INU-OH ★★★½

Masaaki Yuasa has long established himself as one of the most creatively unbridled minds in all of modern animation — his expressionistic films (“The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl”) and television shows (“Devilman Crybaby”) alike exude a shape-shifting fearlessness that allows them to address old strifes with new sensitivities — but not even his die-hard fans could hope to adequately prepare themselves for the head-scratching, jaw-dropping, head-banging freak-out of the director’s latest and potentially last feature, “Inu-Oh.” An anime rock opera about a blind 14th century biwa player who becomes a massive star after teaming up with the “uniquely talented” Noh performer who lends the film its title (read: a hideous demon from hell who hides his disfigured face behind a gourd mask, breakdances with the help of his giant 10-foot arm, and daydreams about kidnapping children), “Inu-Oh” unfolds like a mash-up between the Japanese legend “The Tale of the Heike” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” right down to the Freddie Mercury falsetto. Not since 1973’s “Belladonna of Sadness” has an anime feature reimagined ancient history in such hypnotically psychedelic fashion.

At heart, “Inu-Oh” is a film about storytelling’s power to keep the past alive, and while Yuasa’s carnivalesque extravaganza can be too slippery to hold onto at times, it always proves unforgettable in a way that serves that ultimate purpose. Even viewers who are overwhelmed by the novel’s worth of opening text — an info-dense scrawl recounting the 12th century clash between the Genji and Heike clans — and puzzled by the political gamesmanship between rival imperial courts during Muromachi Era Japan will soon find themselves bopping along to the timeless beats of a tale about stolen myths, suppressed histories, and how the ghosts of the past make their voices heard.

~this review continues on IndieWire~

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