*Disclaimer: This review is largely spoiler-free. All pictures are from the promotional content.
To capture the heart of the young girl: that is Senpai’s dream and mission. After realizing his plan of “coincidentally” passing by her every day isn’t working out, Senpai is finally ready to confront her with his burning love on this fateful night.
To explore the night streets of Kyoto: that is the girl’s mission. From searching for the most exotic cocktails to meeting people from various corners of life, the girl’s exploration is one full of joy and excitement. To her, nothing is a coincidence, and everything is connected… and tonight is a night of fate, time, life, and love.
To start this review, it’s pretty important for me to say that this was my very first Yuasa-directed movie. Now, for the uninitiated, Masaaki Yuasa is pretty famous in the industry; he’s arguably one of the most prominent directors currently working. Known for his works on Tatami Galaxy and the recent Devilman, Yuasa is quite… weird. His works visually, from character design to animation, look nothing like conventional anime, and their storytelling tends to be on the more abstract side as well. Of course, these are things I’ve heard, not experienced. The point stands, however: Yuasa is widely accepted as directing abstract, borderline-surrealist works that may easily alienate certain audiences.
So, unlike Maquia, which I watched earlier this summer, I had my doubts walking into the theater this time around. The trailer had left me confused, and the premise on MAL did little to cure my obliviousness (and I’m sure my premise isn’t exactly informative either). Yet, after leaving the theater, letting the film marinate in my mind for a bit, and now, as I write my thoughts down, there are two things I can say with certainty.
Number One: The movie isn’t even close to how weird I imagined it to be… it is much, much weirder than I could have possibly conceived. If Maquia is the Mona Lisa of anime films, Night is Short, Walk on Girl is the Fountain by Marcel Duchamp.
And Number Two: Masaaki Yuasa is a damn genius.
I’m excited to talk about this chaotic, perplexing, yet delightful masterpiece today, so without much else to say, let’s begin.
Let’s start by talking about the overall feel of the film: it’s fast. The film’s short runtime of 1.5 hours is absolutely packed with material, from quick, thematically-charged dialogues to lucid, dream-like action sequences. There’s little breathing room, and even in the minutes of downtime, it’s hard not to think about what that last hectic scene was getting at. In fact, that’s one of the film’s strongest elements: the intense yet open-ended symbolism.
As I mentioned before, this film’s weird, but it’s not just weird; the film always seems to be hinting at a hidden meaning, or some secondary theme. This is explored mostly through abstract symbolism that makes you question the reality of this world itself. From the speed at which people’s clocks move to the cowboys inside Senpai’s head, each and every absurd element of the movie holds a certain depth, and I found myself thinking back constantly to pinpoint the film’s message, only to find another, entirely new interpretation each time.
Other than the symbolic side of the film, there are plenty of quirky, memorable characters in the film. Of course, in keeping up with the movie’s style, these characters aren’t exactly normal either. Having some absolutely insane backstories and motivations, this cast has a unique charm to it, presenting genuinely heartfelt messages through their crazy individual journeys. They certainly aren’t walking life-advices either; many of them change as people through interactions with each other and the Girl, and even the shortest scenes and expressions present some understandable humanity within the characters.
But the highlight among the characters simply has to be the Girl. Her optimistic, adventurous attitude, filled with youthful charm, is drawn out to its fullest by the stellar voice acting of Kana Hanazawa. Vibrant and positively shining, the Girl’s confident, loving attitude towards the world radiates through the movie, contrasting magnificently with the grim, exhausted world around her. I’m certain audiences will find her presence an inspiring one.
With such energized characters and abstract concepts at hand, the visuals and soundtracks have quite the high bar to reach. Fortunately, both exceeded expectations, and perfectly elevated the overall atmosphere of the film. The visual style overall is exaggerated and colorful, defying numerous conventions to reach a more stylized approach. The simple linework and character designs allow for particularly expressive character animation, with body proportions twisting and turning to better convey strong emotions. The simplicity also helps immensely with the faster action sequences, with one particular dream sequence coming to mind.
