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Inu-Oh Director Masaaki Yuasa Addresses The Film's Potential Gay Subtext - Exclusive

Masaaki Yuasa's anachronistic 14th-century rock opera anime movie "Inu-Oh" is, at heart, about the close bond between two musically-gifted outcasts: a monstrous-looking victim of a magic curse who calls himself Inu-Oh (the name means "king of the dogs") and a blind biwa player originally named Tomona (he goes by various different names over the course of the story). This bond could be read as an intense friendship, but it's also easy to interpret their relationship as something more.

Queerness can be seen in many aspects of "Inu-Oh." The duo's glam rock music and theatrical gender non-conforming costumes are clearly influenced by the likes of Freddie Mercury, Iggy Pop, and David Bowie. Inu-Oh's Japanese voice actor Avu-chan is non-binary, as is the character's recently-announced voice actor in the English dub, Joshua Waters. Tomona's English voice actor is a trans woman, Sena Bryer.

Looper recently got the chance to speak with Yuasa about the film in an exclusive interview, and we had to ask him about the film's LGBTQ+ subtext and whether or not Inu-Oh and Tomona were intended to be in a queer relationship.

All of your interpretations are correct

When asked whether Inu-Oh and Tomona's relationship was intended as friendship or romance, Yuasa answered, "I actually avoided making it clear. I wanted it to be [a] gray area so whoever watches this movie can decide on their own."

It's worth noting that "Inu-Oh" was co-produced by a Chinese company, Open Culture Entertainment (Shanghai) (via Variety), so it would seem likely that explicitly queer content wouldn't be allowed in a film that would have to pass through the Chinese censors. Yuasa neither confirms nor denies a gay reading of the film, saying "Just giving the personality to these characters — I thought that was enough."

Given the intentional "gray area" of the film, any theories or headcanons you personally have about Inu-Oh and Tomona's identities and their relationship are perfectly valid.

"Inu-Oh" will be available on digital platforms on December 20 and on Blu-ray and DVD on January 24.