Night Is Short, Walk On Girl

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jane Fae

Night Is Short, Walk On Girl
"Do not go looking for logical narrative in this wild assortment of larger than life characters."

There are some films that start confused, chaotic, and gradually a clear narrative emerges. In others, the best, a multiplicity of apparently conflicting strands slowly come together to explain the whole.

It is possible that The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl, directed by established animator and screenwriter Masaaki Yuasa, and based on a novel of the same name by Tomihiko Morimi, has such ambition. Certainly, in its final moments there was a glimmering, a hint of threads being pulled together, coherence emerging.

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But – my advice – do not go looking for logical narrative in this wild assortment of larger than life characters. The story broadly follows the path of Otome (voiced by Kana Hanazawa), a young student seeking fun and friends in the course of a mad, long night of partying, drinking and defiance of authority.

Along the way she explores a book fair, in search of a favourite book from her childhood, visits a festival, and takes the lead in a guerilla theatre production. She also encounters a seemingly never-ending cast of absurd and improbable characters. There's Mr Todo (voiced by Kazuhiro Yamaji), an inebriated carp farmer attempting to clear his debts by selling rare porn. There's Rihaku (voiced by Makoto Terada, also known as Mugihito), an aged money lender and pessimist who uses his wealth to make others suffer.

Then there is Don Underwear (voiced by Ryuji Akiyama), a college student refusing to change his underwear until he finds the woman he fell in love with in a brief encounter involving falling apples. And “The God of Old Books” (voiced by Hiroyuki Yoshino) who appears in the form of a young boy with mini-vampire fangs.

Not forgetting the travelling kotatsu, a buffet that seems to wander at will around the student campus, or the Bedroom Investigation Committee. And watch out for the Festival Executive Committee, seeking to eliminate dissent and control all with a grip of iron.

So many adventures. Otome challenges Rihaku to a drinking contest in an attempt to clear Mr Todo's debts: plays the lead opposite Don Underwear in his play. In many ways the narrative - surreal, episodic - is reminiscent of Alice In Wonderland: a girl lost (but by no means a victim) wandering through a land of marvels (“Otome” is not a name: it is merely a Japanese word meaning “maiden” or “girl”).

There is, though, a twist. For Otome is followed by Senpai (voiced by singer Gen Hoshino). Call it romance: call it stalking. As discussed before on Eye For Film the line between the two is thin and it is very easy to fall from one to other.

In this case, Senpai (again, a name that is not a name: “Senpai” means senior and is often used to reference one's superior in a hierarchy) is clearly besotted with Otome and as much as her nocturnal journey is one of triumph, his is a series of misadventures, in which he is stripped of his trousers, assaulted with an ice cream cone, and forced to eat the hottest of hot chillies in pursuit of his amorous goal.

At the same time, he is not slow to manipulate Otome by seeking out her favourite book or spy on her if he thinks it will suit his purpose. Romance. Not romance. You decide.

Alice In Wonderland and ...Yellow Submarine. Another fantasy land in which being bonked on the head by apples features greatly. Though if this film owes anything to Yellow Submarine it is the exuberant colour palette and free-wheeling imagery. Also, the way in which the on-screen image flits between realistic style and something much softer edged, more Sixties psychedelic in tone.

It's confused and chaotic, but that is no reason to dislike it, and in the end, sitting back and allowing the film to wash over my senses, I found that it worked well. I would like to see it again and, on a second viewing, I suspect I would get more of it. I have now looked up some Japanese terms (like senpai and kouhai, not translated in the subtitling). I get that it has something to say about time: something, too, to say about love and how disastrous it is in marriage.

And interconnectedness. There is complex stuff in there about the interconnectedness of books and the interconnectedness of people with colds. Maybe, next time, I will spot some of the anime Easter Eggs I am assured that fans of the genre will get.

Overall, then, as much experience as film, and one very much worth spending 90 minutes watching.

Reviewed on: 05 Oct 2017
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Night Is Short, Walk On Girl packshot
A college student tries to work out how to approach the girl of his dreams on a wild night full of strange events.

Director: Masaaki Yuasa

Writer: Makoto Ueda, based on the novel by Tomohiko Morimi

Starring: Gen Hoshino, Kana Hanazawa, Hiroshi Kamiya, Ryûji Akiyama, Kazuya Nakai, Yûko Kaida, Hiroyuki Yoshino, Seiko Niizuma, Jun'ichi Suwabe, Aoi Yûki, Nobuyuki Hiyama, Kazuhiro Yamaji, Mugihito, Ryûichi Abe, Kentarô Kokado

Year: 2016

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan

Festivals:

Fantasia 2017

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