July 27 9:30 PM
Coming to theatres Aug 12, 2022 courtesy of GKIDS. and to all major digital platforms on Dec 20 and on Blu-Ray™ + DVD on January 24.
Masaaki Yuasa’s musical fantasy is very ambitious, and that should be of no surprise for anyone who loves rock and roll or heavy metal. There’s a bit of history too, but to say how much of it is accurate is tough to ascertain. That’s because there’s not a lot of surviving records about the real life Inu-Oh (犬王, lit. “Dog King”).
The themes in this self-titled movie concerns defying the status quo and showing that it’s okay to be yourself. That’s how Inu-Oh lives his life. He believes there’s no need to conform, especially when he’s born deformed Sadly, people run away if they see him in his true form. Thus, he’s always wearing a mask and dons a huge garment to cover up his entire body. It’s a shame nobody can see past his ugliness, but thankfully Toma can. That’s because he’s blind.
Even that doesn’t stop him from playing a mean lute. When this bard meets Inu-oh and decides they can entertain the masses, people are loving them. They busk along street corners, and pretty soon, get the attention of the government.
The real story concerns what type of music is considered acceptable (much like Elvis which I also reviewed), and what they can play on the streets. Heike is the only style of music considered nice. But secretly, there are gatherings so the public can enjoy Noh–which is completely different back then compared to now. Apparently, there were raves during the Muromachi period (1336 to 1573).
This anime is a rock and roll phantasmagorical opera. And the best moments are when we see Inu-Oh and Toma perform. I’m even reminded of Brian De Palma‘s Phantom of the Paradise. But what really stands out for me is when the titular hero rocks out and gives us a stage antic which is very reminiscent of Freddie Mercury getting audiences to sing out loud, “We Will Rock You.”
Inu-oh was neglected much of his life, and to see how he survives makes for a great story. Although we know little of the historical figure who is in Tales of the Heike (Amazon Link) and this anime, I hope his legacy will shine on forever, like the crazy diamond that he is.
5 Stars out of 5