Inu-Oh - Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Apr 4, 2017
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Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :2.5stars:
Final Score: :4stars:


I love that Masaaki Yuasa is such an oddball director. It’s part of the reason his films are so fascinating to watch. He can put out a cute comedy, a weird coming of age story (Lu Over the Wall), a wildly crazy action series (Devilman: Crybaby) and then a bizarre rock opera like Inu-Oh. His ability to genre jump is what makes him so appealing, as you never know what you’re going to get from project to project. In the case of Inu-oh we get a rock opera that speaks to the power of music midst feudal Japan, in a story that is almost art house in its execution.

Young Tomona and his father are hired by the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu to dive to the bottom of the ocean and retrieve one of the legendary 7 treasures that were lost ages ago. However the duo are never exactly told what treasure they are diving after, and end up rising with the Grasscutter sword, a blade that has the power of the sun at it’s core. Tomona’s father ends up killing himself with the power of the blade and leaving power Tomona blinded by his mistake. The agents of the Shogun take the blade while Tomona is blind, leaving the poor child in a rut. However, he’s not about to forgo the payment that the agents skipped out on, and ends up on a journey to hunt them down. In his travels he meets an aging Biwa player (a biwa being an ancient Japanese guitar like instrument) and teams up with the old man as his eyes. Along the way he ends up learning the biwa and finding out that there is more to life than simple pursuit of revenge.

Simultaneously we are introduced to Inu-Oh, a horribly disfigured and twisted child who is so repulsive to look at that his father makes him wear a ceremonial mask and eat with the dogs out back. Supposedly his father is a famous Noh performer (sort of like an actor) who made a deal with the spirits for his fame, and Inu-Oh was the price he was forced to pay. However, Inu-Oh finds a sort of healing in the power of dance, which allows his limbs and movements to become normal for a short period of time. Inu-Oh happens to run across Tomona one day and the duo find pure magic together. Tomona’s Biwa playing gels perfectly with Inu-Oh’s strange dancing, and soon the two put together a troop and go on the road. However, they have an enemy in the Shogun himself, as their songs don’t exactly put the Shogun in the best of lights. Naturally the shogun tries to stop the odd duo’s troop, but the power of song and dance has a way of coming through, no matter how strong the oppression.

Inu-Oh is a fascinating film that is pretty much pure rock opera like the tag line on the case states. Tomona’s heavy metal style Biwa playing adds an otherworldly air to the their stories, and the blind kid’s ability to see the dead warriors of the past adds even more supernatural flavors to the story. The tale is incredibly fun to watch unfold, even though it takes about 30 minutes to really get going. Combine the weirdness of Masaaki Yuasa and his trademark watercolor and stop motion style animation (depending on the scene) and you get a bizarre watch that really starts to unfold with repeat viewings. Personally I always watch a Yuasa film at least twice before commenting on it, because the first viewing is reserved for getting used to the bizarre nature of the story, and the second viewing is where I start to see the nuance and meaning of the narrative. Inu-Oh is no different, as the second viewing is where I started to really get into the groove of it all, and enjoy more than just the music and the odd visuals.


Rated PG-13 for some strong violence and bloody images, and suggestive material.

Video: :4.5stars:
Hand drawn (I love that we still get traditional hand drawn anime over straight up 3d animation) and framed in a stunning 2.39:1 AVC encode, Inu-Oh is an amazing looking Blu-ray. Shout Factory/Gkids seem to have kept the film at a CBR encode instead of VBR, but the limited detail style that Yuasa uses for the film allows the 35 mbps CBR encode to shine nonetheless (this is no Belle, not by a long shot). Colors are bright and vivid, with splashes of red and pink that startle you, while using soft blues and browns to create a more watercolor look for a majority of the film. The detail put into each location and each setting is amazing though. You can see individual cracks and grain on the wood flooring of a tea house, and even the folds and curves of a hastily thrown on outfit shifting as it sags. The animation is much more tactile and visceral than it is shiny and glossy, but that adds to to the textured and layered feel of the ancient feudal era rather than something pretty and shiny. I did notice some mild banding (especially near the end with the 600 year time jump and Tomona regaining memories) but overall this is fantastic encode from Gkids.

Audio: :4.5stars:
Shout/Gkids provides both English and Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD MA tracks, but I’m going to heavily lean towards the Japanese track over the English dub here though. Usually I say “eh, whatever language floats your boat” but the English language dub is not nearly as good as the original mix in my opinion. The craziness of Inu-Oh and the carefully metered Tomona is much more intense and natural sounding than the English voices, no matter how well they are done. Sonically both tracks are identical, and they’re DOOZIES to be sure. Rich vibrant music makes up the bulk of the surround experience, filling out the back and low end equally as well as the mains and center do with dialog. Ambient noises (such as being in the middle of a busy town) add some rear room depth, but overall the music is the central focus of the track. Bass is punchy and very nicely done when called upon, but not overly aggressive except in a few confrontation scenes where the Shoguns men come into play. Great mix.

Extras: :2.5stars:
• Q&A at US Premiere
• Interview with Masaaki Yuasa
• Yuasa Draw Inu-oh
• Scene Breakdown
• Trailers and Teasers

Final Score: :4stars:

I really really REALLY wanted to enjoy Inu-Oh, and luckily came away mostly impressed. The film is different than any other Yuasa film to date, and I count that as a good thing. It’s not a masterpiece in my humble opinion, but the ability to blend dance and music together with ancient mysticism and feudal warlords is a feat in and of itself, and is done nearly seamlessly. As usual, the story is more style over substance, but there is more than enough substance to keep fans entertained. Solidly recommended for those of you who enjoy a different style of Anime than you’re probably used to, and definitely something to check out if you’re a Masaaki Yuasa fan. Recommended.

Technical Specifications:

Starring: Avu-Chan, Mirai Moriyama, Kenjiro Tsuda, Tasuku Emoto, Yutaka Matsushige
Directed by: Masaakie Yuasa
Written by: Hideo Furukawa (Novel), Akiko Nogi (Screenplay)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DVS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish
Studio: Shout Factory
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 98 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: January 24th, 2023

Recommendation: Recommended



AV Addict
Jul 13, 2017
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Thanks for the review. I have enjoyed his prior works. Will check this out.
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