The Night is Short, Walk on Girl depicts the eternally long night of drinking, partying, and adventures that’s experienced by Black-Haired Girl. The open-minded woman begins the evening with zero expectations, but she encounters an increasing amount of unusual and enjoyable individuals and finds herself on one of the strangest and most memorable nights of her life.
Some of the most exciting names in film and television are working in animation and one particular talent who has quickly risen to the forefront of the industry is the visionary Masaaki Yuasa. Yuasa is responsible for iconic anime works like Lu Over the Wall, Ride Your Wave, Devilman Crybaby and much more. However, The Night is Short, Walk on Girl very much feels like his signature and most defining piece. Yuasa plays with color, motion, and animation like no one else and this film is the perfect gateway drug to jump into the rest of his filmography. The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is pure bliss on every level and it contains the type of eye-popping visuals that are only seen a handful of times in one’s life. It’s a movie that’s so unabashedly fearless, weird, and passionate that it’s impossible to not enjoy.
The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is quite atypical when it comes to its plot and it manages to be both very simple and wildly complicated. On its surface level it’s a basic story about Black-Haired Girl’s night out on the town, but the trajectory that it takes is truly unbelievable. It’s like if After Hours and Alice in Wonderland had an anime baby. Black-Haired Girl encounters lots of unique characters and the movie plays out in vignette-like scenes where she experiences different slices of life and accepts the ways of others. It’s a movie about the glory of curiosity and the central character is only able to have such an adventurous evening because of her forward attitude and her willingness to push herself out of her comfort zone.
Initially it seems like the purpose of The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is to highlight how fun drinking can be. That thread is certainly present and the preparation and consumption of alcohol is brought to life in gorgeous ways that make these simple acts as breathtaking as some superpowered fight sequence. There’s also a clear glee as the film engages in urban legends and old wives’ tales about special kinds of liquor, like Imitation Denki Bran. The film throws these non sequitur anecdotes at the Black-Haired Girl and it beautifully recreates the experience of moving from party to party and picking up snippets of stories from people along the way. An excitement and appreciation towards libation kicks off The Night is Short, Walk on Girl, but its message grows much deeper than that. At a certain point the alcohol becomes an afterthought and it becomes more a meditation on human connection and taking advantage of the odd joys that life presents.
A good deal of one’s enjoyment over this movie is also going to come down to what they think of Black-Haired Girl. She is such a magnetic and enjoyable character that it’s hard to not fall in love with her and her attitude. She’s fun and engaging without falling into the tropes of a manic pixie dream girl that would otherwise reduce the character. Black-Haired Girl is very much the one that’s in charge and even though a lot of the movie is just her taking in traditions or listening to stories, she still remains magnetic. Jackie Lastra’s work in the role is also a major asset here and she wonderfully conveys the character’s curiosity and excitement.
This movie also gains quite a bit of mileage with how it plays with expectations and goes in very surprising directions. At many moments it dresses itself up as a rom-com, but Senpai is an inherently wicked character. His way to Black-Haired Girl’s heart is completely fabricated, but even without taking that into consideration he just has a thoroughly rotten and self-centered attitude. It’s jarring that the film has the audience root for this character as he endures wild trials when he’s someone that seems objectively wrong for Black-Haired Girl.
Senpai functions as a fascinating deconstruction that demands to be taken at face value, but then repeatedly shows why he shouldn’t be. Senpai’s duplicitous nature is even carefully reflected with the casting of Kellen Goff. Goff has portrayed some of the most evil anime villains in the past few years like My Hero Academia’s Kai Chisaki and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’s Diavolo, but Senpai reflects a much more jovial register for Goff. He excels in this different kind of role, but he also helps Senpai’s seething rage sneak out when it’s appropriate.
The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is the type of story where Black-Haired Girl shouldn’t need fulfillment through a partner and learn that she’s already complete. The movie hints that she’s reached this point and that she won’t spend that much more time with Senpai, but it’s never explicit and still casts some dread over the film’s conclusion. Senpai’s by far the most problematic character and Black-Haired Girl’s story is still complete without his involvement, but it makes for a challenging presentation of typical romantic leads and happy endings.
These subversions continue with The Night is Short, Walk on Girl’s plot. All of Masaaki Yuasa’s other works are exceptionally ambitious and surreal, but they all feature a fairly linear story. This movie truly jumps all over the place and there are large stretches that don’t even involve any of the central characters. Black-Haired Girl watches performances go on and love stories that take place between complete strangers. She becomes an audience member as much as the viewer does and it’s a creative way to play with the movie’s themes. The fact that the main characters’ names are vague descriptions like Black-Haired Girl and Senpai are proof that this story is all about universal love. Every character is a surrogate for another in some respect and this metaphor becomes explicit when Black-Haired Girl and Senpai do in fact enter “The Codger of Monte Cristo” production. It’s layers upon layers upon layers and Yuasa depicts this in a way that’s just pure fun.
“The Codger of Monte Cristo” also represents some of the crazier moments in the film, wherein The Night is Short, Walk on Girl inexplicably transforms into an opera. It’s a fantastic moment that’s as jaw-dropping as the animation when the singing just continues to go on and it sinks in that this isn’t just a musical number, but a substantial portion of the movie. Decisions like this will constantly have the audience grabbing their heads in disbelief because The Night is Short, Walk on Girl creates its own formula that it refuses to let the audience get ahead of. There’s a shocking level of magical realism that feels reminiscent of a Studio Ghibli film, but rather than being transported to another universe this movie makes the rules of its reality elastic rather than leave it behind. Touches like the secret organization that’s behind everything, the challenges that Senpai endures, or the God of Used Book Markets all represent some of the movie’s more extreme instincts that cause the very best kind of bewilderment.
The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is a fantastic experience and the other central performances by Paul Guyet, Carrie Keranen, Eddy Lee, and Patrick Seitz are all perfect in their respective roles. Stephanie Sheh absolutely kills it with her direction over this mammoth production. However, it’s the animation that truly stands out here, which is usually the case with Masaaki Yuasa’s films. The movie frequently swaps color palettes, plays with negative space, and distorts character models all in amazing ways that get the most out of every single frame. Yuasa catapults between different art styles to evoke different moods and it’s a movie where it’s frustrating that the human eye can’t detect more movement so every image can be enjoyed to its maximum potential. The sprawling climax that takes place at the end of the movie is literally one of the most impressive things that I’ve seen in animation and a sequence that will stick with me until the day I die. Yuasa’s body of work is full of achievements, but The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is such a masterful summation of why he’s such an influential director.
The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is a celebration of life that’s like nothing else that’s ever been seen. Even those that don’t like animation, comedies, or romances, owe it to themselves to check out this piece of work just to experience the unconventional way that Masaaki Yuasa has constructed this story. It’s a work of art like no other and it’s extremely exciting that this weird, wonderful film now has an English dub so that even more people can enjoy its magic.
‘The Night is Short, Walk on Girl’ is now currently streaming on HBO Max