Director Masaaki Yuasa’s film Inu-Oh (2022), written by Akiko Nogi and based on the novel “Heike monogatari: Inu-ô no kan” by Hideo Furukawa, is an incredibly animated, revisionist rock opera. The film follows two characters – whose lives seem unbearable at first – as they find purpose with each other. Inu-oh (Avu-chan) is born cursed to a respected family and subsequently lives on the outskirts of society where he meets Tomona (Mirai Moriyama), a blind musician haunted by his own troubled past. There is an instant spark of friendship that turns into a business relationship, as they plan to tell the untold stories of the spirits that haunt Inu-Oh through electrifying concerts.
It is those very concerts that completely blew me away. The music, the animation, and the style of these scenes are so incredible. The dancing of Inu-Oh is inventive, and references iconic musicians of the ’80s and ‘90s – but the setting of the story is 14th-century Japan. It makes for some amazing visuals and a wild melding of musical styles. Tomona plays the biwa, a Japanese short-necked wooden lute traditionally used in narrative storytelling – yet the distinct crunch of electric guitars is heard in these performances. It’s a magical spell of music and storytelling, blending in glorious animation and light shows, that would make event the most epic stadium concert-goers jealous. A golden whale projected onto a tower that Inu-Oh essentially rides via wirework is just one such moment that my senses were turned up to 11, as the film continued to pull me further and further into its glory.
Towards the beginning of the film, I felt that I must have missed something, as I was confused with regard to a few details that were initially shown. Then it all became very clear, and I started to pick up on the themes built into the story. The power of storytelling and the need for people to hear our tales is something that connects with me as a lover of film. My music background and passion for it only cemented this film as one that was mostly created for me. Those early scenes also didn’t sell me on the animation style, but the look of the film changes slowly as we are introduced to the actual players that will impact the story. As the film went on and became a rock opera, my love of the film increased with each beat.
Inu-Oh is a film that I can’t recommend enough. I found the story and the revisionist elements incredibly compelling, the characters sympathetic and lovable, the art impeccable, and the music extraordinary. There is a power in storytelling that the filmmakers utilize and discuss within their film that blends together to create an unforgettable experience. Inu-Oh will be in some theaters on August 12, 2022, but if it isn’t near you, make sure you add it to your watch list. For me, it is a Must See film.