Inu-Oh is a touching story that takes viewers on an epic musical journey while demonstrating the importance of remembering the past.
Inu-Oh is the latest film from the extremely talented director Masaaki Yuasa. This film focuses on the importance of remembering the past, honoring those who have been lost, and living a good life. This is done not only through an emotional tale of a deformed child and a blinded child, but through some incredibly epic song and dance numbers. Viewers are sure to be completely captivated by the end, as they sing and dance along to songs that are sure to be stuck in their heads for days to come.
This movie might start off a bit slow, but it does so for a reason. Inu-Oh needs to set up for what is to come and although the first act drags, it makes the third act so much better having witnessed what happens. That being said, due to the issues at the beginning of the film, there is something lacking with the characters. They are likeable enough, especially Inu-Oh who you can’t help but feel bad for despite his mischievous behavior at first, but their character arcs feel like such a sudden jump forward that they are a bit hard to believe.
Still once the characters end up in their final resting place, they are a force to be reckoned with. In Inu-Oh it takes a blind boy to be able to see the good inside of the deformed child, who was forced by his family to wear a mask over his face and eat on the ground with the animals. The deformed child wants nothing more than to perform the arts like his father and brothers do, and practices in secret to hone his craft.
The blind boy’s destiny sees him becoming a talented traveling musician who is unafraid to step out of the box and bring something new to the world of music. As you can probably guess, the two team up to become a sensation known all over the lands, as crowds form in order to watch them perform.
The two tell the true tales of the Heike, ensuring that the brave warriors are not forgotten. Over time stories shift and change, so the truth is often lost or forgotten. Inu-Oh gives the message of the importance of remembering the truth about the past and proving that while the stories might change, the events in history never do.
The other powerful and emotional message being told is about being who you are, no matter what others think of you or how they treat you. Both boys are treated poorly for different reasons, and over the course of the film they evolve to become the confident, true versions of themselves. There is Queer and Trans messaging here that is very important for the audience to see and learn — as the message of acceptance is something the world really needs to hear right now.
The young boy was never accepted for being born different, but as he learns to embrace what he loves and who he is, he turns into something truly special. He finds love and acceptance from others, just for speaking his truths.
The hand drawn animation style of Inu-Oh immediately stands out, and only gets more impressive as the story goes on. During the final act there are several massive musical performances that, even though they take place 600 years ago, mimic classic rock concerts of more recent times. These scenes are powerful for many reasons, but when there are huge crowds of people screaming, dancing, and singing along to the songs Inu-Oh is playing, it is impossible not to be sucked in to the fun of it all.
Inu-Oh might start off slow and disjointed, but it eventually becomes a captivating musical adventure that is unafraid to reference a lot of lessons this world needs today. Not only is it important to love one another for who they are, and treat them with kindness, it is necessary to not forget the sins of the past, lest you repeat them.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Two centuries after the legendary conflict between the Heike and Genji clans, a fisherman’s young son passes his days as a diver, scouring the lake’s bottom for relics of the tragic final battle. A mission for shogunate retainers leaves the boy blinded and his father dead. At that same moment, a monstrous, misshapen son is born to a family of respected Noh theatre performers.
The blind boy grows up to be a humble yet talented travelling musician, seeking the hidden villages of the Heike’s descendants to gather their stories. The deformed and despised boy skulks and capers at the margins of society, his hideous face hidden behind a mask, all the while secretly mastering the craft of stage performance.
When their paths cross, amazing events are set in motion, sending shockwaves through medieval Japanese society.
Inu-Oh played at Fantasia 2022 and hits theaters on August 12th.
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Tessa Smith is a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved Film and TV Critic. She is also a Freelance Writer. Tessa has been in the Entertainment writing business for almost ten years and is a member of several Critics Associations including the Critics Choice Association, Hollywood Critics Association, and the Greater Western New York Film Critics Association.