Review: Night is Short, Walk On Girl (Japan Cuts 2018)

by Matthew Edward Hawkins

So what’s next? Oh, you know what’s next… it’s the 2018 edition of JAPAN CUTS! Hit that trailer…

And as I did with my NYAFF coverage, expect to see pairs of reviews over the next few (that’s the plan, at least). As for today, I’ll be looking at the festival’s two animated features…

Back in the day, when it was more commonly referred to as Japanimation, one of the main selling points of anime in America was “this ain’t cartoons for kids!” Aside from referencing the fact that most cartoons in the US at the time were aimed at kids (on a mainstream level to be clear), they were also seemingly indistinguishable. Largely because, again, they were mostly for children; never mind how a considerable bulk of anime itself looks fairly similar back then. And that’s still the case today. I say this has a HUGE fan of anime, but let’s be honest here: much of it is indistinguishable from each other. Also, while much of it may not be appropriate for children (and proudly so), that doesn’t mean it ain’t juvenile either. Yet such homogeneity is completely understandable; anime comes from a relatively small country with not exactly the most diverse culture, plus it’s a cottage industry. Anime is a product. Hence why Night is Short, Walk On Girl is such a welcome splash of cold water, by defying what’s possible or at least what we’ve come to expect.

Though as one might have guessed, the film takes place over the course of a single evening and follows an unnamed individual that’s only referred to as “The Girl with Black Hair“, a wide-eyed & warm-hearted college student who kicks her evening off by sneaking out of a social gathering, to check out the town’s night life by bar hopping. Cuz this girl… boy oh boy… can she drink. One of the very first that she shares is with some dude; he treats “The Girl” cuz she reminds him of his daughter. Yet he still tries to grab her tits. Cuz the guy’s a perv, obviously, yet not just personally but professionally as well: the bills are paid by dealing erotic art. Something he’s embarrassed by, enough to stop him from showing up to his aforementioned daughter’s wedding party, hence why he was found drinking his sorrows away. Turns out, the bridal celebration is also what “The Girl” had snuck out of! Which happens a lot in this film; around every corner, she runs into one wacky character after another, all of whom are connected in some manner. Not long, she’s in a drinking contest with some rich old guy… then she’s at some night time book fair… then she finds herself on stage as the latest lead in some guerrilla theater troupe… and so forth.

Night is Short, Walk On Girl‘s ultra-freewheeling atmosphere, which often times reaches hallucinatory levels, is largely accomplished due to its playful animation style, and as somewhat hinted at the top, is a serious breath of fresh air. I honestly have no idea what the scale of its production was, but it feels like a small budget film that got its money’s worth, thanks to animators and the like, who simply had tons of fun. Also again, it’s not a kids movie, but that’s not to say that it’s no appropriate for children; a certain portion will go over their heads, but it’s like cool adults talking. The film also is heavily stepped n Japanese traditions, so even adults who are gaijin might be confused. Alas, the night is long on various levels; despite only being an hour and a half, the end needlessly drags on a bit, by hitting the viewer on the head with THE MESSAGE way too much. For better or worse, Night is Short, Walk On Girl does at this point succumbs to certain tropes (not inherent to just anime but all Japaneses live action media as well) and ends up resembling at least one other anime that many are already familiar with, specifically the last two televised episodes of the original Neon Genesis Evangelion. Still, it’s highly recommended! Unfortunately, Japan Society’s sole screening is sold out, but it’s getting a wider release next month, courtesy of GKIDS.

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