Masaaki Yuasa Delivers Epic Noh Musical

As a Canadian, I find places with a long history very interesting. My country is relatively young compared to a place like Japan, so I find the history of such a place fascinating. The legendary Masaaki Yuasalatest movie, Inu-Oh, presents the Muromachi period as a colorful and interesting time, which was enough to pique my interest in history. The film revolves around two outcasts in 14th century Japan who illuminate the country with their extraordinary talent, presented as a riveting rock opera. It was a lot to take in, but once I got the pace of the film in sync, I couldn’t pull myself away.

A fair amount of information is dropped on the audience right off the bat, which makes sense when you think about it Inu-Oh is Hideo Furukawa’s adaptation Heike Tales: Inu-Oh novel. There is a lot of context to establish, which makes the beginning of the film quite dense. Once you know the backstory, though, the movie picks up and doesn’t let up. I found myself completely engrossed in the unfolding story of Tomona the blind biwa player and the titular Inu-Oh, a deformed young man who can dance like nobody’s business. Their rise to stardom and all the intricacies that come with it truly feels like a journey, filled with the bitter highs and lows that life is obviously always full of.

RELATED: Interview: Masaaki Yuasa on Inu-Oh’s Music & the Venice Film Festival

As you would expect from a Masaaki Yuasa production (especially looking at past works like Devilman Crybaby), every frame of Inu-Oh nice There is an endless amount of vibrant color throughout the musical scenes, enhancing wild musical performances with lavish visuals that feel like a combination of a modern concert with in a beautiful noh performance. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to blend these elements in a satisfying way, but all the animators pulled it off with grace.

Speaking of music, Inu-OhIts songs are amazing. The fusion of rock with more traditional biwa music was inspired and led to a great foot tapping throughout the film’s runtime. The subtitled lyrics give you the context you might be missing as an English speaker, but even without that, the passionate delivery of the lyrics and the relentless flavor of each song will surprise you on their own. I didn’t know Heike samurai before I watched Inu-Ohbut the style in which their stories are presented made me interested in doing more research on their history — the mark of excellent presentation of historical elements.

The vocal performances are equally excellent, with Avu-chan of Queen Bee fame giving Inu-Oh plenty of personality right from the start. You feel bad for Inu-Oh while simultaneously respecting his happy lifestyle, which makes it hard not to root for the dancer. Mirai Moriyama also gives a passionate and artistic performance as Tomona, giving what could have been a straightforward main character with notable traits and some memorable moments. In fact, the entire cast deserves praise, from the snobby shōgun to the cheering crowd. Not once does it feel lifeless or lackluster, largely thanks to how brilliant these performances are.

If you get a handle on all the information presented to you at the beginning, Inu-Oh is a truly unique and memorable trip that can only interest you during Muromachi. It’s a mesmerizing, beautiful, and somewhat sentimental journey through a time I don’t know, full of music that will make you nod your head no matter how much you speak the language. Yuasa and his team have created another great and fun experience, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.

SCORE: 8.5/10

As ComingSoon policy review explains, a score of 8.5 equals “Great.” While there are some minor issues, this score means that the art succeeds in its purpose and leaves a memorable impact.

Disclosure: The publisher has provided a link to a screener for ComingSoon’s Inu-Oh review.

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