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Masaaki Yuasa’s ‘INU-OH’ Just Added to Annecy 2020 Work in Progress Presentations

Award-winning director discusses his latest film, an animated musical about a 14 century Japanese Sarugaku Noh performer, set for a 2021 release. 

Award-winning animation director Masaaki Yuasa (Ride Your Wave, Lu Over the Wall, The Night is Short, Walk on Girl) has just been added to the Annecy 2020 Online Work in Progress program; he will be presenting his latest film, INU-OH, a musical animation about Inu-Oh, a real-life Sarugaku Noh performer and playwright who enjoyed great success in 14th-century Japan. The film is filled with music and dance sequences that portray the friendship between the legendary Inu-Oh, who vanished from history, and a Biwa player he befriended.

In his presentation, Yuasa explains the background of portraying the all-but-unknown Noh star performer while showing parts of the animation test and graphic elements in progress. He also shares some of designer Taiyo Matsumoto’s character art.

In discussing his two main characters, Yuasa says, “Although Inu-oh was born in adverse circumstances, he is tremendously cheerful and makes decisions by himself about his way to live. As for Tomona, a blind biwa player, he recognizes his surroundings from the sounds he hears. He befriends Inu-oh who is bright and joyful despite his horrible environment, and they start performing together.”

Though the animated feature is a period piece, Yuasa tries to integrate Matsumoto’s elegant designs into the overall visual style. Clips explore Yuasa’s tests on portraying how Tomona’s images become visible one after another, starting from sounds made in complete darkness. He makes further reference to the description of the two main characters, noting, “Although Noh is traditional and imposing art to us in the modern world, but back then it was entertainment for the general public. Inu-oh and Tomona are a sudden worldwide sensation and modern pop idols that rise to stardom in an ancient era, like punk and hard rock that were suddenly a part of our culture."

Describing the film’s theme, he explains, “People might not feel rewarded or acknowledged by society, even though they're strong and talented. But one's accomplishments will be noticed by someone somewhere, and they'll be passed on and remembered.” In this sense, he adds, the story of Inu-oh and Tomona could be very powerful. “I'm confident that it's going to be good.”

Japanese production house Science SARU is handling the film’s animation production; the film is being produced and distributed by their partner studio, Asmik Ace, Inc. INU-OH is directed by Yuasa from a screenplay by Akiko Nogi. The film is based on Hideo Furukawa’s novel, "Heike Monogatari Inu-Oh no Maki" (“The Tale of the Heike, Inu-Oh’s Episode”), published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha Publishers. The film’s characters are created by Matsumoto; Nabutake Ito is the film’s character designer and chief animation director; production design is by Hideki Nakamura; key animation is by Norio Matsumoto.

Source: Asmik Ace

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.