The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl is a kaleidoscopic fever dream of an animated film. Based on a series of novels by Tomihiko Morimi, the film is centered on the eponymous Girl and takes place during a single long, drunk night. This night is to be the culmination of her romantic pursuit by Senpai, who orchestrates numerous run-ins with her but can never introduce himself. This long drunk night of the soul functions as the Girl’s coming-of-age story steeped in the glow of Japanese nightlife. As the plot progresses the story takes on mythic proportions, culminating in a citywide epidemic, as nature takes revenge on a culture that dares to deny it.
The wild night of drinking accommodates the film’s ensemble of memorable characters, including perverts, sophists, guerilla theatre troupes, tricksters and deities. These minor characters add a lot of life to the story, like Don Underwear who won’t change his underpants until he finds the girl of his dreams, or the god of books, a Pan-like child who causes trouble for everyone at the book market. Perhaps the silliest aspect of the movie is the guerilla theatre: short musical plays that are staged illegally all over town in over 40 parts in one night. They provide amateurish musical interludes with ridiculous lyrics sung by characters wearing slipshod costumes, all the while impugning local officials. Such various subplots, including school-government surveillance, an antique pornography ring, and the seedy underworld of the used book business, combine to create one of the most refreshing and funny animated films of the past few years.
This film hits some familiar hallmarks of anime – big eyes, crazy hair, multicolour palettes – but diverges from these conventions to develop its own unique style, some parts as sleek as video games, others evoking the whimsy of Disney’s Fantasia and the psychedelic tongue-in-cheek nostalgia of Bill Plympton. The filmmakers display creativity and dynamism in even the smallest scenes. Some of the most unique visuals are the ones that don’t bother to include characters’ eyes or much line art, letting blocks and shapes of colour move together to tell the story in a minimalist, contemporary style, a counterpoint to the lush vibrancy of the aforementioned visuals. Another hallmark of anime used in the film is the funny aside, such as a character fantasizing about impressing their crush or beating their rival, the daydream always being optimistically disproportionate and hyperbolic.
The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl is a great movie to show someone who is skeptical about anime as a genre. It doesn’t tone anything down or make the genre more mainstream, but immerses viewers in beautiful visuals and engages them with its charm and silliness. It was a true gem at this year’s Fantasia Festival!