Masaaki Yuasa brings his unique sense of style to another of Tomihiko Morimi’s works with Night is Short, Walk on Girl (夜は短し歩けよ乙女). From the first few scenes, Walk On Girl sets the stage for a fun and over-the-top adventure of a young woman experiencing adult life and a young man seeking to confess his love for this young woman.
The world of Walk on Girl is slightly surreal, having guerrilla stage plays which set up, perform a single scene, then move on before the authorities can catch on, to a drinking contest on a three story barge with a legendary alcohol. Yuasa’s animation style adds to this surreality, having characters down drinks with exaggerated swallows, turn bright red when getting drunk, and express their emotions with flaming hearts and slamming pitchers.
The primary players are Senpai and The Girl With Black Hair (Otome for short). Otome is determined to enter adult life this night and Senpai’s journey follows, intersects and diverts from hers as he tries to build enough courage to “coincidentally” run into her again, perhaps this time winning her heart. Other characters’ stories intersect several times as well, including Don Underwear, a true romantic who has declared that he will not change underwear until he finds the woman he fell in love with, and the Student Festival Executive Head, who uses his secret police to try to stop guerrilla stage actors from sullying his good name.
Walk on Girl takes place in Kyoto and changes locations for each of its three primary sections. Otome’s adventure moves from the bars and parties of downtown, to a used book fair, to a student festival. Each of these sections brings new and interesting adventures for the main players and develops their stories in different ways, with a final section bringing everything to a head and providing a satisfying and appropriately ridiculous finale.
Night is Short, Walk on Girl is a well crafted film whose eccentricities add together to feel both bizarre and surprisingly cohesive. Despite its frenetic pace and the intermingling of many plots, it’s easy to keep track of the important stuff. The oddities of each character feel at home with each other, from the insane determination of Senpai, to the bottomless thirst for alcohol of Otome, these characters feel both magical, surreal, and yet believable. Simple jokes early on have payoffs later, and once a gag is set up, it is referenced throughout the film. Once you just accept that this world works this way, you will find yourself invested in a play completing its final scene despite losing and replacing its lead actress 11 times in one night.
If you’ve already seen Yuasa’s Tatami Galaxy, you’re probably already planning to see this film, but even if you have never heard of him, this is a fantastic experience and I wholeheartedly recommend seeing it when it comes out near you. Whenever that might be.