If you’ve seen The Night is Short, Walk On Girl’s movie adaption, then you’ll know it’s an unforgettable, quirky tale of boy meets girl. However, if you haven’t had the chance to watch it – or feel like revisiting that universe – perhaps you’ll be interested in reading the original novel, which Yen Press have just brought to the West. Today I take a look at Tomihiko Morimi’s The Night is Short to find out if it offers the same lovable story as its film adaptation.
The story follows two university students, an unnamed woman (referred to as the Black-Haired Maiden) and unnamed man. One fateful night, the man decides he wishes to confess his feelings to the woman and tries to get closer to her in order to do so. Unfortunately, no matter how hard he tries to catch up to her, she’s already moved on to her next destination. With a party, drinking contest, used book fair and school festival standing in his way, will the man ever be able to make his move? So begins a tale of love like no other!
Whenever I or my co-writers try to describe the plot of The Night is Short, we always struggle. It sounds boring on paper – generic even – but this really is a great read. The characters that our duo meet along their journey are fascinating, ranging from a God of Old Books Market, to the School Festival Executive Head. It’s a cast of characters you’re unlikely to find anywhere else and they bring the story to life wonderfully. Most importantly, everyone is having fun, and because they’re having fun we, as readers, also have fun.
It’s difficult to describe why the leading characters are enjoyable. On the surface they’re actually fairly generic. The Black-Haired Maiden is ditzy, outgoing and in her own world. The male protagonist is a lovesick man, just trying to do his best to follow his heart. But this is perfectly fine. It’s not necessarily the characters who are unique, so much as the strength of the writing and the circumstances they find themselves in. Morimi’s expertise sweeps these characters off their feet and moulds them into something memorable.
Unlike the movie adaption, the original novel doesn’t try to pretend that everything the protagonist and Black-Haired Maiden go through happens in a single night. The story is cut into four chapters, each telling a different tale, while shifting between the perspectives of both of our main characters. They’re written in first person perspective and Morimi manages to write around them not having names extremely well.
Another charm of the original novel compared to the movie is that we get to see much more of the Black-Haired Maiden’s inner thoughts. It gives us a better idea of her feelings toward the protagonist, which makes the novel well worth a read even if you’re already familiar with the story.
Tomihiko Morimi’s writing is more down-to-earth than the film. That’s not to say it isn’t still quirky and fantastical, because it is, but the novel is a lot easier to follow – particularly the final act. The book’s finale is whimsical but not ridiculous, which the movie started to become at that point.
Morimi’s works are real treasures, unlike anything else, and I’m glad The Night is Short is the second of his books to make it into English. It offers a nice contrast to Penguin Highway (the first), which was a fairly straight forward slice-of-life story about growing up. Night is Short leans into the fantastical more obviously and shows the real depth of the author’s abilities.
As previously mentioned, this release comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and has been translated by Emily Balistrieri. The translation reads well with no problems to speak of. This release is a handsome hardcover format to match Penguin Highway, which is especially nice for those looking to collect all of Morimi’s works in English so far.
Overall, The Night is Short, Walk on Girl’s novel is a real treat for both newcomers and returning fans to the story. The book is different enough from its adaptation to be a worthwhile read, even for those who are already familiar with the plot, and it offers more depth to the female protagonist. This is another must-have Morimi work!