Feature animation producer-distributor Gkids has acquired North American distribution rights to three films from Japanese director Masaaki Yuasa. They include his two most recent titles, 2017’s Lu Over the Wall and Night Is Short, Walk on Girl along with 2004’s Mind Game.
It will release all three films in their original Japanese language and also will create a dubbed English version of Lu Over the Wall that will premiere at Sundance this month.
“Gkids is incredibly excited to be bringing these three films to Yuasa fans in North America,” company president Dave Jesteadt said. “And for those who have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing the indelible creative brilliance that is Masaaki Yuasa, you are in for an incredible treat.”
Gkids has scored nine Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature since 2009 including one for My Life as a Zucchini last year and two in 2016 — but it has yet to take home the statuette.
Eric Beckman negotiated the Mind Game deal for Gkids with Ayumi Inoguchi for Studio 4°C. Beckman also worked the deal for the two newer titles with Yoshiko Nakayama for Fuji Creative Corporation.
Here are the films, with synopses provided by Gkids:
Masaaki Yuasa, Japan, 2004, 103 min
Buckle in and prepare to surrender yourself to an exhilarating and wildly entertaining ride. Cult classic Mind Game is an explosion of unconstrained expression – gloriously colorful images ricochet in rapid fire associations, like Masaaki Yuasa’s brain splattered onto the screen in all its goopy glory. Audiences will begin to grasp what they are in for early on as loser Nishi, too wimpy to try to save his childhood sweetheart from gangsters, is shot in the butt by a soccer-playing psychopath, projecting Nishi into the afterlife. In this limbo, God – shown as a series of rapidly changing characters – tells him to walk toward the light. But Nishi runs like hell in the other direction and returns to Earth a changed man, driven to live each moment to the fullest. The film cemented Yuasa’s reputation as a bad-boy anime auteur, winning the Grand Prize at the Japan Media Arts Festival among many other awards. GKIDS will release the film digitally on Ellation’s VRV Select platform December 22, 2017, with theatrical release beginning February 2018, followed by release on other ancillary formats.
LU OVER THE WALL
Masaaki Yuasa, Japan, 2017, 112 min
From visionary anime auteur Masaaki Yuasa comes a joyously hallucinogenic but family-friendly take on the classic fairy tale about a little mermaid who comes ashore to join a middle-school rock band and propel them to fame. Kai, a young middle schooler, lives in a lonely fishing village, with his father and his grandfather. He used to live in Tokyo, but after his parents divorced he moved back to his parent’s home town. Kai is lonely and pessimistic about his school life. One of his joy is uploading songs he writes to the internet. One day, he meets Lu, who sings merrily and dances innocently to his music. As Kai spends more time with Lu, he finds he is able to tell her what he is really thinking, and a bond begins to form. But since ancient times, the people in the village have believed that mermaids bring disaster and soon there is trouble between Lu and the townspeople, putting the town in grave danger.
Winner of the Grand Prize at the prestigious Annecy International Animation Festival, and premiering in English as an official selection of Sundance 2018, Lu Over the Wall is a toe-tapping, feel-good demonstration of Yuasa’s genre-mixing mastery that will leave you humming long after you leave the theater.
NIGHT IS SHORT, WALK ON GIRL
Masaaki Yuasa, Japan, 2017, 93 min
Night is Short, Walk on Girl takes place over the course of one strange and alcohol-drenched night, as a young woman known only as The Girl With Black Hair drinks her way through Kyoto. Along the way she encounters a panoply of odd and fantastical characters, all the while crisscrossing paths with senior student Senpai, who creates increasingly contrived reasons to run into her in an effort to win her heart. Winner of the Grand Prize at Ottawa Animation Festival, Night is Short, Walk on Girl is an “I guess it’s romantic?” comedy for the modern age, and a celebration of the unconventional, confusing routes that love and life can take.