Lu Over the Wall (Yoake Tsugeru Lu no Uta) is a 2017 anime fantasy film directed by Masaaki Yuasa and produced by Science SARU. It tells the story of Ordinary Middle School Student Kai Ashimoto and his encounter with a mermaid, the titular Lu.
Kai lives in Hinashi Town, a lonely fishing village, with his father and his grandfather, a parasol maker. He used to live in Tokyo, but after his parents divorced he moved back to his parent's home town. Kai has trouble telling his parents the complicated feelings he has for them, and he's lonely and pessimistic about his school life. One of his only joys is uploading songs he writes to the internet.
One day, his classmates Kunio and Yuho invite him to join their band, "SEIRÈN". As he reluctantly follows them to Mermaid Island, their practice spot which the rest of the townsfolk avoid, they meet Lu, a mermaid girl. Lu is attracted to their music and soon develops a close bond with Kai. As Kai begins to spend time with her, he starts to be able to say what it is that he's really thinking. Though of course, nothing is ever that simple. Especially when you live in a town that considers mermaids a curse.
The film opened to positive reception from critics and audiences and won the Ōfuji Noburō Award and the Annecy International Cristal award for best feature film.
Lu Over the Wall provides examples of the following tropes:
- Art Shift: See Deranged Animation.
- Asexuality: A possible interpretation of Kai, at least in the English dub: Lu asks him if he has ever "liked" anyone, and he replies "Uh, not ever." We could interpret this as him masking his feelings for Lu, but he says it earnestly enough that we could also interpret it as the truth. It helps that Kai's feelings for Lu are never really depicted as anything more than platonic, and he never seems to express interest in anyone else.
- Bittersweet Ending: Kai is no longer listless and keeps his friendship with Kunio and Yuho, the town sees a bit of revitalization from their experience with the merfolk, and Tako Baba and Kai's grandfather get to reunite with their loved ones. However, the merfolk can't come back to Hisashi ever again due to the Shadowstone breaking down, and Lu cannot stay with Kai.
- Bookends: The movie begins and ends with a typical morning for Kai. He starts the day eating with his family, then meeting with Kunio and Yuho en route to school and talking about music topics. The only differences are a change in attitude, in interacting with his friends, and the absence of his grandfather, who is implied to have left with his mother.
- Cast of Snowflakes: As per the course for Masaaki Yuasa.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Kai's grandpa makes umbrellas, and states how important umbrellas are in life. Umbrellas are everywhere in this film. The umbrellas he's been making throughout the movie are actually sun blocking parasols, used in the climax to shield the merfolk from the daybreak sun rays.
- The announcement station is the main source of information in the latter half of the film, as the kids and usual host use it to direct the townsfolk to higher ground and allow Kai to reach Lu through song.
- The scale that remained from Kai's first meeting with Lu is used in the climax, when he sings for her at the abandoned Merfolk Land grounds.
- Cute, but Cacophonic: Yuho's singing is not exactly praised by those who hear it.
- Deranged Animation: Mostly during the underwater scenes and flashbacks.
- Elemental Hair Composition: Lu has hair made of seawater, to match her water control powers.
- Foreshadowing: The flashback showing Kai's grandfather recounting how he lost his mother shows her burning up before being knocked into the water. It's an early indication that she was in the process of transforming into a mermaid.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Inverted with Kai and Yuho: she wants him, but it doesn't seem to be requited. However, played straight with Kunio to Yuho.
- Humble Pie: Yuho's entire arc is about her using SEIRÈN to become a famous singer, but she's looking out for herself for a lot of their time together and has mediocre vocals. Her jealousy over Lu, who has unique looks, charm, and vocals (and is in fact the only reason anyone paid attention to their band), only exasperates this issue. When the performance at Merfolk Land hits, she's forced to acknowledge that the audience is only here to see Lu and that the professional band she's playing with doesn't care if she's there or not.
- Interspecies Romance: Between Lu, the mermaid girl, and Kai, a simple middle school student. They don't stay together, however.
