Japan, 2021, 98’, Japanese
Directed by: Yuasa Masaaki
Screenplay: Nogi Akiko
Photography (color): Sekiya Yoshihiro
Editing: Hirose Kiyoshi
Music: Otomo Yoshihide
Producers: Choi Eunyoung, Takeuchi Fumie  
Cast: Moriyama Mirai, Avu-chan, Emoto Tasuku, Tsuda Kenjiro, Matsushige Yutaka

Date of First Release in Territory: TBA

Making its debut in the Orizzonti section of the 2021 Venice International Film Festival, Yuasa Masaaki’s feature animation INU-OH is the rare Japanese film to focus on the music and dance – not the wars – of Japan’s 14th Century. Based on Furukawa Hideo’s novel, the film tells the story of two performers with disabilities who meld their talents to create something revolutionary for its era – dangerously so to the conservative Shogun, who becomes determined to wipe them out of the history books.
Not in the novel, however, are the film’s musical scenes, scored by Otomo Yoshihide, that feature long-haired players shredding biwas (Japanese lutes) in high-voltage rock performances for enthusiastic crowds, accompanied by a light show straight from a 21st Century stadium concert.
The film, however, is not another Japanese anime set in a complete fantasy world. During the Muromachi period (1336-1573), when the action unfolds, Japan was in the midst of a political and cultural upheaval that produced both destructive wars and the rise of Noh drama and dance.
The film takes a legendary Noh performer of the period, about who little factually is known, as its title hero, voiced by single-named Avu-chan, transgender lead singer of the band Queen Bee. Though recognized for his talent from boyhood, Inu-Oh has bodily deformities that have made him a loner, masked and draped to hide his true form. 
But when he encounters a rebellious blind biwa player named Tomona (Moriyama Mirai) he finds a kindred spirit – and an ideal creative partner. Together they create a vibrant new form of music and dance that enthralls crowds in Kyoto, then Japan’s capital. But the Shogun (Emoto Tasuku) is a fan of a rival, traditional biwa player – and becomes an enemy of the two upstarts who threaten the old artistic order.   
The film’s history lesson about the epic 12th Century war between the Heike and Genji clans, which resulted in the utter defeat of the Heike – and the creation of stories told ever after by biwa players like Tomona, may not be easy to follow for the uninitiated. The musical numbers, however, are loudly and brilliantly borderless, with non-Japanese reviewers making comparisons to glam rock, heavy metal and Freddie Mercury, though the animation, with its visual dazzle and explosive energy, is all Yuasa.
Screening at many festivals since its Venice premiere, as well as garnering a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, INU-OH is set for its Japan release sometime this summer. What musical comparisons will Japanese critics make? Avu-chan’s hard-driving j-rock band Queen Bee sounds like a good bet.

Yuasa Masaaki 

Born in Fukuoka in 1965, Yuasa Masaaki did freelance work for Studio Ghibli and other anime houses. In 2004 he directed his first feature, Mind Game. He followed up with TV series. He partnered with Choi Eunyoung; their first feature release was the comedy romance The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl (2017). Yuasa also boosted his international profile with the 2018 hit Netflix series Devilman Crybaby, based on the manga by Nagai Go. Next came the 2019 feature romance Ride Your Wave and the hit 2020 TV comedy series Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, based on a manga by Ōwara Sumito. Yuasa’s musical drama INU-OH premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2021. 

1992 – Chibi Maruko-chan: My Favorite Song
2004 – Mind Game
2017 – The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl
2017 – Lu Over the Wall
2019 – Ride Your Wave
2021 – INU-OH

Mark Schilling
Film director: YUASA Masaaki
Year: 2021
Running time: 98'
Country: Japan
26/04 - 7:20 PM
Visionario, Via Asquini 33
26-04-2022 19:20 26-04-2022 20:57Europe/Rome INU-OH Far East Film Festival Visionario, Via Asquini 33CEC Udine