Animation maverick Masaaki Yuasa returns with a medieval rock opera. Riffing on the 14th-century Japanese epic “The Tale of the Heike” – a story baked into the Japanese historical subconscious with innumerable connotations – it recounts the story of the namesake clan set against centuries of turbulent civil wars with the the Heike clan is defeated, the child emperor drowned and a sacred imperial sword lost. Told in ‘Noh style’ Yuasa finds an urgency in their union with Tomonoa’s delicate song soundtracking Inu-oh’s soul bearing dance. As the iconoclastic union of these two rhythmic friends catches on, they are brought into the conflict with stuffy imperial authority figures. As the ballad plays out the sense of visual poetry on-screen doesn’t quite match up with the music-set pieces.
The rock score takes away from the emotional potency of the pair’s delicate song and anachronistically at odds with the film’s aesthetic. The complex plot is confusingly explored and the nuanced missed – resulting in a clunky and half baked work. Nonetheless, the stunning sketch-like style of the work will bring a warm smile to anime fans and there is plenty of sword-buckling here for genre enthusiasts. Yussa, a style of Japanese Musical theatre, the film is a eulogic homage that mourns the loss of two singular Noh practitioners. It follows the meeting of the titular Inu-oh (a monstrous looking masked performer and physically deformed amauter dancer) and Tomonoa (a blind biwa player). ★★★
- Neues Off Kino, from 13.11.22