Are you ready for the wildest night of your life? Then pour yourself a drink (or two), strap in, and get ready to experience a world normally only glimpsed through the bottom of a shot glass.
Night Is Short, Walk on Girl sees feted visual stylist Masaaki Yuasa’s return to the material of writer Tomihiko Morimi, whose work he previously adapted in the 2010 TV series The Tatami Galaxy. Morimi also penned the source material for The Eccentric Family, so fans of that series and its supernatural hijinks in Kyoto will also find plenty to love in Night Is Short, Walk on Girl - Morimi himself graduated from Kyoto University, so it's not too far of a leap to draw parallels between his own student days, and the setting he returns to again and again.
Much like The Tatami Galaxy, Night Is Short, Walk on Girl is, at heart, about a boy and a girl. Senpai (the boy) is morose and prone to mishap, while ‘The Girl With Black Hair’ is your typical energetic hipster, a Manic Pixie Dream Girl to our hero’s put-upon, lovelorn, woes. If we are to try and pin the essence of the film down to its most basic tropes, ‘youth romantic comedy’ does a somewhat adequate job of conveying the overall tone and sense of humour, if not the visual splendour of the film. In a year where we've had weighty, emotional, pieces like A Silent Voice and In This Corner of the World grace UK cinemas, it's refreshing to have a film that's simply all about having as much fun as it possibly can. Night Is Short, Walk on Girl never forgets that its primary purpose is to make you laugh, and boy does it succeed on that front.
Taken as a whole, Night Is Short, Walk on Girl plays like an extended ode to drink, and drinking. In its early movements, the stylised mish-mash of colours, textures and a carnivalesque spirit see it come off like some quirky ad campaign for an upmarket European lager - all joie de vivre and irrepressible good-time vibes. It’s into this festival of fun that our two protagonists are thrown, with The Girl With Black Hair leading us through a night that never seems to end.
The audience is reminded time and again of just how much Yuasa is a master of drawing humour from the physicality of the human form. A revelry of contortionist dance moves and elastic bodies continuously parade across the screen, and we’re left with no choice but to simply go with the flow - all aided by an absolutely stellar soundtrack courtesy of Michiru Ōshima. In a Yuasa film common sense is something best left at the door. Instead, simply give in to the spirit of the film’s bonkers logic and accept that things just happen the way they do. Night Is Short, Walk on Girl presents a magic-realist inversion of Kyoto’s quirkiest nooks and crannies, as we’re taken on a pub crawl through the city’s weirdest drinking dens.
The lynchpin holding everything together is the movie’s core romantic drive, a comedy of errors in which our earnest Senpai hears of an old picture book once owned by The Girl With Black Hair. If only he can obtain this book for her, then a beautiful romance is on the cards, right? If we were to say that one of the resulting trials and tribulations involved in obtaining said book amounts to a super-sized, scorching, hot-pot eating contest, then you’ll have a taste of the kind of cracked out laughs on offer here. But there’s more! The film eventually morphs into a full-on musical: A fantastically delivered, yet gloriously bonkers, bit of student drama club improv. Containing lyrics which had the audience in stitches, and a play-within-a-play feel that adds a fresh dynamic to the movie’s already propulsive narrative flow.
The final act sees the film unveil its big guns, animation wise, as it sees our plucky heroine take on hurricane-force winds in scenes reminiscent of the climax in A Letter to Momo. Yuasa’s already loose art-style becomes even looser and more fluid, before proceeding to dazzle us even further with one of the most impressively animated ‘hero and heroine, hand in hand, falling through the sky’ scenes you'll ever see - like something plucked straight out of Disney, via Paprika's endless rabbit hole of dizzying angles. It’s a triumphant end that really amplifies the movie’s feel-good factor, this is undoubtedly a film where you’ll walk out of the cinema with a massive grin on your face.
All this said, there is of course the question of whether you should watch The Tatami Galaxy before viewing Night Is Short, Walk on Girl: While it's certainly not required viewing, you'd miss out on many of the references and character cameos that round out the film's full bodied bouquet - if there's anything holding the film back it is that. For all that it stands as Yuasa's most stunning tour de force, it remains fundamentally a Yuasa work. That, for some, will be the ultimate marmite factor: Either you love his style or you can't stand it. Those going into this film ‘raw’ might find the style shock more than they can handle. For everyone else, the film is gloriously good fun - it’ll blow your mind, and then some.
Night Is Short, Walk on Girl will be screening in select cinemas from 4th October, with special screenings 9th Sept. in Glasgow, followed by London event on 11th Sept.