Fans of envelope-pushing anime will be excited to hear that indie distributor GKIDS has snagged North American rights for three feature films from acclaimed director Masaaki Yuasa: cult classic Mind Game (2004), which recently launched on VRV streaming; and his two 2017 flicks Lu Over the Wall and Night Is Short, Walk on Girl — which notably both screened in competition at last year’s Ottawa Int’l Animation Festival (read more in Ramin Zahed’s interview with the director).
The deal for Mind Game was negotiated by Eric Beckman for GKIDS and Ayumi Inoguchi for Studio 4°C. The deal for Lu and Night Is Short was negotiated by Beckman and Yoshiko Nakayama for Fuji Creative Corporation.
“GKIDS is incredibly excited to be bringing these three films to Yuasa fans in North America. 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,” said GKIDS president Dave Jesteadt.
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. Theatrical release beginning February 2018, followed by release on other ancillary formats.
Lu Over the Wall is 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. His one 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 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 criss-crossing 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.