Inu-Oh: critic who makes his show


Since legendary animators and directors such as Katsuhiro Ôtomo, Mamoru Oshii, Isao Takahata, Satoshi Kon and Hayao Miyazaki (glory to their name) gave Japanese animation its letters of nobility, a new generation of talent has been sweeping over the great screen. At the top of the list: Makoto Shinkai, Ayumu Watanabe, Mamoru Hosoda and Masaaki Yuasa.

He also cultivates a remarkable singularity in the current landscape which tends to standardize or sanitize, whether through the redundancy of the themes addressed or the increasingly smooth plasticity of the works (the last Aya and the witch of Ghibli serving as an exhibit). After Ride your Wavea 2021 comedy-drama less delirious than what Masaaki Yuasa was able to accustom his audience to, the artist therefore operated with Inu-Oh a welcome return to basics by reconnecting with its feverish and all-out aesthetic.


Since his beginnings, Masaaki Yuasa has drawn his art with a free stroke and gives life to works that are often less accessible and more unbridled, which play at thwarting conventions. Thereby, the exhilarating Inu-Oh rediscover drunkenness and indiscipline which already emerged from his first series Ping Pong The Animation and his first feature film Mind Game. The film once again uses different visual styles and drawing techniques, from the most modern with a few subtle touches of 3D, to the most traditional and artisanal: character design close to sketches, expressionist paintings, semblance of brushstrokes, pencils and charcoal for more hallucinated and abstract visions.

The result is protean. Like Inu-Oh, the main character, the image blurs, twists, becomes distorted at times and exaggeratedly contorts the slender characters by playing with the perspectives without ever undermining the harmony and beauty of the whole. Fact, beyond to fill the eyes, Inu-Oh is constantly renewing itself on the form and metamorphoses between each act, again like the protagonist.

Inu-Oh: pictureAnother view of Inu-Oh


This unpredictability and fluctuation is also found in the narration, which is initially confusing and confusing. At the start, everything is disjointed and exploded, like an immense mosaic of which we could distinguish a few tesserae, but of which it would be difficult to have an overall vision. The backdrop, which is based on historical elements (the confrontation between the Heike and the Minamoto), is dispatched and quickly mixed with the fragments of the original stories of Inu-Oh and Tomoga, themselves linked to elements supernatural like cursed artifacts or wandering spirits.

The story is therefore quickly overloaded, without necessarily a clear direction until the tipping point: a musical number which transforms the film into a Japanese rock opera of the 14th century. From now on, the shards of Akiko Nogi’s screenplay come togetherthe music becomes the real narrator and directing force of the feature film while the different wagons easily come together to form a coherent whole, intoxicating and ultimately less cryptic than expected.

Inu-Oh: pictureAncient War

The other strong bias is to intertwine the past, the present and the future in a process of reappropriation and transmission. The project itself goes in this direction, since it adapts the novel The Dog King by Hideo Furukawa. This work was published in 2022, but is similar to a modern version and a new translation of the Said of the Heike, a founding text often compared to Homer’s Illiad and stemming from the oral tradition and of which it is difficult to identify all the authors.

Inu-Oh is thus another version recut in the image of the filmmaker, who has also put his stone to the building by bringing (re)born old myths and legends under the eyes of the spectators. In this same logic, time is not frozen and the action does not stop in the 14th century, the story going back and forth in time until it actually makes a stopover in our century.

Inu-Oh: pictureYoung Tomoga


If Inu-Oh is a work that disorients, it is also thanks to its extravagant characters who remain inaccessible despite the subjective views of the production and the introspective phases of the writing. More generally, the film does not really rely on emotion and does not seek to drown the spectators in their tears. The friendship between Inu-Oh and Tomoga is ultimately less beautiful and exhilarating than the sum of their talents and their stage performances which are a masterpiece on both sides of the screen.

Inu-Oh: picturemoment of grace

Therefore, the film rather insists on the symbolism of the artist, his place and his role in the society he is trying to reunite. In addition to telling the people another version of the story and giving them other keys to understanding the world, the singer and the dancer allow the most disadvantaged and the marginalized to appropriate the art, hitherto reserved to an inflexible elite.

The art has therefore found itself hostage to political considerations, but Inu-Oh and Tomoga’s approach is not devoid of a certain ideology and political ideals, which will lead to a soft end- surprising bitterness that we obviously won’t spoil. The anonymous acrobats who perform mainly in the street and involve their public gradually turn into a cultural phenomenon that threatens the shogunate because of the subversion of the Nô theater and the Biwa which serve as propaganda and feed a nationally oriented novel.

Inu-Oh: pictureEvolution is made of transgression

These two traditional and rigorous arts are thus put in opposition with the modernism which is expressed by them anachronisms of Inu-Oh and Tomoga shows : breakdance steps, erotic postures and Freddy Mercury-style androgyny, outrageous looks à la Kiss, jubilant crowds, groupies similar to those of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles or even the pyrotechnic effects that create a shift and blur the chronological markers, both for the fictitious audience and the one in the room.

The duo’s search for fame is also coupled with a more personal quest that goes beyond their bruised flesh. Inu-Oh, whose birthrights have been denied, seeks to reclaim his identity, while Tomoga, a son of a fisherman, attempts to reinvent himself by embracing a new identity. Thereby, Inu-Oh is an eccentric, strange, but also fair and thoughtful animated film, and therefore one of the most fascinating released this year.

Inu-Oh: Official Poster

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Inu-Oh: critic who makes his show

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