly caught in his minute beachside town. His handiest solace is writing and uploading songs to the online, but when two his classmates opinion his secret skills, they enlist him of their band, SEIREN. While practicing on the abandoned Merfolk Island (as one does) their jams entice an unexpected fourth band member: Lu, a music-loving mermaid with a curiously charming exclaim. She turns into their secret weapon, collectively with an irresistible danceability to their music. But Kai and his bandmates must preserve her a secret, for the reason that town has been adversarial to merfolk for generations.
Lu used to be produced snappily for an interesting honest, and it exhibits, for greater and rarely for worse. Yuasa’s deliberately flat, without end malleable vogue makes the musical sequences — particularly the beachside dance scene the set up Lu makes her public debut — feel without concern happy and light on their toes. Completely different sequences feel fancy they could well beget frail overtime, particularly an explore-popping climactic rescue scene, the scale of which feels fancy it gets away from Yuasa reasonably. (The animation used to be finished with a combination of hand-drawn cels and Flash, giving the film a roughly abstract, graphical feel at cases.) When the film is at human-merfolk explore level, it’s more uncomplicated to take hold of with. The extra spectacular scenes — in overall Yuasa’s opportunity to shine — could well moreover beget you ever checking your sight.
But in the midst of the film, Yuasa’s probe for knowing colors and slapsticky antics lead the system. One particularly honest contact entails Lu’s vampire-fancy energy to remodel any creature real into a fishtailed mer-part; when a poundful of canines is in threat of drowning, Lu’s solution is ridiculous and adorable. There are so many colossal visual solutions from one scene — the merfolk’s skill to manipulate and transfer water in disclose that they set up no longer seem like sure to the ocean makes for some colossal, handiest-in-animation physics. Lu’s father is an unlimited shark-fancy creature that wears a suit and smokes a pipe for no discernible motive.
Less ingenious is the shadowy premise — Lu, with her spritely inhuman enchantment and absence of precise teen-woman moodiness and depth (particularly in comparison with Kai’s bandmate Yuho) inevitably coaxes Kai out of his shell and helps him truly embrace life. The film is much less recount about its interspecies romance than Guillermo Del Toro used to be, but it absolutely aloof raises the ask of what roughly mythically outsized conditions can nudge a particular person real into a relationship with a non-human accomplice. Yuasa isn’t basically mad about these items; he’s extra attracted to getting your toes tapping and eyes popping, getting Lu’s mer-ska theme song caught for your head for all time. And on all these counts, he succeeds admirably.