After spending most of the day enjoying some much-needed R&R (having worked the entire week while battling an infuriatingly persistent chest cold), I braved the rain to venture out to Japan Society for my long-awaited first screening of this year’s Japan Cuts Film Festival: Night is Short, Walk On Girl, the latest animated fever dream from mad genius Masaaki Yuasa.
In terms of its story and style, this movie falls somewhere between the trippy Mind Game and the more conventional and kid-friendly Lu Over the Wall. Like the latter, it features a charmingly old-school visual aesthetic, with soft, exaggerated character designs that evoke the work of Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka; narratively, on the other hand, it more closely resembles the former, veering off into some delightfully bizarre tangents (to name a few: drinking contests with underwear-snatching gangsters, impromptu musical interludes, misadventures with vindictive minor deities—and then there’s the really weird stuff). Anchoring these loosely-connected episodes is a cheerful, energetic young girl who charges through the wild, crazy, and decidedly not short night with the inexorable forward momentum of a freight train, chasing whatever happens to catch her interest (alcohol, used books, guerrilla theater)… and chased all the while by a lovesick classmate, desperate to win her affection but too timid to confess his true feelings.
Despite its deliberately disjointed plot, however, Night is Short, Walk On Girl manages to be Yuasa’s most thematically clear effort to date, celebrating the joyful exuberance and adventurousness of youth and exploring the unlikely threads that tie all human beings together—including, of all things… a severe cold.
Leave it to the director of Mind Game to break the fourth wall and invade my life before I even set foot in the theater.
[Originally written July 22, 2018.]