A black haired girl is walking around the streets of Kyoto, from the night scene of Pontocho to a second-hand book fair in Shimogamo, then off to a college fair. The main character that has a romantic feeling for her secretly follows her around and looks for the opportunities to run into her in a manner that seems like a coincidence. Unfortunately for him, she is not interested in love yet so she does not notice his feelings. What waits these two characters are crazy incidents caused by individuals such as a person who introduces himself as a Japanese mythical creature Tengu, the god of second-hand book or the money lender in a three story vehicle.
"Yoru wa Mijikashi, Arukeyo Otome" (or "The Night is Short, Walk On, Young Maiden") is a film by director Masaaki Yuasa based on the similarly titled novel by author Tomihiko Morimi. If you are at all familiar with Yuasa's previous works as well as Morimi's adapations (including the Yuasa adaptation of "Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei"), there's a good chance you'll know exactly what you're getting into by watching this film.
To put it simply: this movie is an utter, frenetic delight.
The story, without spoiling too much, is a perfect match for the big screen. Covering the events of a single lively night in the imaginative world of
Morimi's Kyoto, it's not often you see so much happen in such a short amount of time. Fans of "Yojouhan" will be familiar with the unforgiving speed of the dialogue, but as you'd expect with a film adaptation, the story events move just as quickly, with scene after scene transitioning wildly into the next. To add to that, the content is as surreal as ever despite the simple premise. Most of the scenes are thoroughly steeped in a sort of magic realism, the characters seeing the strangely off-kilter world—in which people claim to be local deities, loan sharks travel along the rivers, students run around hosting guerrilla theater productions, and everyone seems to have bottomless stomachs—with a sense of relative acceptance. Though this kind of storytelling seems like it would be hard to follow, I surprisingly never got lost, as the story itself is fairly straightforward and the motivations clear.
That's not to say the film's design is simple as well, however. Yuasa's portrayal of Kyoto at night is as much his as it is Morimi's. Every crevice of the city is brimming with life and abstract design to match the surreal events of the story, and following the characters as they jump from narrow, pub-filled alleyways to bustling marketplaces in the middle of the night, from brightly-lit restaurants to unreal, technological command-rooms almost feels like watching a fever dream unfold. In every new scene, the nighttime city evolves more and more into a fantastic, magical maze of mythology and wonder, something that only the combined imaginative force of Yuasa and Morimi could produce. Add to that the wild, exaggerated, but uniquely simplistic art style and the light, delightful soundtrack, and the end result is something truly refreshing.
As was the case with "Yojouhan" as well, the characters are a complete joy to watch. All of them are immensely varied in personality but still somehow all manage to stay afloat amidst the chaos of the story as they effortlessly weave in and out of plot. In particular, the black-haired maiden, voiced by the equally delightful Kana Hanazawa, carries the show with her indomitable charm and a refusal to let herself be slowed down by what happens around her, instead almost encouraging the story to grow even more wild. I was a little unsure about the male protagonist at first, but his personality proves to be an invaluable foil that really seals the movie's conclusion for the better and makes for a very satisfying ending. The side cast is also extremely memorable and full of strange, amusing personalities that somehow work in perfect conjunction with each other despite being so unique and energetic.
Of course, this movie isn't without its flaws. I'm honestly not even sure "flaws" is the best way to word it, but for better or for worse, there are a couple of scenes and subplots that seem to be drawn out a little excessively, albeit in true Yuasa fashion. (They certainly serve a purpose, but the experience is still a little jarring and they tend to break the flow.) In addition is the large cast. While the major side characters are given surprising depth and background despite the movie length, I feel this very strength takes away from the development of the two main characters slightly due to the limited time. Also, a lot of the more minor characters are thrown into the story a little too haphazardly. While it does add to the overall exciting and chaotic atmosphere, it can be a little overwhelming at times, and the sheer number of characters gives each of their stories somewhat less impact.
