Directed by: Masaaki Yuasa
Distributed by: GKids
Written by Alexander Reams
Masaaki Yuasa has been a creative in anime for a long time, and with that time he gained a reputation for how his films are, not weak, weary, and heavy laden, instead they’re full of ideas that he wants you to explore, Yuasa just opens the door. I haven’t seen any of Yuasa’s work previously, but the first 15 minutes of “Inu-Oh” could pass for a regular animated film, we first meet Tomona (Mirai Moriyama) who is being trained by an old master to play the biwa (a stringed instrument traditionally used in narrative storytelling) and searching for more stories to tell with his Biwa. Then, a demon in a Hawaiian shirt begins attacking a village. Instead of immediately condemning the demon, Yuasa does what he does best, he has the audience look at the “monster” in a different manner, he wants us to know how much he loves this demon. Soon after the demon, the titular Inu-Oh (Avu-Chan, who takes full advantage of their musical range) meets Tomona, who doesn’t see what makes this demon so frightening to everyone else, and they form a bond.
Not only was Yuasa able to craft a heartfelt and emotional film about a demon, but he also managed to make the concert scenes rival that of the end of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” These scenes have electricity written into the seams of each frame, energy that manages to cause unease (because there is a demon on stage), and excitement (because there is a demon on stage!) all at once. Yuasa sacrificed a good chunk of character development instead trading that for percussive energy that is raw and unfiltered and feels like a singular voice, unlike anyone working in the animation field today. Disney/PIXAR directors can sometimes feel interchangeable (Lightyear, The Good Dinosaur, Cars 3, Onward) but you could not switch out Yuasa and still get the same movie, without him, the movie can’t strike a chord.
Inu-Oh is in wide theatrical release and screened as part of the 2022 edition of Fantasia International Film Festival.