Every Masaaki Yuasa Anime Movie & Short, Ranked – CBR – Comic Book Resources

2022 sees the release of Yuasa’s latest cinematic masterpiece, Inu-Oh, which also makes it the perfect time to reflect upon his many past works.
This versatile medium of animation has become a beautiful tool for visionaries to express complex narratives. One of the biggest anime auteurs to come out of Japan over the past two decades is Masaaki Yuasa, who’s steadily put out groundbreaking content for both television and movie theatres.
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However, the incredible heights that are reached in anime movies would be impossible to achieve on television. 2022 is set to be a big year for Yuasa with the release of his latest cinematic masterpiece, Inu-Oh, which also makes it the perfect time to reflect upon his many past contributions.
One of the earliest directorial efforts of Masaaki Yuasa is an unusual cross-promotion with the Dragon Quest video game series. A promotional VHS was released alongside a Japanese video game magazine subscription, which gave Yuasa an opportunity to put together a 15-minute short film that focuses on the popular Slime from Dragon Quest.
Oddly, Slime protagonists have become more common in modern isekai anime, but Yuasa was ahead of the curve here in this exaggerated adventure that feels reminiscent of early Studio Ghibli films. Slime Adventures: Yay, the Sea! is extremely promising and already contains many of Yuasa's trademarks, but its short length is what holds it back.
Anime is a medium that's found tremendous success in the form of anthologies, and Studio 4°C's Genius Party is a love letter to creativity that features 12 ambitious short films. Many anime visionaries are enlisted to bring Genius Party's stories to life and Yuasa's contribution, "Happy Machine," is a clear standout.
Filtered through the eyes of an innocent baby, a sprawling series of events sends the infant on an adventure. There's an emotional conclusion to the 14-minute story that's as visually exciting as it is deep. Genius Party as a whole is mandatory viewing, but Yuasa’s short is still a unique triumph.
Initially released as a ten-episode Netflix series, Yuasa edited down his timely environmental disaster epic, Japan Sinks: 2020, into a feature film. This condensed version of a brother and sister's efforts to find their parents in the midst of disaster is arguably stronger than the extended serialized version.
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That being said, it still amounts to one of Yuasa's weaker efforts that lacks his typical visual flourishes. While Japan Sinks: 2020 has the biggest and most important message out of Yuasa's filmography, it's occasionally too dour for its own good. Yuasa is a director who thrives on optimism.
Kick-Heart is a 12-minute short film that Yuasa got funded through Kickstarter, and it marks an important turning point in the director's career. It often feels like Yuasa has unlimited freedom to tell his stories, but Kick-Heart is the first time that's genuinely true. This labor of love follows two infatuated fighters who moonlight as masked wrestlers.
Kick-Heart effortlessly presents their choreographed fight as the ultimate expression of romance, all of which is heightened through a kaleidoscopic color palette that makes the short feel like it's being seen through "Love Vision."
Many animated feature films focus on aquatic kingdoms because water can lead to beautiful visuals. Yuasa has turned to aquatic affairs on several occasions, and Lu Over the Wall is his most kid-friendly. The movie centers on a teenager who finds his calling after he encounters a mermaid with a penchant for singing.
This literal fish-out-of-water story is endlessly adorable and will have the audience perpetually tapping their toes. Lu Over the Wall might feel slightly more disposable than Yuasa's other movies, but it has an explosive final act that's some of the director's best work.
Masaaki Yuasa returns to the water in Ride Your Wave, a movie that feels indebted to Lu Over the Wall in many ways, but tells a more mature and emotional story. A grief-stricken young adult gets another chance at love when her soulmate makes an unexpected return via the medium of water.
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Ride Your Wave finds many ways to use the malleability of water to create gorgeous sequences that reflect both the connection and distance between these two hurt hearts. Ride Your Wave feels like the cathartic culmination of many of Yuasa's usual themes and speaks towards his evolving sensibilities as a storyteller.
Mind Game is a one-of-a-kind experience that's a testament to the limitless freedom animation offers and how imperfections are part of what makes something so beautiful. The movie 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 akin to an anthology film's.
Yuasa presents each chapter of Nishi's story in a contrasting animation style, some of which are raw and unpolished. It's a wholly unique expression of creativity that's the perfect representation of Yuasa.
There's a deceptively simple story in The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl, where its unnamed protagonist embraces the endless possibilities of a night out on the town with an open mind. Much of the movie feels like separate vignettes that examine different pockets of society, but it consistently highlights the messy, earnest nature of what it means to be human.
A chaotic cast of characters comes in and out of the story as this optimistic girl gets to truly experience the wonders of life.There’s a stream of consciousness quality to the movie that’s just captivating.
Masaaki Yuasa's latest film, 2022's Inu-Oh, may in fact be the impressive director's magnum opus. Set in 14th Century Japan, the movie 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 against a grueling civil war, and Yuasa's fluid animation style is the perfect tool to juxtapose its disparate themes, tones, and ideas. Every area where Yuasa typically shines is on display here, and it culminates in a breathtaking piece of cinema.
Daniel Kurland is a freelance writer, comedian, and critic, who lives in the cultural mosaic that is Brooklyn, New York. Daniel’s work can be read on ScreenRant, Splitsider, Bloody Disgusting, Den of Geek, and across the Internet. Daniel recently completed work on a noir anthology graphic novel titled, “Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Noir: A Rag of Bizarre Noir and Hard Boiled Tales” and he’s currently toiling away on his first novel. Daniel’s extra musings can be found @DanielKurlansky on Twitter.

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