Watching a film with an audience, regardless of how big or small, changes that film from being consumed, to having it performed. Many films, anime or otherwise, stand well on their own but The Night Is Short, So Walk On Girl is likely at its best projected large in front of an audience.
It is raucous and bawdy and funny and peculiar in all the ways you’ve come to expect from a Masaaki Yuasa production, but it has a verve and energy that can only be amplified in front of a crowd. This is, after all, a film about the long, involved, drunken night out of several university students.
Chief among them, the titular girl with black hair who starts the film downing enough alcohol to pickle a hippo before striding confidently through used book markets, guerilla theatre and palliative visits. Stalking her through all the oddities of Kyoto is a male student with a huge crush on her and a propensity for losing his underwear. Fans of The Eccentric Family will find a lot of common touchstones here with the three story train car to the mention of denki-bran; likewise for those familiar with The Tatami Galaxy series and its kappa-like friend, the robustly chinned tengu and the dentist with a near prehensile tongue. Unsurprising really considering both were originally penned by the same author, Tomohiko Morimi.
Hijinx ensue, and indeed keep ensuing almost until the closing third when a couple of bizarre and protracted scenes almost expend the blazing momentum that had been built up. Momentum that accrued through the kind of whip smart humour, sudden outbursts of song and rapid turns of fortune that are at once charming but also vaguely obscene.
It’s the kind of film that feels like the edge of a dream, almost real but still malleable, or perhaps a modern fairy tale borne from a lost mythology. Such is the vividness and expressiveness of the animation and the innate qualities of the characters. Like Goldilocks they exist without back story or character arc and rely instead on their albeit exaggerated present. The girl is forthright and peppy, an amiable little ditty following her travels; the luckless boy thinks too much but is fundamentally decent, cowboy or no. Even Kyoto itself is offered up as a character, mysterious and whimsical where everyone is connected and anything can happen.
The whole film then, despite that stumble at the end, is as alluring as it is outrageous fun. Difficult to describe but absolutely worth watching, especially so if you have people to laugh and be confused with alongside.