The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl

The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl
March 22nd 2023

The title is willfully misleading: far too much happens in this story to take place within a single night. Even the characters comment on how long it seems to last—nearly a year, one estimates. Amidst a wedding, a sprawling used book fair, and a school festival, “the night” is less a concrete setting than a state of mind, a liminal space that can contain anything and everything. Creatures of folklore intermingle with mundane folk without anyone blinking an eye. At the book fair, a hunt for a favorite childhood title is complicated by a mischievous god hogging all the rare copies. Contestants vie to win the rare books in a spicy-food–eating contest held before a giant, simmering vat. One of the protagonists can quaff an unlimited amount of alcohol without getting even tipsy.

Such is the creativity of the team at esteemed Japanese animation studio Science Saru, who created The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl (2018) as a feature-length riff on ideas they’d already explored in their TV series The Tatami Galaxy, which presented four parallel-universe versions of a Kyoto University upperclassman’s misadventures. (Both film and show are based on the fictions of Tomihiko Morimi.) In the film, a nameless young man and woman embark on separate adventures throughout the city, her in pursuit of new experiences and him in pursuit of her. He is referred to only as “Senpai” and her as “Kohai”—formal terms of address for a mentor and mentee, respectively—positing both as archetypical protagonists and further elevating their shenanigans to the mythic.

This is to be expected of the movie’s director, Science Saru cofounder Masaaki Yuasa, who in films like Mind Game (2004) and Inu-Oh (2021) continually seeks novel ways to depict even the most mundane gestures and actions. This is particularly notable in the context of anime, which has a firmly codified lexicon of visual tropes. Yuasa’s characters drink beer like Popeye, their heads and necks distorting as they gulp. Participants in the spicy-food contest find their lips swell until they are larger than the rest of their faces. A club of old men demonstrates the “sophist dance,” a sort of staggered march one performs while stooped forward at an impossible angle. With its anything-goes spirit and similarly anarchic cartooning, The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl is a deliriously fun chronicle of the sort of escapades one recalls only dimly the next morning, or with wistfulness many years later.

The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl screens tonight, March 22, at Nitehawk Williamsburg.