And confess to that girl you constantly stalk…wait a minute.
The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is the second of Yuasa’s two movies produced under the Science Saru name, and is a bit of a more familiar treat for long-term fans, as it’s actually a quasi-sequel to The Tatami Galaxy. The original author (Tomihiko Morimi) is the same, the music composer and most of the voice actors are the same, it takes place in the same universe, some of the supporting characters return to help out individuals who look suspiciously like the main leads of the movie’s predecessor, and the movie poster looks almost identical to a certain other recognizable promo image. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the background behind this film’s creation as I already covered most of what I wanted to say in my Lu Over the Wall review. All I really have to add is that I think this movie was considered the “safer” of the two Science Saru films upon announcement because most people who watched Tatami Galaxy love it to death, so surely we’ll love its successor, right?
Now I’ve stated before in my Uchouten Kazoku 2 review – which incidentally is another sort-of-successor to The Tatami Galaxy that I didn’t like – that I don’t enjoy more of the same, nor do I get the concept of missing an anime after it’s over. Okay it’s true that Tatami still hasn’t gotten a physical release in the States, but I do have easy access to the entire series that’s definitely not going anywhere anytime soon, so why on earth would I miss it when I can easily watch it again five seconds after writing this review? If anything, my prior history with that anime made me all the more determined to not get my hopes up for Night Is Short (yes that will be my abbreviation from now on, because the full title is a mouthful), so I intentionally avoided all the trailers and pre-hype material since Day One, determined to judge the movie on its own merits. Unfortunately, it turns out that Night Is Short references The Tatami Galaxy too much to the point that I found it difficult to judge it as its own thing. And when it did differentiate…read on.
The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is a youth romantic comedy centered on a nameless college girl with black hair and the experiences she goes through in a single night after running into some colorful characters both familiar and new. At first, it starts out as simply drinking the night away because what Japanese adult doesn’t want to do that, amirite? But things quickly expand into a series of events that I obviously can’t spoil, but let’s just say that underpants, cross-dressing, doing the monkey dance, and some kind of God that I didn’t quite grasp were involved. Broadly speaking, it’s just the girl forming bonds with the entire town thanks to her positive attitude with a very obvious payoff at the end.
But she’s not the only important character in the story. We also have the nameless senpai who wants to go out with the girl so much that he follows her everywhere she goes, looking for an opportunity to confess, but ends up never doing so to the point that if she called the cops, she’d have a very good point. After his stalking comes upon the discovery that the black-haired girl has loved a certain book ever since she was a child, he decides to buy it for her as a present and ends up getting involved in his own adventure when it turns out that buying a book is a lot harder than it should be when some of the crazy inhabitants start eyeing him for reasons that you don’t need to think too hard about because they’re mostly played as jokes. Also, despite the synopsis promoting his role pretty heavily, he’s not actually in the movie all that much. Most of Night is Short, Walk on Girl is focused on the titular girl and her new friends while nameless senpai takes the role of the satellite love interest – and I really do mean that because you could easily cut him out of the story and nothing would have changed.
Like Lu Over the Wall, there really isn’t all that much of a plot besides those very basic notes. Even if I didn’t have a restriction to never spoil anything, the only thing I can really add is that there are a few other subplots involving some of the major supporting cast that mostly just exist to be wacky love stories. This movie is more plot-focused and has a deeper grounding into Japanese culture than the mermaid one, but at the end of the day, both of Yuasa’s new movies exist to be fun visual noise unless someone wants to clarify some substance that I missed out on. And it has to be good substance too. I don’t want people saying stuff like “the entire night is actually a satire of Japan’s harsh working conditions and the bonds people must form to overcome them” because that doesn’t really tell me what the satire is actually in service of. Millennium Actress is full of visual metaphors regarding Japan’s movie industry and enka culture, but that doesn’t really mean much to me if all it’s saying with those metaphors is “this is how their history was”. Sure, but why should I care about that history, especially in the context of this story?
Not only did this movie not do much for me upon initial viewing, I think of my opinion of it goes down the more I think about it. There are several reasons for my disinterest, but the big sticking point is the characters. My preferences lean towards them driving the narrative first and foremost, and in that regard, I found the cast of Night is Short to be too wacky to be relatable. Some of you might be aware that I’m not a fan of Edgar Wright movies like Scott Pilgrim and Adult Swim cartoons like Superjail because I prefer humor to have contrast, which is difficult to achieve when everything is insane. And there isn’t a single straight man in this movie. Everyone is nutty, and while some are less nutty than others, they’re still too fantastical to function as good contrast.
