Inu-Oh was a real-life figure, a Sarugaku Noh performer and playwright who was extremely popular in the 14th century. However, he is all but unknown to people nowadays, because very few documents about his life have survived. Now, around 600 years later, this Inu-Oh project portrays the tales of brotherhood between the legendary Inu-Oh, who vanished from history, and a certain Biwa player, and is full of music and dance sequences.
Source: ASMIK Ace
Received early screenings in 2021 and early 2022 at certain film festivals.
I don't often write reviews, but this film blew me away and I felt the need to say something somewhere about it. To preface, I went in already a fan of Masaaki Yuasa's work and I had recently finished (and enjoyed) The Heike Story from the same creator, Hideo Furukawa. If you have not already, I suggest watching The Heike Story prior to Inu-Oh as the show covers the historical events that lead directly into the start of the film. The film deals a good amount with said period of Japanese history following the fall of the Heike, but thematically it also presents itself as currently relevenant as a dialgoue toward the merits and function of counter-culture (especially in performance art), the terms of societal unification versus progressive social movement, and the balance of history and narrative in light of the idea of erasure from history. Interesting ideas of self-identification, the unique offerings of social outcasts who break conventions, contrasting perspectives on whether something is to be regard as blessing or curse, and more are sprinkled throughout In terms of art style, the film delivers a cool and interesting to look at style that seems to draw from traditional emaki mixed in with anatomical portioning (well, minus the titular character), some of Yuasa's associated abstractions, and a high produciton output to boot. All in all, the film looks great in still shots and absolutely phenominal in motion. For those who gravitate more toward coventional anime stylings, this is definately more of an arthouse vibe, but I highly advise giving it a chance (and consider checking out Masaaki Yuasa's other works if you have not already). In additon to the animation, the audio work is equally great. Voicing is well done and there are some very cool moments wherein the film takes to some degree the perspective of its blind protagonist and tries to illustrate the texture of sound as he hears it. The music stands especially great as it successfully blends Japanese traditional and classic rock tones including nods to iconic counter-culture breakthroughs to pop culture such as Michael Jackson and Queen. This is a film where I can already see myself revisting its soundtrack numerous times, but even such can't compare to the synergetic display of it visuals and music brought together. The film was marketed as something along the lines of being a "demonic feudal Japan hair-metal rock opera" which may sound hard to pin down, but that is exactly what it is and it would be difficult to pigeon-hole into a more easily digested definition. It is totally its own thing without anything else I can think of being truly comperable. Despite this hazy marketing description, the exectuion of such is brilliant, delivering a work with a unique and strongly felt sense of identity. For anyone confused on the structure of the film, it is a "rock opera" in that it involves a great deal of musical sequences but all is performed diegetically (aka, characters recognize and acknowledge that others are performing). While the film is well exectuted and put together throughout, these music sequences absolutely steal the show. Much of the film is told through these music sequences but they never feel stale as they keep delivering again and again, getting bigger and better as they go. There term "sakuga" gets thrown around a fair bit in some corners of the anime community, but these sequences are so often on another level. At the time of writing this, the film is actively in a limited run in American theatres. I highly suggest taking the oppurtunity to see it (albeit consider watching The Heike Story first if you're not already familar with the history of the Heike's downfall). If you are into Japanese history, arthouse animation, unique international film, counter-culture rock music, or feel open to experiencing a truly different flavor of anime, this film is an absolute treat. There's a very good chance I go see this again before it leaves theatres.
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