Ventured out to The Landmark at 57 West to catch a screening of Lu Over the Wall. This modern-day reinterpretation of The Little Mermaid is the latest theatrical effort from deranged anime auteur Masaaki Yuasa, and although it’s not nearly as much of a cinematic acid trip as Mind Game, it’s still a hypnotic, hallucinatory kaleidoscope of various animation styles and aesthetics—several sequences owe a greater debt to Max Fleischer than Miyazaki, while others literally melt into an impressionistic swirl of watercolors.
This gorgeous, imaginative imagery is bolstered by equally compelling themes and world-building. The setting is a small coastal town in Japan, where residents are encouraged (almost to the point of indoctrination) to abandon their personal ambitions in order to support the local fishing industry. Our protagonist longs to free himself from the crushing weight of his family’s expectations… and finds his opportunity when he encounters a young mermaid that, in her own words, hopes to defy her species’ fearsome reputation and become “everyone’s friend.” However, the reemergence of these mythological creatures quickly reawakens long-dormant (and misguided) grudges amongst the older members of the community, leading to a conflict that pits tradition against progress, ignorance against enlightenment, and blind hatred against compassion.
The result is Yuasa’s most emotionally fulfilling work to date—a genuine feast for the soul, as well as the eyes.
[Originally written May 12, 2018.]