Do you want to know what sort of characterization we get for our two leads? A girl who loves life so much that she can form bonds with others and deliver generic “we’re all connected” speeches and a stalker who doesn’t have a single redeemable feature that would make me want to root for him. Neither character goes through any sort of personal struggle or semblance of a character arc, and they’re the most normal of the cast compared to Underpants Man and his bizarre methods of falling in love. The male lead in particular really bothered me because he doesn’t actually interact with the female lead all that much so there’s no chemistry between them. And every time he’s on his own, we only see him think about how to get the girl and the ridiculous lengths he’ll go through to get her – which is just plain wrong in my opinion.
Maybe I could have gotten past the male lead’s behavior if the black-haired girl’s story was interesting in of itself, especially given how it’s the main plot that everything builds upon. But I don’t find anything appealing about following a character who knows what they want in life, unless they’re an avatar for the more interesting side characters to shine. After all, both Mushishi and Kino’s Journey are good series despite the minimal personal arcs Ginko and Kino actually went through in them because the episodic characters they helped really stood out. With that mindset, Underpants Man’s personal arc is sort of relatable in a “what you’re looking for might be right in front of you” sort of way. However, the fact that he can only fall in love under very specific circumstances sucks my sympathy for him away and tosses it into a giant pit full of man-eating sharks. And he’s the best member of the supporting cast, so it’s pretty much all downhill from there.
The jokes can be funny, but I never found the movie’s humor to be particularly riot-inducing. When it wasn’t just repeating the same stuff from its predecessor, Night is Short’s humor largely consists of overexaggerating a moment through a cartoon-y visual style, which wasn’t funny when Kizumonogatari did it either. And it repeats alot of Tatami’s humor to a distracting degree, even bringing back that cowboy just so he can urge the male lead to act on his sexual desires. Except since said lead is a creepy unlikable stalker, it’s more disturbing than hilarious this go-around.
Animation is pretty much the same as Tatami Galaxy’s, so of course it’s full of visual personality. However, I don’t think Yuasa scores points for that anymore given how long he’s been at this job. Also, some of the visual metaphors get unnecessarily bloated, like a certain visual gag when the male lead’s indecisive horniness is represented by a telephone company. If you’re tired of seeing Yuasa when he’s unrestrained, the look will probably look like the second coming of Jesus. But I really don’t see the appeal in watching the Tatami’s art style again if it’s not being used for anything new aside from some arbitrary set pieces. I know I’ve been comparing Night is Short to The Tatami Galaxy way too much, but that’s mainly because the movie relies so much on the viewer having seen it that it becomes a distracting fault regardless of whether or not they actually have.
Every time I keep looking at the reasons my Yuasa-obsessed colleagues regard The Night is Short, Walk on Girl as a masterpiece, I just let out the same big meh I gave the movie after the credits rolled. None of the issues I brought up in my dissection are deal-breakers – even though the male lead definitely tested my patience – but I was definitely checking my phone around the halfway point wondering when it was going to end (just so you know, the movie is only around ninety minutes long). Unless you prefer narratives about characters enjoying life whilst running into minor conflicts along the way over ones about characters facing their inner demons and growing as a result, I don’t see why anyone who’s a fan of Tatami Galaxy would put this film on the same level (or higher) as that series – particularly when several scenes only make sense if you’ve seen The Tatami Galaxy. And if you think I’d ever support the former method of storytelling, this is clearly the first time you’ve been to this blog. Lu Over the Wall may not have had much conflict, but it was definitely not minor stuff when it showed up.
Make no mistake, The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is a good anime, if mostly for the visual execution and sincere tone. But while “good anime” is my favorite genre of anime, I don’t like every good anime that’s out there, and this follow-up to one that I do like just doesn’t do it for me. It’s just a visually well-executed but very basic romantic comedy with very basic characters, a very basic message, too many bizarre/nonsensical jokes, and a runtime that felt a lot longer than it actually was. If you just want to see Yuasa’s take on that, go nuts. However, by the movie’s end, it wanted you to root for the main couple to get together, and I really didn’t want that to happen. It also wanted me to see it again, and I’d rather just watch its much better predecessor for the tenth time instead.
- So why exactly did the main girl have a crush on her senpai anyways?
- Everybody do the monkey at the next wedding you go to. I dare you.