This versatile medium of animation has become a wonderful tool for visionaries to express complex narratives. One of the greatest anime writers to emerge from Japan over the past two decades is Masaaki Yuasa, who has consistently brought out groundbreaking content for television and cinema.

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However, the incredible heights reached in anime films would be impossible to achieve on television. 2022 will be a big year for Yuasa with the release of his latest cinematic masterpiece. Inu-Oh, This also makes it the perfect time to reflect on his many contributions to date.

9 Slime Adventure: Yay, the Sea! is a short escapade with a ball of goo

One of Masaaki Yuasa’s earliest directing works is an unusual cross-promotion with the dragon quest video game series. A promotional VHS was released alongside a subscription to a Japanese video game magazine, giving Yuasa the opportunity to put together a 15-minute short film focusing on the popular Slime dragon quest.

Strangely, slime protagonists have become more common in modern Isekai anime, but Yuasa was ahead of the curve here in this over-the-top adventure reminiscent of early Studio Ghibli films. Slime Adventure: Yay the Sea! shows great promise and already contains many of Yuasa’s trademarks, but its short length holds it back.

8th Genius Party’s Happy Machine is a thoughtful look at the cycle of life

Anime is a medium that has had great success in the form of anthologies and Studio 4°C Awesome party is a declaration of love to creativity with 12 ambitious short films. Many anime visionaries are recruited to bring them Awesome party‘s stories to life and Yuasa’s contribution “Happy Machine” is a clear highlight.

Filtered through the eyes of an innocent baby, a sprawling series of events sends the child on an adventure. There is an emotional conclusion to the 14-minute story that is as visually exciting as it is profound. Awesome party must be seen as a whole, but Yuasa’s short film is still a unique triumph.

7 Japan Sinks: 2020 is unusually low-key in both style and subject matter

Originally released as a ten-episode Netflix series, Yuasa edited his contemporary environmental disaster epic, Japan sinks: 2020, into a feature film. This condensed version of a brother and sister’s quest to find their parents in the midst of a disaster is arguably stronger than the extended series version.

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That being said, it’s still one of Yuasa’s weaker efforts, lacking his trademark visual flourishes. While Japan sinks: 2020 has the biggest and most important message of Yuasa’s filmography, it is occasionally too dour for its own good. Yuasa is a director who thrives on optimism.

6 Kick-Heart is a bombastic love story between wrestlers that transcends its short length

kick heart is a 12-minute short film funded by Yuasa via Kickstarter and marks a major turning point in the director’s career. It often feels like Yuasa has unlimited freedom to tell his stories, however kick heart is the first time that’s actually true. This labor of love follows two fighters in love who appear as masked wrestlers in the moonlight.

kick heart effortlessly presents their choreographed fight as the ultimate expression of romance, all enhanced by a kaleidoscopic color palette that makes the short feel like it can be seen through Love Vision.

5 Lu Over The Wall uses a vampire mermaid to open the eyes of a sad boy

Many animated feature films focus on aquatic kingdoms because water can make for beautiful visuals. Yuasa has engaged in water matters on several occasions and Lu over the wall is its most kid-friendly. The film revolves around a teenager who finds his calling after meeting a mermaid who has a penchant for singing.

This literal fish-out-of-water tale is endlessly adorable and will have audiences constantly tapping their toes. Lu over the wall might feel a little more disposable than Yuasa’s other films, but it has an explosive final act that ranks among the director’s best works.

4 Ride your Wave is a touching tale of grief immersed in magical realism

Masaaki Yuasa returns to the water Ride your wavea film to which one feels committed Lu over the wall in many ways, but tells a more mature and emotional story. A grieving young adult gets another chance at love when her soulmate unexpectedly returns via the medium of water.

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Ride your wave finds many ways to harness the malleability of water to create beautiful sequences that reflect both the connection and distance between these two broken hearts. Ride your wave feels like the cathartic culmination of many of Yuasa’s usual themes and appeals to his developing sensibilities as a storyteller.

3 Mind Game is a wild assault on style and passion that is one of a kind

mind game is a unique experience that is a testament to the limitless freedom that animation offers and how imperfections are part of what makes something so beautiful. The film chronicles a hopeful loser’s efforts to save his childhood crush from yakuza loan sharks, but it employs an experimental aesthetic and structure that feels more like an anthology film.

Yuasa presents each chapter of Nishi’s story in a contrasting style of animation, some of which are raw and unpolished. It’s a totally unique expression of creativity that represents Yuasa perfectly.

2 The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl is a rainbow fever dream like nothing else

There is a deceptively simple story behind it The night is short, go on girl, where its unnamed protagonist embraces the endless possibilities of a night on the town with an open mind. Much of the film feels like separate vignettes examining different sectors of society, but throughout it emphasizes the messy, serious nature of what it means to be human.

A chaotic cast of characters slip in and out of the story as this optimistic girl truly experiences the wonders of life.The film has a stream of quality of consciousness that is simply captivating.

1 Inu-Oh is a beautiful explosion of folklore, music and identity that is Yuasa’s crowning achievement

Masaaki Yuasa’s latest film, 2022 Inu-Oh, could indeed be the magnum opus of the impressive director. Set in 14th-century Japan, the film tells the heartwarming story of Inu-Oh and Tomona, two neglected individuals who find their voices through music and dance.

This inspirational tale is set before a grueling civil war, and Yuasa’s fluid animation style is the perfect tool to juxtapose his diverse themes, tones, and ideas. Every area where Yuasa normally excels is showcased here, and it culminates in a stunning cinematic piece.

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