“Inu-Oh” is directed by Masaaki Yuasa (Mind Game, The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl) and stars Ava-chan and Mirai Moriyama in a film where a cursed dancer and a musician team up and perform for eager audiences.
If the box office suggests anything, not many people saw “Inu-Oh,” as it has so far only raked in over $300,000. The film released on August 12th and is already out of theatres where I live. Meanwhile, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is back to do for Sony a second time what “Morbius” could not. I saw “Inu-Oh” at a theater about an hour from home. Usually I only have to travel like, 15, 20 minutes to a local multiplex. So not only was I hoping I would like the movie, I was hoping it would be worth the extra driving time. Especially considering how I got my wisdom teeth out days prior, and this was my first theatrical experience since… Was it worth the drive? Perhaps.
When I think of animation, and this includes anime, I often think of color, I think of vibrancy, I think of heightened aspects that you cannot do in live-action. This is part of what makes 1994’s “The Lion King” a much more attractive feature in comparison to its 2019 live-actionish remake. Even in more adult fare like the current HBO Max series “Harley Quinn,” the frame is often filled with color. It is rare for me to look at an animated product and think, “Wow, that looks dreary. That looks depressing.” “Inu-Oh” is a rare exception, and this works in its favor. Because yes, the movie is about friendship. Yes, the movie is about two guys performing rock music. But in addition to that, there is an important part of the film that has to do with how the songs are to be performed. It kind of reminds me of how some interpret history, and how some prefer to rewrite it for their own benefit.
Although speaking of flashy, colorful, attractive animation, the climactic sequence of the film, while it still manages to have the ongoing dark and dreary color palette, there are moments of color that won me over. I thought the film looked great whether it had a soap opera vibe or a kid’s cartoon feel. There is a great moment with a dragon towards the end of the film that established this movie’s excellence with the latter.
I think on paper, the two main characters, Tomona and Inu-Oh, are a recipe for delightfulness. Through the years, there have been a number of stories of two people who have their differences, no matter how far apart, and somehow they form a bond. “Inu-Oh” is no exception to this rule and the chemistry between the characters is likable. It is in essence, this film’s heart and soul that holds everything together.
Now if you saw the trailers for this movie, you would know that it heavily revolves around music. It centers around two people who share a bond over rock and decide to perform together. Obviously, the music has to be good. And I would say that it was. In fact, part of why I went to see this movie in the first place is because I watched the main trailer for it in advance, and I really liked the song they attached throughout. Safe to say, that song, along with others, did not disappoint. I think even if the Academy Awards were to pay more attention to anime, I don’t know if any of the songs here will win Best Original Song at the Oscars next year, but they are perfectly jammable given the movie at hand. Maybe if I listen to the soundtrack on my own I would appreciate the music more. Because that’s part of what happened with, using another recent anime as an example, “Belle.” I really liked the movie, but then I started listening to the music both in English and Japanese and it won me over. Although at the same time, I had the desire to watch that film a second time (which in addition to the music, was due to a brilliant satire on the Internet). Knowing what I saw in “Inu-Oh” from a story perspective, it feels like a one and done.
I have not watched a ton of anime. I got into the medium this year and have recently gotten into more classics like “Akira,” which despite its popularity, I was not a fan of. In addition, I watched “My Neighbor Totoro.” It felt simple, sweet, but I felt like it was missing something. I also watched “Summer Wars” for the first time recently, which was epic in every way. I also checked out “Your Name,” which blew me away. If I had to give “Inu-Oh” a ranking, “Inu-Oh” falls somewhere in between all these movies. It’s not bad enough to make me hate it, but it is also not solid enough to get me to watch it again. But is well-animated, the characters feel fairly fleshed out, and the soundtrack is quite good. Overall, a fine movie.
Going back to the music in “Inu-Oh,” here are a couple of my specific thoughts about it. The songs overall have good lyrics, decent rhythm, and a couple of them truly sound epic. It is exactly what you could want out of a rock opera. If I had to give one minor problem with the film’s soundtrack, it would be that I wish we had just a tad more variety. I understand that if you are doing a concert, it is almost a priority to “play the hits” or “give the people what they want.” Of course, I understand. If I go to a KISS concert, I would definitely want to hear “Rock N’ Roll All Nite,” but in regards to this movie, I want to see some extra juice in regards to the musical talents of the main characters. I think one or two different songs, or one more song that does not have the exact same pattern as another would have benefited the movie slightly. The soundtrack in general is really good, but hearing the same song or some slight variation of the same song more than once as opposed to hearing what else the duo could have given was slightly disappointing. Another way to compare and contrast is to think of it like AC/DC. If you ask me, I think they are quite talented. I think they have fun, energizing music. But almost every other song from them feels like a copy of another. At least the duo seems to understand what the audience in the movie wants, if there is any positive to all of this.
In the end, “Inu-Oh” is a decent movie, but it is not my favorite animation of the year. It is the first of this year’s anime lineup I saw so I have no films of that medium that I could compare it to, but as far as other animation goes, I would rather watch “Turning Red” again, which coincidentally pays homage to content like “Sailor Moon,” speaking of anime. I think “it is “Inu-Oh” well-directed, the story is intriguing, and of course, the music does not disappoint. I am going to give “Inu-Oh” a 7/10.
“Inu-Oh” is unfortunately mostly done with its U.S. theatrical run. It is seemingly just finishing in Southern California, but there are still more showtimes in New York. But as for other areas, you’d probably have to press your luck at finding a showtime. The film is still playing in select markets, so if you want to check it out, get your tickets now.
Thanks for reading this review! I want to make an announcement in regard to a future event on this blog. This November, “The Fabelmans,” the latest Steven Spielberg movie, is set to hit theaters. In preparation, I am going to be doing a Steven Spielberg month during the span of October! I will be reviewing “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial,” “The Post,” and some of you may have forgotten that I did not review this film last year, “West Side Story!” I did watch the film in theaters twice, but I just never got around to talking about it! It was even one of the Best Picture nominees during the 4th Annual Jackoff Awards! EIther way, that is coming this October!
As of right now, I am still in California, so my movie-watching schedule is kind of out of the loop, but I will have at least one review to post for next week, so stay alert! If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Inu-Oh?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite rock band? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!