The Other Side of Animation 269: Inu-Oh Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)


Heads up: I was able to watch this film via a screener sent to me from GKIDS. I received no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, GKIDS for this opportunity.





When you go see a movie, what do you look for? Do you want an action-packed thrill ride? Do you want a thriller so dense with tension that you are left breathless? What about a horror film that leaves you so panicked and stressed out over the fear that lingers in your mind and the world around you as you exit the theater or turn off your TV? What about some animated visuals that live-action films can never truly fulfill? You probably want to see a film that not only stands out from the pack, but truly changes the world around you and your view on the art form itself. Not many can do so, but here we are with what might be one of the most important films of 2022, not just in animation, but in film in general. It’s a film that will make you think and redefine how films are made, and that is a good thing. We need more films shaking up the landscape and telling diverse stories and told in new and interesting ways. For now, let’s dive into the whimsical and abstract world of Inu-Oh.

This film is directed by the master himself, Masaaki Yuasa, written by Akiko Nogi, composed by Otomo Yoshihide, and animated by Science Saru. It tells the story of a blind Biwa player named Tomona, voiced by Mira Moriyama. He travels the land looking for stories to tell of the Heiki clan after their fall from the war. He was blinded after an incident brought upon by some government officials looking for a tool of power. Along his journey to becoming a biwa player, he encounters an odd entity in the form of a deformed human, who at first has no name but soon gains one via the performance name of Inu-Oh, voiced by the queen bee herself, Avu-chan. Together, they team up to tell the stories through song and dance of the spirits that were forgotten by the sands of time and the grasping hands of the rising political powers of Japan. 

You know how some reviews have described this film by saying that it’s a bit of everything? Well, it is. It’s a political thriller, a murder mystery, an epic stadium rock opera, an LGBTQ+-infused friendship story, and it’s also an absurd fairy-tale-infused slice of history about an individual forgotten in time. Inu-Oh is a story about how the conquest for greed and power are willing to erase from history people that existed. It’s a dark film with a rather depressing through-line of what happens to our leads. It’s a thrilling and energy-infused musical romp where music is used to tell the honest truth of the world. It’s both big in scale, and yet personal and intimate with its characters. Any normal director would not be able to handle everything that this film throws in front of you. Inu-Oh has both complex and brutal emotions, but it’s also simple and pure, a film that has a lot of subtext and text upfront about what it’s talking about, and it feels like it should all collapse into itself like some large sinkhole opening into the earth. How the heck do you balance all of this out? In addition, instead of just being a period drama, its music, like mentioned previously in the review and a bit further into the said review, has a rock edge to its  compositions and performances. It has that spark of pizzaz that would feel out of place if it was handled by anyone other than Masaaki Yuasa. However, while this film is spinning a multitude of plates and tones, what it doesn’t forget is that at the core of this film, it’s the story between Tomona and Inu-Oh. It’s a journey of their struggles and arcs in a world that is extremely unforgiving and very prone to discrimination. They could easily be forgotten individuals through the passages of time, but they push back and make sure that they and others exist. The different plot points, from the murder mystery to the political thriller aspects, are woven between beautiful music and atmospheric landscapes of the past. The characters may be straightforward, but with the allergic response people have with nuance these days, it’s for the best that the characters we do follow don’t muddy the waters. Tomona and Inu-Oh are bonded closely like brothers, and the final scene between them is extremely touching. In contrast, the overarching villains of the film are intensely despicable individuals with what they are willing to do to rise to power. The twists and turns that take you through this story will make you love our leads, laugh, smile, dance, and rock alongside the music, and just hate with a seething fury the passive villains of the film.

