Inu-Oh (2021)

An animated shamisen rock ballad if there ever was one that features stunning visuals but a rather excessive and overlong midsection of performative songs that aren’t exactly musically memorable.  

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,488

Dir. Masaaki Yuasa
2021 | Japan | Animation/Fantasy/Music | 98 min | 2.39:1 | Japanese
PG13 (passed clean) for some violence

Cast: Avu-chan, Mirai Moriyama, Tasuku Emoto
A cursed dancer and a musician stun society with electrifying concerts in this animated rock opera.
Nom. for Orrizonti Award (Venice)
International Sales: Asmik Ace

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Defying Norms
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: Oldham Theatre – Asian Film Archive
Spoilers: No

Masaaki Yuasa is one of the big names in Japanese anime, though he isn’t as well-known outside of Japan as, say, Hayao Miyazaki, or even Makoto Shinkai or the late Satoshi Kon. 

Yuasa’s new work, Inu-Oh, is as idiosyncratic as it gets, best described as a shamisen rock ballad if there ever was one.  In that sense, it provides one of the more unique screen experiences in recent times for anime lovers. 

If this film had been made forty years ago, the musician Osamu Kitajima would have been perfect to score it (check out his 1976 psychedelic/progressive rock album, ‘Benzaiten’, and you’ll see what I mean). 

I appreciate Yuasa’s boldness, invention and skill in crafting a relentlessly ‘musical’ work, marked by modern, anachronistic sensibilities that would otherwise be non-existent in a period Japanese anime. 

“The last thing we need is a new movement.”

A blind musician, Tomona, encounters Inu-Oh, a hideous dancing creature struck by a curse, and forms a band together that would excite village after village of toiling peasants. 

This is, of course, blasphemous to the ears of the ruling clan as the duo combines their newfound artistic nous with the singing of alternative tales that go against the established canon. 

It is a high-energy film, both visually and sonically, and I particularly enjoyed the first and last acts.  It is the midsection, however, where my interest waned, as it contains a rather excessive and overlong series of song-and-dance sequences that would have worked more effectively if they were half their lengths. 

While Inu-Oh channels a rebellious spirit of non-conformance, the songs that are featured rarely sound musically memorable. 

Grade: B



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