Film Review: ‘The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl’

A whimsical fantasy of one very long night
January 6, 2019 Updated: January 8, 2019

It’s easy to play up the bittersweet moments in an “American Graffiti­”-style end-of-an-era night of partying. However, if you can find the best parts in the hangover, then you’re really onto something. Buckle up, because it is going to be a heck of a party in Masaaki Yuasa’s “The Night is Short, Walk on Girl,” which is releasing on DVD on Jan. 29, 2019.

The girl with black hair in the Night is Short
The Girl with Black Hair is an enigmatic charmer in “The Night Is Short.” (GKIDS)

It starts with a wedding, but the after-after-party is where it’s at. Then these Kyoto college students are off to enjoy the nightlife of the nocturnal city that apparently puts both New York and Las Vegas to shame. The Senpai (upperclassman) would like to chat with his crush, an underclassman known simply as “the Girl with Black Hair,” but he is painfully shy. He gets ribbed by his friends, but frankly they are even worse, especially Don Underwear, so-called because he pledged never to change his undergarments until he finds the mystery woman he fell in love with during a brief chance encounter. If the logic of his strategy escapes you, just backburner that thought for now.

a scene from the animated film, The Night is Short, Walk on Girl
A scene from the animated film “The Night Is Short.” (GKIDS)

 

 

 

 

The Senpai will follow the Girl with Black Hair as she struts through the college district nightlife like an animated Holly Golightly. It would be a bit stalkerish if he weren’t so ineffectual. They might actually be meant for each other, but first the Girl will get a lesson in exotic cocktail history, assist the Puck-ish God of the Used Book Market in restoring cosmic balance to the free flow of used books, and step into the lead role of a guerilla theater troupe’s floating production.

Kyoto looks like a heck of a fun city, and the Girl is an absolutely charming companion to share it with. There is probably more alcohol consumed in “Night Is Short” than a typically sloshed film by Hong Sang-soo or a “Thin Man” movie, but there is more to it than that.

The girl in a used book stall in The Night is Short
The Girl aids a used book store peddler in a scene from “The Night Is Short.” (GKIDS)

In fact, the wild night catches up with them, sending nearly everyone to their sickbeds to nurse colds and flus, except the Girl. As she starts tending to her old and new friends, certain aspects of the night come into sharper focus.

“The Night Is Short” is a rarity among animated films, because it maintains a light, whimsical vibe, including absolutely no objectionable material whatsoever, but it clearly has an adult sensibility. You need to have lived through a few nights like this, albeit without the surreal flights of fantasy, to fully appreciate the film’s intoxicating vibe.

Yuasa’s style is also rather mischievously flexible. He slides up and down the scale from representationally realistic anime to day-glo candy-colored abstraction, but somehow he maintains a consistency of tone and attitude. It is just a trip to take in all the visual confections.

Like the Girl with Black Hair, Yuasa’s film is an energetic charmer. “The Night Is Short” has heart and panache married together in ways we’ve rarely seen. It will make you feel several years younger, so consider it therapeutic. Very highly recommended.

The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl’
Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Stars:   Kana HanazawaGen Hoshino, Aoi Yuki, Hiroshi Kamiya, and Junichi Suwabe
Running Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Released on DVD: Jan. 29
Rated 4 stars out of 5

Joe Bendel writes about independent film and lives in New York. To read his most recent articles, visit JBSpins.blogspot.com

 

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