Masaaki Yuasa is somewhat of a phenomenon. I'm not his biggest fan, but whenever he has something new to share I try to watch it as quickly as possible. The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl [Yoru Wa Mijikashi Arukeyo Otome] is one of the two feature films he has lined up for 2017 and Yuasa fans can rest assured, it's right up there with his best work. If you're not really familiar with anime it might be a slightly tougher sell, but if you don't mind subjecting yourself to some off-beat animation, there's plenty to like here.
Mind Game was Yuasa's first major achievement as a director, but those with a more in-depth understanding of the anime scene already knew him from his work on Cat Soup. In fact many consider that a core Yuasa film, even though it was directed by Tatsuo Sato. Much like Takeshi Koike (Redline), Yuasa is a director/animator who sticks out because of his unique art and animation style. His work is instantly recognizable and deviates quite a bit from the norm, though it's still easily identifyable as anime. Look no further than the screenshots here to see what I'm talking about.
The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl is an adaptation of Tomihiko Morimi's novel by the same name. It's not the first time Yuasa tackles Morimi's work, Yuasa's The Tatami Galaxy (an 11-episode series) was also adapted from one of her novels. I have to admit that I haven't read any of Morimi's work, but it's obvious the broad outlines of her stories fit Yuasa's crazy antics. That said, the source material clearly isn't the star of the show, it's Yuasa's direction that made this film into a sprawling success.
The story is either quite small or outrageously epic, depending on how you look at it. At its core, it's a classic "boy is too embarassed to date girl" setup, drawn out across the entire length of the film. It's a basic premise for a simple romantic comedy, but that's just about all that's basic about this film. While the A to B outline holds no surprises, Yuasa crosses several different galaxies to reach his destination. It's pointless trying to recount the events that occur in between, those are better experienced first-hand.
Those familiar with Yuasa's work know his peculiar style of animation. Slightly exaggerated and slightly wobbly, as if experiencing the film though a mildly drunken dream. There's some insanely beautiful camera work to be admired here, in combination with the equally impressive scene transitions it makes for a very dynamic and surreal film. But ultimately it's the art style that draws the most attention to itself. Sporting a subtle retro vibe, low in detail but expressive and extremely colorful, every single scene is a joy to behind. The strong and bold colors, together with the lively animation and stylish finish all chip in to create a film that's a delight to watch.
The soundtrack is fun, lighthearted and a little quirky. Like everything in this film, it's a bit off-beat and unconventional, but unlike the crazy characters or the flashy visuals, it doesn't draw too much attention to itself. The score is strong enough to help establish the atmosphere, but it never takes the lead. The dub is a bit more noticeable, especially since Yuasa steers clear of the more cutesy voice acting, opting for a more natural, accent-heavy dub. It adds a little extra character to the cast and makes it an easier sell to people not as familiar with anime.
The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl is the kind of film that walks to its own beat. The story spans only one single night, but there's a year's worth of material in there. A series of absurd characters and settings provide hurdles and distractions for the central duo, driving their relationship to extremes before they can finally be together. If you're looking for coherence and sense the film might be a litting trying, but then Yuasa's work probably wasn't that suited for you to begin with. Embrace the chaos and you'll find a lot of magic here.
After Welcome to the Space Show, The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl is somewhat of a return to form for Yuasa. The outrageous art style, the livid animation, the crazy ideas and constant changes of pace and tone are what make his films special. While all of that sounds pretty chaotic, there's still that stylistic cohesion that pulls everything together. If you're looking for some atypical, quality anime Yuasa has you covered. With his next film already lined up (Lu over the Wall), 2017 might just be a great year for one of anime's brighter talents.