The animation is an experience in itself. It’s full of everything you love and adore about Science Saru with its chaotic and fluid animation. Combine the designs from character designer Obutake Ito, who did the designs for Giovanni’s Island, Lu Over the Wall, The Night is Short Walk on Girl, and Taiyo Matsumoto, who was behind the art of Tekkonkinkreet, the visual look of everything is drop-dead gorgeous. From the toned-down yet vibrant colors to the wildly expressive faces that show everyone who they really are and the flashy musical sequences, to the painted look of Tomona’s world through his blind eyes, you have an elevated visual treat that you won’t be able to compare or find in the cinematic landscape. Seriously, the musical sequences not only tell the story of the forgotten souls who couldn’t find rest, but they help paint the rise and popularity of our two leads, as well as the bitter silent anger from the main villain who finds their speaking the truth a threat to his overarching goal to unite the nations. The music itself is a collaborative effort between Otomo Yoshihide and Avu-chan. It’s full of just the best kind of rock with great story-driven lyrics, but also jam session vibes, and when they are paired with the film’s visuals, you get a special treat that beats out most of every musical this year. The voice cast is amazing. Avu-chan is incredible as Inu-Oh, and her performance is easily one of my favorites of the year. She brings a playful innocence to the early part of the character, and when the drama hits, she handles the heavier story beats well. Her scene with the soliloquy is probably my favorite scene of the entire film, and that’s saying something since her performances are the best part of the film. Mirai Moriyama also works well off of Avu-chan, and his singing is also pretty great! They really bring the heart and soul to the entire story, and the other actors do a great job with their own respective roles. 

There will never be enough words to describe the experience of watching a film like Inu-Oh. It’s a fantastical experience, it’s magical, it’s a political drama, it’s a sharp-edged social commentary, it’s a bombastic stadium rock opera, it’s a grand-scale epic, it’s a small-scale emotionally-driven human story, it’s an LGBTQ+ infused journey of two souls looking to tell the stories of the forgotten, and it’s a highly-condensed cinematic experience that could only come from the mind of someone like Masaaki Yuasa. Inu-Oh is everything that he stands for, not only in filmmaking, but in storytelling, his ideals, and as a human being. Inu-Oh, just like Everything Everywhere All At Once, is a cinematic journey through the making of art on screen. It shows you what kind of creative adventures filmmakers can take you on. It’s a film that is firing on all cylinders with its visuals. It’s a film that proudly and definitely spits in the face of filmmakers and critics who talk down to the medium of animation. It viscerally stands and rebels against the naysayers and “Negative Nancies” who keep confining and limiting the medium of animation and storytelling. It’s, once again, everything everywhere all at once. If this thick slice of word loaf didn’t say so already, Inu-Oh is my favorite film of the year. It’s not only the best animated film of the year, but it’s also, bluntly, the best film of the year. You will never see something like Inu-Oh. If you can see it, please do. More people need to see the cinematic brilliance of something so distinct like Inu-Oh. It’s also a fun companion piece to Science Saru and Naoko Yamada’s adaptation of The Heike Story. We may never see a new film by Masaaki Yuasa, but for now, his story has been told, and his journey through the beauty of animation ends here. He rightfully deserves a break, and hopefully, one day, he may return to tell more stories like this one. For now, we shall journey to a fantastic world of the mystical Dragon Balls as we talk about Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero

Rating: Essential

My Journey Through Annecy 2021

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this Editorial!)

What can I say about the Annecy 2021 Online experience? Well, it was a mixed bag. While I can overall say I had a good time, their move to being both an online and in-person event is what dragged it down for the online customers. Sorry, I don’t have the time or money to spend on going to France during a pandemic. It was a real botched attempt to satisfy the people who could go in person and the people from around the world who wanted to attend. It had some great elements to it, but I would also argue it didn’t do enough for people who wanted to experience it online. Here are my pros and cons of what I took away from the festival 



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Pro: WIP section was fruitful and interesting! 

As with last year, my favorite part of the festival was watching the work-in-progress panels. I loved seeing what films were getting made and how they were tackling the animation process. It’s so cool to get these behind-the-scenes looks at animation production because otherwise, not many people get to see this side of animation. Granted, some of them were in French, so it was a disappointment to watch and not understand parts. A few of them also didn’t seem to have a whole lot done. It made me wonder if these are part “Here is what we are making” and part “We are showing off what we have made so far to look for funding”. That’s not a bad thing, but I think I always want to see films that I can check out sooner than later, but that’s just me. I wish the ones in French all had subtitles or a different making-of video for online viewers so they don’t have to wait to watch them when they are finally dubbed or subbed. 

