Thanks to HBOMax’s amazing selection of animation I was finally, finally, finally able to watch The Night is Short, Walk on Girl. And it was…an experience. I wish I had had a drink or two while I watched it. It’s one of those kinds of movies – very esoteric with little meaningful plot but interesting and engaging characters and wacky impossible shenanigans.
I don’t know if I totally understood the movie but I liked it. The film follows the journeys of two characters known simply as Otome and Senpai through one wild night in Kyoto following a wedding. There’s love, philosophy, existentialism, and mythical beings. What more could you want?
Otome is a sweet girl – who can seemingly drink an endless amount of alcohol and makes friends easily. Senpai is shy, awkward, and with a huge crush on Otome – despite never really talking to her. Otome meets pair of seemingly supernatural beings, with whom she goes party crashing, gets into a drinking contest with a mysterious being named Rihaku, goes on a hunt for her favorite childhood book, and then ends up part of a guerilla theater project.
Senpai is always one step behind her; getting his pants and underwear stolen, and meeting many of the same people but under different circumstances. Though the events may seem unrelated – all of the people and shenanigans are related to each other in some way.
It’s something you need to experience for yourself.
The Animation Style
As I’ve mentioned in the past – Masaaki Yuasa has a very distinctive art style – and this one is perhaps one of his most distinctive pieces. All of the characters are depicted as having snow-white skin – as though it’s not colored – unless they’re drunk. In which case it turns a light red.
They move in wide, fluid, seemingly impossible, or uncomfortable ways with ease. Characters are tall, gangly and their movements are exaggerated. Lots of things are exaggerated – to give you a certain feeling rather than an air of authenticity. It’s not supposed to look natural. It’s all highly stylized.
I love it.
There is little shading in the background…though I don’t think cartoony is the right word. I think it’s supposed to reminiscent of old Japanese ukiyo-e – wood print art. Especially since that style does come up in the film itself.I’m sure you can see the similarities.
Everything is so busy and lively. It’s really enjoyable. I love how the characters move and how the style changes when recounting flashbacks or telling stories. You all know that I am a goddamn sucker for art shifts in my cartoons.
And it very well matches the ridiculous dadaism of the dialogue and themes. It’s split between modern-day Japan one where the gods of old book markets and tengu still wander around and a world where people desperately seek others in hopes of rekindling connections or finding love.
I mean, the main characters don’t even have real names. They’re fully-fledged characters but this is more obviously a modern-day fable or parable.
Fate or Coincidence
In the film, Senpai continuously tries to be in places Otome is at the same time – and he plays it off as a coincidence. Otome doesn’t recognize it for what it is – she believes him and doesn’t think much else about it. She hardly thinks about him during her revelry – instead, she’s focusing on herself, her desires, or the people she’s around. It’s nice to see that kind of stuff in the media.
Throughout the night – other more random coincidences occur. The bride at the wedding – the two attend is the daughter of the pervert who Otome meets, for example. When Otome realizes she misses an old picture book, she heads to a used book market not knowing that not only does the market have the book, they have the copy she used to own as a child.
And the movie plays with fate as well- a character known as Don Underwear falls in love with a girl after apples fall on their heads at the same time.
He turns out to also be the writer of the guerilla theater troop – designed specifically to find the girl. This leads to some interesting developments and some questioning within the script. Was he actually in love with this girl or was he only in love with her because of what happened? And what about our two heroes?
Is Senpai in love with her or the idea of her? What does Otome think? Throughout most of the film, she’s too preoccupied with drinking or finding a copy of her favorite childhood book. What is the difference between coincidence and fate? What do those words even mean, this movie asks us.
Is it a coincidence or fate that when Otome was looking for her childhood book – that the exact copy she had was in the night market? Having it there meant Senpai had a chance to purchase it and give it as a gift – does that mean he and Otome were fated to be together? Or does it mean nothing?
It’s something to think about. The film doesn’t give answers – instead, it leaves us to ponder what these incidents mean and decide for ourselves if there’s some kind of higher power at play.
We Are All Connected
I’ll be honest in that I don’t always get why movies are obsessed with connecting everything and all the characters. It’s okay to leave some things unsaid or leave a little bit of mystery. This is part of why I despise the new Star Wars movies so much. Not everyone needs to be related to everyone and sometimes things just happen. But when it’s done well like it is in A:TLA and in this movie… it really works. And here it’s sweet.
It’s like how the God of the Old Books Market points out to Otome. All of the books are connected in some way, and therefore so are people. The books are used as a kind of metaphor for connection and relationships. The book collectors were hogging the books and knowledge for themselves.
But the god shows how the books connect people. So, when Senpai wins the old copy of Ratatam so he can give it to Otome – it shows the connection that books can have.
And what this film does differently, is that it never tries to hide the connections between the characters. It’s never used for suspense or mystery – they’re right out there in the open.
The connections are shown in an open hand. And not all of the connections get explored. The bride doesn’t makeup with her pervert father or her ex-boyfriend. And her ex doesn’t find love or get involved in the story later on.
It shows there’s no one answer to these things or that there isn’t an answer at all but it does say that you have to put in the effort to maintain these connections. And sometimes these connections are just connections and don’t mean anything more.
What is Love?
This movie, being a romantic comedy – also focuses a lot on the nature of love. Senpai gets condemned by his friends, THANKFULLY- by basically stalking Otome and trying to be around her rather than actually talking to her.
The events make him question if he’s just in love with his image of her like Don Underwear is in love with the moment of the apples falling and not really the girl. The movie also condemns though who kind of give up on love – the pervert avoids his daughter and doesn’t get reunited with her.
You have to put in the effort.
Otome loves her sister and we get to see that represented in her flashbacks and how it affects her life to this day. And we see how Otome’s love for life makes her happy and gets others to like her as well. Her joy for life is infectious and ends up helping everyone in the film.
It’s hard to write about such an esoteric movie. There’s a lot of symbolism, references and it seems as though all four seasons happen – as though an entire year happens in one night (which in the book the movie is based on – all these events do take place over a year) but the way it’s presented and formatted feels natural. The movie keeps itself interesting by always having the characters search for something or someone and it is a really beautiful and visually fascinating
I really recommend experiencing it for yourself
And that’s the scoop.
Grade: B +
Year of release: 2017
Length: 93 minutes
Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Producer: Noriko Ozaki, Jūnosuke Itō
Screenplay: Makoto Ueda
Based on: Tomihiko Morimi’s The Night is Short, Walk on Girl
Voice Actors: Gen Hoshino, Kana Hanazawa, Hiroshi Kamiya, Ryuji Akiyama (Robart), Kazuya Nakai, Yuhko Kaida, Hiroyuki Yoshino, Seiko Niizuma, Junichi Suwabe, Aoi Yuki, Nobuyuki Hiyama, Kazuhiro Yamaji, Mugihito