With the ecstatic, rebellious rock opera Inu-Oh, anime's wildest creator is back

With the ecstatic, rebellious rock opera Inu-Oh, anime's wildest creator is back ...

Masaaki Yuasa's animated work is unusual for it to begin by looking backward. In the first minute of Inu-Oh, the co-founder and director of Keep Your Hands off Eizouken! and Ride Your Wavecrosses several centuries in one spot, with buildings unmaking themselves in front of viewers eyes. It's a psychedelic, bombastic rock opera, but amid all the energy, Yuasa contemplates what has been lost as society's more powerful forces attempt

Yuasa has done musical sequences before: a psychosexual hallucination in Mind Game, an extended theatrical farce in The Night Is Short, and a look back at a deceased loved one in Ride Your Wave. However, Inu-Oh retains its originality and freshness as it weaves the directors' quirks into a fiery and tragic past.

Following the horrifying Genpei War of 11801185, the film is set in 14th-century Japan, where the Ashikaga clan tirelessly works to secure its power.

Young Tomona, one of the two films leads, discovers an artifact that reacts violently to his presence. He soon discovers Inu-Oh, a child born with a curse of unknown origin, who is shunned from the historical record.

Yuasa's subjective viewpoint makes the first meeting immediately meaningful. His eye is characterized by a sort of keyhole camera racing through the streets and across rooftops, to onlookers' horror. Tomona is more calm. His adjustment to the loss of his eyesight is depicted in broad, oily paint brushstrokes.

Even in the midst of the film's soundtrack's euphoria, we get a glimpse at the two's excitement at sharing their perspectives with other people, using their art to depict how they perceive the world. Tomona adopts some of Inu-Oh's wild spirit, while Inu-Oh picks up Tomona's sensitivity. Together, the two reinvent and reinvigorate this trend.

What if Beatlemania had occurred 600 years ago? The public goes wild, and the authorities become suspicious, especially when the music begins spreading the history that the government has deliberately suppressed. Nonetheless, Inu-Oh nonetheless rejoices in the liberation of sheer performance.

Yuasa is best known for his comical delight in rubber band flexibility, and the way he seeks out the same kind of elated freedom that Inu-Oh and Tomona are achieving. Inu-Oh contrasts Noh theater with a more contemporary interpretation of pop culture: one song, named Dragon Commander, evokes the fast-fire lyrics and borrowed operatic harmonies of Bohemian Rhapsody.

The films musical sequences appear to be contemporary concerts, complete with light shows, crowd participation, and even black-clad security guards, instead of classical dance dramas. Yoshihide Otomo, an instrumentalist and turntablist, injects electronic tones into feudal surroundings.

Inu-Oh and Tomona transform themselves into Noh theater rock stars when they wear biwa priest vestments that resemble Jimi Hendrix's pointed back legs and broad V-necks from the Kings' iconic Soul Train line. As peasants dance and breakdance, Inu-Ohs' appearance transforms into an empowering force.

Yuasa revels in Inu-Oh's atypical physique, imposing dance moves, and angelic voice, yet he also becomes so involved in the performances that the mechanics become almost real. This is reflected in the film's incorporation of old paintings, and the patchwork effect of the film's title, which replicates Inu-Oh's shabby makeshift garments.

Yuasa creates the film using mixed media, exploring spaces with 3D CG animation or more tactile, painterly imagery. There are some slasher-style horror interludes as a mysterious figure stalks and kills roaming biwa priests, and an out-of-body experience that will have some recalling 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Inu-Oh and Tomona's intimate relationship and fluid gender performance, which receives pushback to match Devilman Crybaby's exploration of xenophobia, is more heavily stylized and ruggedly human. Tomona now Tomoari, with his lithe muscular form and provocative gyrations, is a sex symbol for braying crowds.

The two musicians are also witnesses to a hidden history, and there's something of an elegiac quality to Inu-Oh as it recounts the lives of those who died. It's both a tragic account of Heike's rule and a probable foregone conclusion for any artist. But there's a pinch of optimism in the act of artists living for themselves, in the ability to live beyond their creators' oppression.

On August 12, Inu-Oh will launch in American theaters.