Favorite Panels: The House, Maya & The Three, Princess Dragon, Little Nicholas, Unicorn Wars, The Peasant, Fena: Pirate Princess, Robin Robin, Perlimps, Nayola.


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Con: None of the feature films were watchable online! 

I think this was the biggest issue, as while it was an issue last year, at least last year’s Online experience let you watch some films that were competing. I know and I get that there is a lot of legal and copyright stuff that kept some of these films out of the online portion of last year’s event, but since some of the films in competition waltzed right in with distributors, like Deer King got picked up by GKIDS and Viva Kids picked up Ape Star, why wouldn’t they be a part of the online part of the festival? I know last year’s batch of watchable films were mostly films with no real widespread value or appeal, but they decided this year that none of them were going to be watchable! I’m sure ya had to be there to see films like Snotty Boy or Mount Fuji Seen From a Train, which didn’t look like an animated film at all! The worst part is that they promised three films were going to be watchable online, but they just never showed up. You could watch the shorts and two old films from 1979 and 1981, but that was it. What is the point of having an online form of the festival when the online viewers can’t watch the features?! It doesn’t help either that Animation is Film 2021 was announced during Annecy, and will (for now) have an in-person and virtual experience with none of the hiccups that Annecy keeps having. Also, Animation First and the NYICFF had films that were fully watchable online! I don’t understand why they are so stingy outside of the obvious legal stuff, but if they aren’t going to have some feature films watchable online in an online version of the festival, then I would rather not participate at all. I was lucky to get a screener for one film, but that was it. Please, Annecy, I beg of you to make the films watchable online for online viewers next time! 

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Pro: Bubble Bath is a trippy film! 

Well, of the two older animated features they had to offer to the online viewers, I was excited to see Bubble Bath. This was a 1979 Hungarian film that had one of the wildest character designs and animation style out of any animated film from back then and even now. It was a film that said, “going off-model is the entire point.” It was also a musical, and while I don’t remember the songs, I thought it was charming! The story was decent enough, but I think the wild visuals and the story got lost within said visuals. Still, it was an experience I rather enjoyed, and once I see it become available in the US, I will buy a copy of the film. 

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Con: A majority of the French Annecy panels did not have subtitles on them! 

Listen, I would love to have all of the time in the world to learn other languages, and I know there are plenty of ways to learn said languages, but when a good chunk of the online viewers are from the US, well, I would just assume not everyone can speak or knows French. They have said the panels will get translated subtitles or dubs, but it makes me wish they did subtitle videos like they did last year. I could generally get what they were talking about, but fully getting it would have made some of them better experiences. 

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Pro: The Inu-Oh Preview. 

One of the highlights was seeing the first five minutes of Masaaki Yuasa’s new film, and boy, was it a ride. With the beautiful animation, the different tone, and the character designs, it’s always exciting to see what Yuasa and his team have come up with next. I’m sad this will be his last film for a while since he’s going to be on break, but if the rest of the film was as good as these first five minutes, then I can’t wait to see how the rest of the film unfolds.

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Con: Should have had more previews! 

I loved the Inu-Oh preview and admired the unknown horrors we will be stepping into with Space Jam: A New Legacy, but those were the only two? You couldn’t do previews of the films that were being shown off or upcoming films? What about the ones that were premiering there as screenings like Luck Favors Nikuko? I don’t know, it reeks of the online consumers not having a proper experience, while the in-person stuff got all of the love and support. 

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Pro: The Panels were a lifesaver

Seeing the Netflix, Ron’s Gone Wrong, and other informational animation panels were a nice addition to the Work-in-Progress panels. Being able to see new shows and upcoming films for services like Netflix was fun! 

Favorite Panels: The Netflix ones and Ron’s Gone Wrong

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Con: There needed to be more for the online attendees than just the shorts

Let’s be really frank here, the online viewers got the short end of the stick. The shorts were great! The panels were great! However, that was it. Again, I get that they wanted to focus on the in-person event, but if you aren’t going to offer an equal experience to the online filmgoers, then maybe don’t do an online experience. I still enjoyed my time at Annecy, but I want Annecy to do better. I want to talk about more of these films that everyone might want to know about, but when you don’t give me access to them, well, I don’t know if I can get the word out and maybe drum up some attention.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!