There are no set templates or solid rules for writing a review; as long as your viewpoint about whether something is good or bad comes across clearly, you can format it in whatever way you wish. Nevertheless, it’s common for reviews to start with a synopsis of the object, media or whatever that is being judged; it’s a clear way of making sure that everyone reading is on the same page before deciding whether to stick around until the final verdict. However, to write a general synopsis for Night is Short, Walk on Girl would be a challenge because, despite the fact that it runs for just 93 minutes, it manages to cram in so much. Writing it all up would most likely achieve confusion or rob the viewer of part of the movie’s experience.
To describe it in a very ‘bare bones’ way would be like this: we follow The Girl with Black Hair on a single night out on the town, as she’s unknowingly being pursued by Senpai, a boy from her school who has been in love with her for ages and plans to finally confess his feelings. Sounds simple, yes? That really is, however, underselling it and drastically misses out on the multiple characters and random events that happen. For example; the Girl starts at a wedding before deciding to gatecrash several more parties, whilst experiencing various forms of alcohol, then gets hit on by a perverted male whom she then punches away in a way that her mother taught her, next she befriends several new groups, has a drinking competition with the local alcohol-related god, then heads to a book fair where she befriends a young boy and wishes to take back the sanctity of used books. That is just within the first third of the film, and I’ve not even mentioned any of the stuff that happens to Senpai within this time. Just the above actions by themselves could fill out one film, as the premise of a single girl out on the town uncovering the random events when the lights go out is solid. But the movie’s main drive is a long-winded comedy; to say that Night is Short is random is an understatement, and since there’s no clear movie ‘act’ format, it feels long and uninvolving. This is comedy that relies heavily on catching you off-guard and spitting its weirdness at you; it certainly manages to surprise the audience, but whether it succeeds in being an actual ‘comedy’ however, is uncertain.
A comedic film can’t just carry itself with acts of unpredictability to keep the audience on their toes, it needs at least likeable characters to make us care about how the humour reflects on them and the journey they go on. Whilst Night is Short does have an eclectic cast, it’s a struggle to remember them all after the credits roll. The Girl with Black Hair may be able to drink even Game of Thrones’ Tyrion Lannister under the table, but there’s not much else to her even though she’s the only one who actually goes through an ‘arc’ of sorts. She starts the night as naïve and uncultured, and by the end she comes to a conclusion about her own ambitions and emotions. However, the revelation at the end, especially when it comes to Senpai, doesn’t really follow through from the actions of the night. It’s not helped by her performance (both in animation and voice acting) which is static throughout; she has one level for the duration of the movie and stays that way, even at the very end. Then there’s Senpai, who has the most range and is often the butt-end to many jokes but isn’t exactly a ‘likeable’ protagonist; never mind the fact that he’s been stalking The Girl for an unknown period of time before the movie and then during it; he has one running gag with his trousers having to – one way or another – come off that isn’t particularly funny even the first time, and then proceeds to get everything he wants in the end despite not earning it during the course of the night. The only interesting contribution he makes to the film is during the climax when he has an existential crisis, which comes with some truly spectacular visuals.
Said visuals are provided by Science Saru, with the team who made Masaaki Yuasa’s 2010 series The Tatami Galaxy. If you’re a fan of the series you’ll notice that the animation style is very similar and even shares many character designs. However, with the budget of a movie, the animation prowess has been jacked up by 1000% so everything is bigger, bolder, more colourful, and never lets up for a second, with every scene giving the audience something new to enjoy that equally matches the crazy actions the characters experience. The only point of contention is when, in the latter half of the movie, the film suddenly turns into a musical (yes, that happens) and the animation suddenly falls flat with locked-off shots and static character movements whilst they sing; it’s very jarring compared to how fluid and energetic the rest of the movie is.
Let’s not beat around the bush; Night is Short, Walk on Girl is very, very, very weird. There’s a simple premise hiding underneath the explosion of random events that occur with gorgeous animation to embellish the strange experience. This is definitely one of the more unique anime films to come to the UK, but being unique doesn’t necessarily mean ‘good’. If you’re an animation buff or a massive fan of all things Masaaki Yuasa then it’s worth at least one watch. For everyone else, especially if you like your stories to be clear and concise, proceed with extreme caution.
Night is Short, Walk on Girl is in cinemas from 4th October by Anime Limited.