This movie is in no way flawless. Well, not much is I suppose. This most certainly isn’t without flaws. But it doesn’t matter because it is one of the most charming movies I have seen since Ponyo. Much might have to do with one of the main characters having a lot of traits in common with Ponyo herself.
Lu is a childlike mermaid, living in the shadows of the cliffs outside of a little town called Hinashi Town. She is attracted to the music one grumpy boy is creating in the loneliness of his room.
Kai, the boy, is a third year middle schooler who has moved back to this little town God forgot about a long time ago. A town where you either work as a fisherman or make umbrellas. That’s all there is, nothing else. Some tries to leave but most seems to end up coming back again. So does Kai’s dad when he divorces Kai’s mom, who stays behind in Tokyo to pursue a career as a dancer. Kai’s feelings towards her are, to put it nicely, cold and he hasn’t read even one of the letters she has sent him so far. The relationship with his dad is somewhat restraint too but somehow I think that is expected when you are a teenager. Although, grandpa, with whom they live, has an immense hate towards music and mermaids. He forbids his grandson to play music, not that it stops Kai from making music on his computer and in the end also play on some ukulele he finds tucked away. During one of his little sessions Lu shows up and some sort of relationship takes form.
Kai tries to keep it a secret but everyone should realise how stupid it is to upload things to the internet if you want to stay hidden with your hobbies so, two of Kai’s classmates Kunio and Yuho discovers his talent and more or less forces him to join their band. They rehearse out on an island at an abandoned amusement park and suddenly Lu shows up, singing and dancing, to Kunio and Yuho’s amazement. From there on it is up like the sun and rapidly down like a pancake.
The town is cursed and the towns people live under the impression that it is the mermaids fault the that town was once flooded and people died. Mermaids are evil and kill people. A lot of strange things happens after Lu finally reveals herself to the towns folks. At first they love her and then, when things doesn’t turn out the way they anticipate, they turn on her and fear her.
Well, the story goes pretty much how these stories go but it’s all okey because it’s a cozy movie. I like the characters even if the development could have been a little deeper. I love Lu, even if she is a little too alike Ponyo in her way of expressing herself and even the way she looks at times. Kai is probably the most interesting character, as it should be, he is the main character, but I feel that I want to know a little bit more about his relationship with his parents. Nothing is really clear to me, you only get bits and pieces and sure, you see the whole picture but sometimes it is nice with a little sprinkles on the top too, to make the character a little bit sparklier.
The backdrop to this story is more or less the town, the strip of ocean between the town and the island with the amusement park, and the amusement park. That’s all and that is perfectly enough. You don’t need a world bigger than that for a drama like this. They mention Tokyo three times, or maybe it was four, but that’s all there is to the outside of the world. It’s like none of the people has ever considered that there is a world other than that tiny closed off community. Because the town is really closed off by that huge mountain infront of them out in the ocean and behind them is also a huge mountain. They live in the shadow, something they point out in the end after the main event has occurred.
Music is something essential in this movie. The music makes the mermaids walk. Well, at least Lu develops legs and she starts to sing and dance when she hears music. She even makes other people dance without them realising it. And boy do I love the main theme. It’s such an endearing song. The text is hopeful and sweet and the melody makes me happy. It is a happy song and I hummed a long already the second time I heard it.
I love this movie a lot. Somehow, even with the flaws, it keeps together and deliver. Yes, you wonder why Lu’s father suddenly shows up from nowhere and decides to make all the fishes into wandering fish skelettons (nah, it’s more complicated but I won’t tell you), or why no one noticed that all the dogs at the dog pound suddenly was missing when Lu had turned them into dogmaids and taken them with her, or when Lu’s father is a three meter tall shark man with a huge umbrella. People just bought straight of the hook that he was an educator of sorts. Yup, they do live in a closed society. There are a lot of these kind of stuff but who cares when Lu’s dad is a bad ass dad who catch on fire when going to save his kid.
If I should compare it to anything I would say that it might be a very toned down version of Tsuritama meets Ponyo. But that is only if I am comparing it and I rarely compare anything to anyone anywhere so yeah. Watch it if you like mermaids and cool shark dads, and middle school kids playing in rock bands (there’s a heartbreaking twist to that that made my heart ache so much for especially Yuho).