Runtime: 98 minutes
Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Writer: Akiko Nogi
Cast: Avu-chan, Mirai Moriyama, Tasuku Emoto, Kenjiro Tsuda, Yutaka Matsushige
By Harris Dang
Set in 14th Century Japan, “Inu-Oh” (2021) tells the story of the titular character, a talented dancer who was born with physical features that leaves him ostracized from the community. He meets Tomona, a blind musician who regales the community by telling fantastical tales while playing the biwa. In a time of political strife, the two unite and bring their artistic talents to life and take Japan by storm. However, their path toward fame and forture has a price that will put the two to the test as they encounter their own inner demons as well as the ongoing conflicts of their home.
Acclaimed anime filmmaker Masaaki Yuasa is back with his latest film “Inu-oh“, a musical film that is both a mix of extravagant fantasy, biopic tropes (it is loosely based on real-life subjects) and interstitial concerts. As a visual and aural experience, “Inu-oh” is hard to top as it features a genuinely compelling and enriching mix of disparate, incongruous and anachronistic styles.
The film manages to blend of Japanese period customs like Noh performers alongside modern artistic expressions like rock music and breakdancing with bombastic aplomb. But thankfully, the film is not all bells and whistles; as it reaches further when it provides solid commentary about the conflicts through artistic self-expression/political strife as well as conformity/discord.
The film takes on a Phantom of the Paradise-esque arc as it follows its two characters who express themselves through art after enduring ongoing abuse due to their physical abnormalities and Yuasa manage to bring a compelling emotional throughline with such a simple message — Artistic expression is a way of conveying one’s identity — and identifiable emotions that makes its drama relatable.
The anachronisms may be jarring to some and some of the musical numbers go on way too long. But for adventurous viewers, Inu-oh is a musical film that will definitely delight and astound fans of Yuasa’s work and beyond.
“Inu-Oh” will be showing at the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival. Click the picture below to explore the festival program.