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by Dawn H.,

The Night is Short, Walk On Girl

The Night is Short, Walk On Girl
Gracefully yet violently, The Girl with Black Hair swirls through the abstract Kyoto night like a joyful tempest. Blowing through pub crawls, festivals, and book fairs, her youthful glee infects parties of increasingly eccentric characters, but amongst the debtors, existentialists, and the God of the Old Book Market, will she notice the Senpai in pursuit of her love? Whether the hands on your clock move fast or slow, The Night is Short, Walk On Girl.

The movie starts with a premise most anime fans will be familiar with: a bumbling Senpai is so infatuated by a college classmate he's got a crush on, he's been purposely trying to bump into her as often as possible “by coincidence” to get her to notice him. And tonight, while attending a wedding that she also happens to be at, he will finally get to talk to her and confess his feelings—or so he thinks. But as the plot slowly begins to unfurl, we discover this is not just Senpai's story. This film is also of the story of his crush, the young woman known only as The Girl With The Black Hair, and her adventures as she explores a dreamy nighttime world that could only come from the author of The Tatami Galaxy & the team at Science SARU behind its anime adaptation back in 2010.

Breaking away from the wedding party, Black-Haired Girl decides to visit a bar to enjoy some cocktails. This not only introduces her to several characters that fans of Tatami Galaxy will instantly recognize, but also starts a chain of events that lead her through one adventure to the next throughout the very long night. Each place, each person, each drink all connect to the next step in her journey, and the enthusiastic Black-Haired Girl always seems to be up for whatever gets thrown her way. She's more than happy to join in with a sophist club's dancing, participate in a unique drinking competition, and even taking over the lead role in a musical set up by a guerrilla theater group, complete with ridiculous costumes and songs about fated encounters. And why wouldn't she? She has all night, and the night is endless for a young woman who seemingly has all the time in the world.

Of course, Black-Haired Girl's Senpai is always a step or two behind her, trying to catch up or figure out another way to cross her path. He also meets some unusual (and sometimes downright creepy) characters—several that Tatami Galaxy fans will find familiar. Some try to help him in his pursuit, like giving him the idea to find a lost treasured childhood item of The Girl With The Black Hair to win her heart. Other characters just end up making things more difficult for him through elaborate trials and ridiculous misunderstandings, sometimes more cringe-worthy than humorous. Regardless, all of them seem to be connected in some way. It all comes back to The Girl With The Black Hair and Senpai, who are both traveling different paths in this surreal night's dream, but ultimately headed for the same destination, whether they realize it or not.

The team at Science SARU have made a film that's a feast for the eyes. Visually stunning, director Masaaki Yuasa's use of creative scene transitions is always a treat, and The Night is Short Walk On, Girl is no different. From an outdoor night book market shown as a sea of books to Senpai's inner thoughts that look like a chaotic M.C. Escher painting brought to life, Yuasa's creations are always colorful and vibrant. There's always something interesting to behold in the film. For older viewers, the film captures that magical feeling of being young and having one of those nights where you end up unexpectedly having one of the most memorable times of your life. There's an almost nostalgic quality to its look, most likely due to the signature retro style that Yūsuke Nakamura brings to his character designs.

The weakest element of this film was definitely Senpai. While The Girl With The Black Hair has enough character development in her journey to give us an idea of what kind of person she is, Senpai's whole character seems to revolve around being in love with her. We don't know much about him other than he's fallen madly in love with her, and he's been desperately trying to get her attention all this time, sometimes in less-than-admirable ways. He comes off as a blank slate for viewers to project onto, which is nothing new in anime, but it makes him a little bland—especially compared to The Black-Haired Girl, who has much more personality throughout the film partly due to Kana Hanazawa's fantastic performance. Time plays a major part in the movie as well, and the story is actually told in “seasons” despite taking place over the course of an evening. Some parts of the journey could have been more tightly written, but like a good cocktail, it finished strongly and left me feeling pleased and even a little bit wistful.

While obviously tied to The Tatami Galaxy, fans who have never seen that series can easily be won over by its bewitching nature, its quirky musical interludes (yes, it's also a musical), and the philosophical themes it touches on throughout, including the value of spreading happiness to others. It may even be more accomplished than The Tatami Galaxy in the end; everything fits so well together in a much smaller package. Makoto Ueda's script for this film adaptation also had much less of the dense dialogue that hampered The Tatami Galaxy. Everyone involved with The Night is Short Walk On, Girl seems to be at the top of their game. And by the time the movie ends, you'll wonder if it was all just a magnificent, alcohol-fueled shared dream, or if the characters really did just spend the course of a year together all in one night. As Higuchi tells the The Girl With The Black Hair, “You can't easily trust those you meet at night…even us.” Here's hoping that we get a physical release of the film in English so you can experience this magical night for yourself.

Overall (sub) : A
Story : A-
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A

+ Beautiful animation and direction, charming characters, truly fun musical numbers
Senpai's character seems pretty one-dimensional, some vignettes could have been shorter or more tightly written

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Production Info:
Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Script: Makoto Ueda
Music: Michiru Oshima
Original creator: Tomihiko Morimi
Character Design: Yūsuke Nakamura

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