SM: Coming from the richer than plums mind of director Masaaki Yuasa, The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl is a film that follows a black-haired otome — aptly named The black-haired maiden in the credits (or The Girl With Black Hair) — during the course of one night as she walks the streets of Kyoto, resolved to be led by fate. To say this film is adorable is an understatement. With its coming of age storyline featuring a slew of college students, each of whom gets their own time to shine in the comedic yet sweet spotlight. A prime example would be Don Underpants, a student who fell in love with a woman after apples bounced off both their heads, only to miss his chance of talking to her. As a result, he vows to never change his underwear until he sees her again and goes on to make a guerilla theatre production to find her. Having characters get fleshed out like this is refreshing and makes for great moments.
ET: The many characters scattered throughout Night is Short are integral to the whimsical nature of the film as a whole. The side stories of each contribute to the overall storyline to create a cohesive tale of a wild night out. We follow Senpai, a character who is hopelessly in love with the Girl With the Black Hair and as a result, creates coincidental, or chance, encounters with her so she will notice him and believe it is fate. He even goes to such great lengths as to acquire her favorite book she originally had as a child, by winning a spicy eating competition, only to have that one, (along with others), taken by The God of the Old Books Market. These grandiose acts of love and passion are contradicted by characters such as Todo, an old lush and pervert, who makes an advance at The Girl. This inevitably leads to her punching him in the face and setting him straight. These funny anecdotes and contrasting situations continue throughout the entirety of the film, making the night seem much longer than normal. This adds to the charm of this wild ride, creating a splendid chaos that compliments the quirky and adorable animation style.
SM: The animation is incredible. There are several things I love about this movie, but the animation is high up on the list. The way the characters look is reason enough to watch. Yuasa reunited with his animators and artists from The Tatami Galaxy for this one. Both The Tatami Galaxy and Night Is Short, Walk on Girl are novels written by Tomihiko Morimi, so it makes sense that the two are identical in style. Night Is Short is less busy in both animation and content though, making it easier to digest. Seeing the different backgrounds, the way that characters’ whole body made a fluid gulping motion whenever they drink (also the drinks look so pretty and make drinking look fun — which it is, in moderation), and the way the colors and motions clash together make for a style that may induce your eyes to be replaced by hearts. I also really like the different wardrobes for each character. The Girl With Black Hair has an outfit that looks equal parts innocent and adventurous, a key indicator that not only is she the main protagonist, but that it is indeed her coming-of-age story. Compare her look to Senpai’s, a regular white button-down shirt and sweater and black pants that makes it seem like he could be any person in the crowd — but with his dialogue he begins to stand out more. He’s easier to relate to because he dresses like someone who could easily go unnoticed, but because the audience is able to go through his struggles emotionally (especially in a scene involving cowboys), he’s someone we want to follow. The design choices do an excellent job of both conforming to — and subverting — our expectations with these characters. Also, Don Underpants’ bathrobe look is hilarious and a bit heartbreaking when you learn about his status as a hopeful romantic.
ET: I couldn’t agree more in regard to the animation style. Night is Short is delightful and pleasing to the eye. For someone who is inching into the world of anime, it serves as a great segway into the genre. Even if you might be a little lost, or getting used to reading the dialogue in movies, you are drawn into the bright colors and fluid animation. This film has a very specific animation style that has psychedelic elements throughout. This seems to be an intentional choice as all the characters are thoroughly intoxicated for the whole (short) Kyoto night. I believe this adds to the plot as well. If the way a movie is filmed or animated doesn’t accurately reflect the overall mood and tone, then more often than not there is a disconnect for the audience. Although I found myself being slightly lost at times, it was more so due to the hilariously spontaneous nature of events that transpired. For example, when Don Underpants’ play began, I was so baffled as to why it started and how it drew such a big crowd of people in such a short amount of time. But I believe that the animation is so integral to the plot because it was my saving grace and what kept me on track during confusing times like that.
SM: I see what you mean. Maybe because I’m so used to Yuasa’s zaniness it was easier for me to keep up. There’s a manic nature to Night Is Short that can make it a bit hard to fully know what’s going on. Things were definitely random like you said, but I think it’s rather genius to lay out the story the way Yuasa does here. Because everyone’s in such a feel-good mood, maybe it’s harder for the good times to end. The film doesn’t even come close to the two-hour mark but it feels like it’s going on for a long time. There’s actually a nod to that feeling where older characters have on watches that move rapidly but The Girl With Black Hair has a watch that moves a bit slower. As a result of being around her, everyone else’s clocks begin to move slower. I think that the randomness and the reason the night feels so long (with one character even saying the night feels longer when he’s with The Girl With Black Hair) can be attributed to youth. In youth it’s hard to predict what’s going through everyone’s mind and it seems like the world is a mystery. Everything The Girl With Black Hair experiences is random and she decides to just go with it. It’s her youth and it’s her adventure. The spontaneity of the guerilla theatre or the eating contest are things that the youths end up winning at the end of the day and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Even if it seems wasted or pointless in the grand scheme of things, it all has a purpose because it’s life, you know? So, while events aren’t tightly knitted together, they do have an unnaturally natural cohesion that works quite well.
ET: That’s an interesting perspective and one I can resonate with. I will say that while the film itself was filled with that consistent spontaneity, everything felt intentional. Regarding that being a reflection of the youth, the choices made during this time are those that are typically formative for the future. While things might seem scattered and wild, it’s necessary to give everything a try to see what you enjoy in life. I think that’s what all of these characters have been doing as well. In all, Night is Short is a coming of age film for a multitude of characters who are trying to work their way through their youth. The setting is genius, because long nights of drunken stupor is prominent and relatable for many in their late teens/college years. There’s beauty in the chaos that ensues for the duration of the film. If that isn’t an accurate depiction of life when you’re young, then I don’t know what is.
SM: All I have left to say is that I loved every second of Night Is Short. Also, there are some neat nods to some of Yuasa’s other works that had me smiling hard when I saw them. Also, the voice cast really seemed to have fun with this. It’s clear that they gave it their all.
ET: I would consider myself to be a harsh critic, but I thoroughly enjoyed Night is Short, Walk on Girl. It is an enjoyable, relaxing and comical film, dealing with adult issues in a familiar and fun format that can be relatable to folks of different age ranges.