The Power of Music in Lu Over the Wall

Watching Masaaki Yuasa’s Lu Over The Wall reminded me of how influential music is to different people. If I were to remove music from my life, then I’d find myself missing it.

I listen to music because it’s not only entertaining. Music sparks different emotions inside of me because it’s impossible to not tie it to different experiences and memories I’ve had. A theme song from an anime I’d seen in my childhood fills me with nostalgia, making me recall my favourite moments or characters from that particular show or hearing the iconic piano theme song from Final Fantasy X, “To Zanarkand” makes me tear up in sadness. I also use music to influence me in writing different pieces of work, from blog posts to fanfiction.

Screencap from Lu Over the Wall, Masaaki Yuasa, Gkids Films.

In creating Lu Over the Wall, Yuasa wanted a film aimed at a younger audience but could also be something any age group could enjoy. With Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Studio Ghibli’s Ponyo in mind, Masaaki Yuasa wrote an original fantasy story about a young teenage boy named Kai, a talented but seemingly apathetic musician living in Hinashi Town, a small fishing village. He’s invited to join a band formed by his classmates, Yuho and Kunio. After a practice session, the band unexpectedly gains the attention of a young mermaid named Lu.

The world of Lu Over the Wall contains two races: the humans and the merfolk. Music reveals the nature of these two groups and helps build a friendship between them. Although the merfolk are misunderstood due to horrible stories about their race, they are fun-loving and spirited, enjoying music to dance along to. In comparison, humans live conservatively and are afraid of change with the merfolk’s arrival in their small town. Music helps set the humans free from their fear, pushing them to dance and let loose.

Screencap from Lu Over the Wall, Masaaki Yuasa, Gkids Films.

An instance in which the background music complements the animation to create a powerful scene is when Kai and other members of the village worked together to help the merfolk. The insert song playing is called, “Fight” by YUI. The song is about hope and having the courage to live on with the struggles and successes that occur in life. Every event in our lives is a moment for us to learn and grow. When creating this scene, Yuasa stated that it was to fit the words of the chorus, “Ganbare, Ganbare.” The Japanese idiom “Ganbare” translates to “Do Your Best” or “Hang in There” as the characters struggle to turn open the valve as pictured above.

I find Lu Over the Wall is an endearing movie because of its focus on the friendship between Kai and Lu and of how Kai uses music to communicate his true feelings.

From the film’s beginning, Kai never outrightly admitted it, but he was affected by his parents’ divorce. I felt that his music was a means to cope as well as something that Kai genuinely loves. Kai keeps everyone around him at a distance, speaking bluntly in short phrases without taking into consideration that he is hurting someone’s feelings.

Once he encounters Lu and develops a bond with her, Kai also grows as a character. He becomes happier and open to admitting the troubles he had once his mother left him and his father. Kai gains the freedom to be his true self. Most of his songs in the film never have lyrics to them but once he adds his own lyrics to his song at the climax of the film, the audience sees how much Kai wants to express his thoughts. The actors playing Kai in the original and English dub do a great job in executing the song by singing their heart out, without trying to sound perfect. Their voices are raw and honest.

Screencap from Lu Over the Wall, Masaaki Yuasa, Gkids Films.

In his interview with Cartoon Brew, Yuasa stated that he finds that Japan’s youths aren’t able to fully express what they’re thinking or feeling and wind up internalizing everything. He created this film to say that it’s alright to be honest with your feelings and to share them with others. This aspect of the film is relatable to me because it’s scary to share the truth about things and be vulnerable to others since people can be mean or indifferent. It’s important to be able to express ourselves because it helps us deal with our emotions and to understand and surround ourselves with people who love and support us.

Lu Over the Wall’s charm comes from its ability to showcase how important music is in our lives. Music is a language that connects us and is a way for us to express ourselves as our genuine self. Therefore, in a cliché way, music is an artform that feeds the soul.

(Originally posted on Foster a Child to Excel in Society (F.A.C.E.S)’s blog in November 2019. Edited on February 5, 2020.)

(Featured Image is a screencap taken from the film, “Lu Over the Wall” by Masaaki Yuasa, GKIDS.)

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