Film review – 夜明け告げるルーのうた / Lu Over The Wall (Masaaki Yuasa, 2017)

Japanese anime? Quirky soundtrack? Human forms an unlikely bond with a fish person? Yes, it may look on the surface to be just like Hayao Miyazaki’s 2010 film ‘Ponyo’, but Masaaki Yuasa’s ‘Lu Over The Wall’, which received its UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival this weekend, is far from a simple rip-off.

The second release from the Science Saru Animation studio, after Yuasa’s earlier ‘The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl’, centres around Kai (voiced by Suma Saitō), a gloomy and distant music-creating teenager living in a small fishing town in Japan with his father and grandfather. Kai is pestered into joining a band by two of his schoolmates. Their first rehearsal, on the abandoned Mermaid Island, awakens the interest of Lu (voiced by Kanon Tani), a mermaid who is vulnerable to sunlight but loves to listen to music and dance. Following a confrontation with bullies the band catch illegally poaching fish, Lu comes to the rescue and forms an unlikely bond with Kai and his bandmates as she joins the group and they are handed the opportunity to perform at a local festival.

This is a bizarre film that provides some genuine laughs throughout. The music is quirky, leading to some pretty imaginative reactions from the villagers when they first hear Lu singing. One suspects that this scene was exactly what the director Yuasa had in mind when he started, building the rest of the general idea towards making sure he got the best laughs out of these scenes. It’s daftly entertaining and really hits the spot.

There are more laughs when Lu breaks into a centre for stray dogs and releases them to create a wave of mer-puppies. It’s easy to imagine how much fun the animators and story writers were having when they conceptualised that.

‘Lu Over The Wall’ won the top prize at this year’s Annecy Animation Film Festival, and there is good reason. Park the inevitable comparison to ‘Ponyo’ and seek out this fun and fancy free animation.

Then spend the rest of the day trying to get that music out of your head.

Disney’s Moana as a Video Storybook

I was looking at the videos uploaded onto the Disney YouTube channel and I was surprised at how much content was on there for their latest film Moana. So, I decided to see how much of the story could be pieced together and found there was essentially quite a bit of the first half of the film freely available.

Needless to say, this is full of spoilers. The purpose is to help provide some joy to those of us who’ve seen the film but can’t wait until the home video release later this year to enjoy the various elements. It is truly a wonderful film and you can read my original review here, along with a fact sheet here.

After you’ve read it, make sure to pre-order your copy for home viewing in all its glory here!


In a prologue, we learn about the mystical pounamu stone, which is the heart of goddess Te Fiti. Demigod Maui steals the stone to give as a gift to humanity, but as he escapes with the stone he is attacked by Te Kā, a lava demon, in the process losing the pounamu heartstone along with a fishhook that grants him magical powers.

Act 1

1000 years later, our story begins with a small Polynesian island called Motunui. Here we find Moana Waialiki, a small child who is the daughter of Chief Tui and therefore set to become leader of the island tribe. As a baby, she appears to have a mystical connection with the sea.

A montage of Moana growing up occurs throughout the song “Where You Are” (video includes audio only). Her affinity to the sea is reinforced throughout the song, along with the importance of the natural crops and resources the island provides.

The islanders are growing in concern for their crops and fish, which are unexpectedly dying. Unbeknown to them, the cause of this is the missing pounamu heartstone. 

Moana wishes to leave the island to find more fish, but her father wants her to stay on the island. She makes a first attempt at leaving the island via the song “How Far I’ll Go”, along with her trusty pet Pua the pig.

Moana has a chat with Gramma Tala to help decide what to do.

We are further introduced to the ways of Moana’s island via the song “We Know The Way”, which is a celebration of voyaging as the pride the fishermen find in their navigation and fishing skills. This is a musical interpretation of what Moana reads on the inside of a cave in ancient wall paintings.

Gramma Tala reveals that she has had the heartstone and gives it to Moana. She also reveals a hidden cave of boats from the island’s past life as voyagers. 

Sadly, Gramma Tala dies, and with her final breath tells Moana to set sail. She does this, but unbeknownst to her she does this with incompetent chicken Heihei as her only companion. The “How Far I’ll Go” reprise plays.

Act 2

Moana encounters a terrible storm, which throws her from her boat and leaves her unconscious. 

When she wakes, she discovers she is on a deserted island, though one other inhabitant is there: the demigod Maui.

Maui introduces himself, wowing Moana as he sings “You’re Welcome”. This is also a cunning ploy to steal her boat to escape the island, though he leaves her on the island alone and trapped inside a cave.

Moana breaks free from the cave and attempts to swim after Maui. The ocean helps reunite the pair.

They resolve their differences and Moana convinces Maui that to be a true hero he must return the pounamu heartstone to its rightful place to restore harmony to the sea, agreeing also to help him retrieve his magical fishhook on the way.

Shortly after, they encounter the coconut pirates Kakamora, who wish to steal the heartstone.

They then visit the giant crab Taratoa, who has a cave of jewels and gold that he uses to attract fish to his cave to eat them. He is in possession of Maui’s fishhook.

Maui and Moana work together to steal back the fishhook and they set sail again.

Act 3

Shortly after, Maui teaches Moana about “wayfinding” as he realises that she has never sailed before.

They set sail to return the heart to Te Fiti, but when they arrive they are attacked by the fire demon Te Kā, who damages Maui’s fishhook in the process and also repels them in their boat far out to the ocean. Maui leaves for fear of yet more damage to his hook, which will result in him losing his magical powers.

Moana returns to Te Kā alone, and as she does this Maui returns, having had a change of heart. This time Moana asks the ocean to help clear a path between her and Te Kā, and she sings “I Am Moana” to remind the goddess of who she really is, thus allowing her to restore her heart. With Te Fiti restored, she thanks Moana with a new boat and a replacement fishhook for Maui.

Moana says farewell to Maui and returns to her island, which begins to thrive under the new conditions.

Deleted Scenes

Disney have since published some additional scenes, destined for the Blu-ray (due out in March 2017).