- It's All About Me: The flaw that both Kai and Yuho have to admit to and overcome for their Character Development.
- Leg Cling: Seen in the theatrical posters, one of which provides the page image.
- Love at First Note: Just before the opening credits, we get a scene of Kai making his first excited expression as he watches Lu sing to SEIRÈN's music.
- Love Confession:
- The Magic Goes Away: With the destruction of the rock that shadows their bay and protects them from the sunlight, the merpeople must leave Hinashi at the end of the movie.
- Making a Splash: All the merfolk can control water.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Lu, for Kai. She waltzes into his life excited, free-spirited, and full of encouragement for Kai's music while learning about the surface world. She also brings him out of his shell, revitalizes his interest in playing music publicly, and even teaches him how to tread water.
- Missing Mom: Kais mom is not seen onscreen, but she presumably stayed in Tokyo after the divorce.
- Mood Whiplash: The final dancing sequence between the Hinashi citizens and the merfolk is interrupted by their abrupt disappearance into the water. It then becomes clear that they're not coming back as Kai cries out for Lu. To be fair, we were warned a little beforehand by Kunio's grandfather.
- Never Found the Body: Part of the reason people like Tako Baba and Kai's grandfather hate the merfolk is because their most important people got swept away by them decades ago. Their true fates turn out to be this trope, due to the merfolk (accidentally) turning them in an attempt to save their lives. They finally return in the finale to take them away.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Yuho's father capturing Lu and her own father causes the curse of the sea to activate, nearly flooding Hinashi and its citizens in the process. Luckily, after being rescued, the merfolk are more than obliged to help them all get to safety while the tides come in.
- No Antagonist: Yuho's dad and some of the supernaturally phobic fishermen are against the merfolk, but one was under the assumption that his daughter had been kidnapped by Lu and the rest have been swayed by traditional warnings. All involved parties quickly soften up to to the merfolk after they've been saved by them in the finale.
- Non-Standard Character Design: Lu is drawn and animated in a much more cartoonish way, with more exaggerated facial expressions than any of the human characters.
- Off-Model: Lu, being a shapeshifting mermaid, often goes way off-model, to endearing and amusing effect.
- Our Mermaids Are Different: The merfolk in Lu come in all shapes and sizes, can turn other creatures into mermaids with their bites and are killed by sunlight, vampire style.
- Papa Wolf: Both Lu's papa and Yuho's father rush to save their daughters when their in danger, even though in the latter's case she was fine all along.
- The Power of Rock: Kai's belting out a power ballad in the climax gave Lu and her father the encouragement they needed to continue helping out stragglers, when they were previously wiped out doing all the heavy lifting.
- Secondary Character Title: While Lu is a very important character, it's Kai who serves as the protagonist of the film.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Begins idealistic, slides into cynicism and then returns to idealism for a happy ending.
- Starcrossed Lovers: While Kai and Lu love each other, they ultimately part ways. Lu can't stay long in the sunlight, and the only thing that could allow them to stay together—turning Kai into a merperson— isn't even on the table for either of them.
- Strong Family Resemblance: Kai looks like a younger version of his dad.
- Touched by Vorlons: Any being that's been bitten by a merperson becomes a merperson themselves, as we see with the dog-fish. They stop aging too, as we see with the humans-turned-merfolk.
- Two Guys and a Girl: SEIRÈN consists of Kai, Kunio and Yuho.
- Unrequited Love: For most of the film, Kunio is blatantly crushing on Yuho, and Yuho to Kai, both to the object of their affections' ignorance. Kunio is at least told he's loved, while Yuho and Kai remain friends.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Lu's papa, a giant shark/whale man, only attracts one of two odd looks and remarks from the townspeople before they accept him.
- Visual Pun: The "dog-fish".
- Weakened by the Light: The merpeople burn up in sunlight (or artificial light, as shown later in the film). The only reason they can stay in the bay in Hinashi Town is because of the shadows cast by the cliff.
- Youkai: Ningyo are technically youkai.