The music is similarly fantastic. Ranging from bombastic and overwhelming to gentle and joyous, for every character and scene in the movie, the music beautifully captured and amplified the emotions present. The juxtaposition of certain pieces especially impressed me. In one scene involving the Girl in a high-stakes drinking contest, the music constantly transitioned to fit the characters of focus, with instrumentations and volume being precisely adjusted to empower the characters’ identities. The sound department held no limits, and by utilizing a variety of instruments in different sequences, the music greatly elevated the overall experience. Also, the ending theme by Asian Kung Fu Generation is pretty good. Very catchy.
As for negatives to the movie, it’s quite subjective (it always is, but it’s particularly so for this film). I would think the greatest turn-off for the film would be Yuasa’s overall style. I’ve heard that his style is quite strongly hit-or-miss, and I don’t disagree; I could easily imagine someone entering this film only to hate the combined visual and storytelling style of Yuasa. I personally found no faults with his narrative approach, but for people who prefer a tight, on-the-nose plot structure and focused narrative, this film may not be for you.
In addition, the humor of the film may not resonate with certain audiences. There’s humor, and quite a lot of it too, switching between styles frequently. Most of it tends to be clever, with some being especially subtle and effective, but there were some moments that missed. The classic creepy-man-gets-punched-by-girl trope and one or two childish jokes are present, which feel greatly misplaced since the film is definitely not meant for younger audiences. Of course, these moments are short-lived and easy to forget, so they weren’t completely detrimental.
Lastly, the secondary protagonist, Senpai, may feel flat as a character to many. Even as a major character, his conflict in the film is singular and for some audiences, may feel one-dimensional. I personally found his struggle to be relatable and the conclusion to be satisfying, but it’s entirely possible for some to see it as boring, average, or even cliche. Overall, these problems are all fairly minor, as the Girl simply overwhelms Senpai’s presence in the long run, so the only one I’d worry about is Yuasa’s style and whether you’ll find it at least tolerable.
Night is Short, Walk on Girl is a vibrant, joyous celebration of storytelling, animation, and music. The main theme of how our different backgrounds lead to our different goals, as well as how despite our differences, we are all fatefully connected to each other, is explored masterfully. Characters feel alive despite their absurdities, and the streets of Kyoto gain life with the genius composition of music and animation. This is a film not only meant for Yuasa fans, but also for fans of subtle, thematic storytelling and adventurous, fresh approaches to anime as a whole. Enter with an open mind and a mood for some positivity, and I’m sure you’ll find the experience a rewarding and inspiring one. Thank you, Mr. Masaaki Yuasa.
For the similar shows, the only one I can confidently say is “similar” to Night is Short, Walk on Girl is Tatami Galaxy. This, however, is not due to me having watched it (I plan on it though), but mostly because of a post-credit interview with Yuasa. After the film, there was a short recorded Q&A with Yuasa, in which he heavily compared Tatami Galaxy to Night is Short, Walk on Girl, even stating that the movie was partly made for fans of the former. So, based the creator’s own words, I’d guess the two are quite similar. They even share a large portion of the production staff!
As for the other “similar shows,” they’re mostly based just on staff overlaps. Uchouten Kazoku, or Eccentric Family, is written by the same author as both Night is Short, Walk on Girl and Tatami Galaxy. While not directed by Yuasa, I wouldn’t be surprised if the show felt familiar to the overall tone of Night is Short, Walk on Girl.
The other two, Ping Pong the Animation and Devilman: Crybaby, are both Yuasa-directed anime. He directed many equally famous works, so I just chose these two basically at random. Ping Pong the Animation is a critically acclaimed show about ping pong, boasting an abstract visual style and a heartfelt story. It also has music by my favorite composer, Kensuke Ushio. Devilman: Crybaby is a recent hit, with it successfully recreating the old Devilman into a contemporary show. The visual style is pretty different, and I’ve heard great things about the story as well. It also has music by Kensuke Ushio (I swear I didn’t choose these shows based on his presence).
And that pretty much concludes my review! Thank you for reading, and I hope you get the chance to watch this joyous film! I have some exciting projects coming up, with one being a very ambitious analysis. I also have some shorter articles planned. Again, thanks for coming, and have a nice day!