Inu-Oh is an animated rock opera about two young men that have been ostracized by society. Set in 14th century Japan, the film follows a blind musician named Tomona and a cursed dancer named Inu-Oh. When the two become friends, their talents make them stars. Their storytelling goes against tradition and the pair soon find themselves targets of the Japanese military.
After a slow start, the film begins to open up. The art is consistently stunning, but it is once the musical numbers kick in that Inu-Oh shows its full beauty. Animation and song come together in a bombastic force that threatens to overload the audience’s senses. Each is a powerful scene that manages to pull anyone watching into the moment on a storytelling and sensory level.
Director Masaaki Yuasa has put together arguably the best concert movie in years. The friends decide to stage elaborate performances that are unlike anything of the time. There is an energy and excitement that comes with each song. This due in no small part to Inu-Oh (voiced by non-binary Japanese rock star Avu-chan) whose stage presence is captivating.
At times, it is a case of style over substance – there is little in the way of character development – but the story never suffers. The pair’s friendship is endearing. Tomona is trying to find his way in the world, while Inu-Oh’s deformities have left him abandoned by his family and shunned by the rest of the world. As they learn to use their talents, it is hard not to root for them.
Inu-Oh is creative anime that melds together historical fiction and a rocking soundtrack. The first act gets bogged down explaining the setting, but the remainder makes up for it with a tremendous look and memorable soundtrack. Its underlying message of how history is written and finding your voice is moving.
Inu-Oh releases nationwide in theaters on August 12
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