Based on Tomihiko Morimi’s bestselling novel of the same name, The Night is Short, Walk on Girl takes place over a single eventful night and follows Otome as she parties, gets drunk for the first time, visits a book fair, and takes part in a university festival. All the while she is pursued by Senpai who is in love with her. Well this is at least what I thought was going on, as the erratic nature of the story makes it difficult to know what actually happened.
There are a number of possible thematic avenues the film goes down. One of them is based on the network of friends shared by Otome and Senpai, and the sense of interconnectivity between them. The idea of interconnectedness is raised at the book fair, where it is shown how books link people from around the world, but without any narrative clarity it is difficult to know if this is important.
Similarly ideas of time are raised and clocks can be seen throughout the film but I am reticent to discuss it because it is hard to be certain about anything that happens. The depiction of Senpai is also frustrating as it is difficult to know if he is a sincere love interest or a creepy stalker – he spends far too much time with the antique erotic painting collector for my liking.
It has been suggested that the film makes more sense if you have watched the anime series The Tatami Galaxy, but I would be surprised if many people outside of Japan have. Instead of requiring the viewer to watch an entire series before going to the cinema it would have been nice if the storytelling had just been clearer and easier to follow.
It is the animation where the quality of the film lies. The imagery is beautifully crafted and is full of impressive visuals. The term surreal is often overused but in this case is completely deserved. As a visual sceptical The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is brilliant, but without a clear narrative there is no substance to accompany it.
Director Masaaki Yuasa is known for his beautiful visuals having previously directed Mind Game. However, in his latest film there isn’t a balance between free flowing imagery and storytelling. In the end stunning visuals are redundant if they do not serve the story they are telling. The film may have subtleties and nuances that I have not picked up on first viewing but unfortunately I am not going to view it again and am left with little to take away.
Some beautiful animation that is strange and genuinely surreal isn’t enough to overcome the sense that The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is erratic and unfocused. The lack of character development and the framing of the female lead within the male gaze only add to this.
In selected cinemas from 4th October