This brings me to how much this movie references earlier works. In every recess of the film are nods to previous Morimi adaptations and Yuasa films, including the use of many character designs from "Yojouhan" and even featuring a brief cameo from the director's as-of-this-moment not-yet-released film, "Yoake Tsugeru Lu no Uta." This has the wonderful effect of allowing us to enter the all-too-familiar Morimi universe with minimal amounts of exposition, but it presents a somewhat high barrier of entry for people that might not be familiar with "Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei" and, to a much lesser degree, "Uchoten Kazoku." Although not entirely necessary to enjoy the film, I strongly recommend watching "Yojouhan" beforehand to get a firm grasp on the characters of this eccentric universe so you'll appreciate the film that much more.
All in all, "Yoru wa Mijikashi" is an immensely delightful experience. Every second of it is filled with undeniable charm and gorgeous imagination, and the breakneck pace of the story and transitions alongside the quirky cast of characters brimming with personality come together to take the audience on a wild ride really unlike anything else. I highly recommend it.
Going into "The Night is Short...", a movie that has the same staff as The Tatami Galaxy, the same distinctive artstyle as The Tatami Galaxy, starring a pair of nameless protagonists (Senpai and The Black-Haired Maiden) as per The Tatami Galaxy, is adapted from a novel by Tomohiko Morimi (of The Tatami Galaxy), shares the same fictional universe as The Tatami Galaxy (featuring several of its characters), and features a theme song by Asian Kung-Fu Generation for good measure, you'd be forgiven for expecting this movie to be The Tatami Galaxy 2.0 (and if you haven't seen The Tatami Galaxy...
what the hell are you doing here? Go watch The Tatami Galaxy). For all it shares with its predecessor, though, The Night is Short is unmistakeably its own movie, taking the fast-paced energy and absurd visuals of Tatami and dialling them both up to 11.
The Night is Short is a manic sugar rush of a movie. It eschews any traditional story structure (or rather, won't sit still long enough to have one) in favour of introducing a colourful cast of drunken, exaggerated, morally-degenerate losers, introducing a couple hundred different plot points, and then throwing them all in a blender. The characters each have their own plots, intersecting at random, resulting in a chaotic storm of subplots. The premise, despite this, is quite simple. It revolves around a single night of binge-drinking during a Kyoto University festival. Fittingly, the movie is a dizzying, disorienting, drunken mess of an experience, with surrealist animation and a constantly shifting plot complete with mile-a-minute dialogue and narration further befuddling things.
The animation is completely gorgeous, as is standard for Yuasa Masaaki, with a unique and psychedelic colour palette, goofy and free-form animation that in many ways recalls the rubber hose animation style of the 1930s, and a beautiful representation of its setting, strikingly adorned with maple trees, lanterns, and darumaka dolls. This is a movie that never sits still, demanding that you don't look away for even a second. In a way, the setting is the greatest tool this movie has at its disposal. The colourful nightlife of Kyoto is shown in vivid detail, and the intersecting plot points and cast members acting independently makes the city feel like a living, breathing thing, assisted by an eclectic soundtrack full of symphonic music, tango, rock, and baroque pop.
The presentation is something that's uniquely Masaaki, with interesting camera shots, pans, and angles all over the place. There's a lot of symbolism, surrealism, and absurdism to be found here. The environment shifts to exaggerate the thoughts and feelings of the characters, there are sequences shown entirely in the minds of our characters, and the night the movie revolves around follows a series of events purposely far beyond what could ever happen in a single night. The narrative is less direct and more of a stream-of-consciousness blur.
It can't be overstated just how unique a piece of work The Night is Short is, even in spite of what it shares with previous Yuasa Masaaki works. It's a movie that seemed desperate to cram every random thought it could into its runtime, common sense be damned. To demonstrate, here are a few things that happen in this movie, entirely out of context. An impromptu series of musical numbers in the second act. A tornado of fish. A black market for rare literature that competes for books by eating spicy food. A cold that infects the entire population of Kyoto within the space of a few hours. A loanshark who trades exclusively in pornographic woodblocks. Sure, you could consider these spoilers, but it's hard to spoil a movie that has absolutely no commitment to telling a coherent narrative.
To say the least, The Night is Short is not a movie for everyone. There are people who will be turned off by its eccentric art style, its unique writing style, its hectic pace, its unrelenting dialogue, its refusal to adhere to a structured story, it surrealism, its absurdism, or all of the above. Additionally, with the sole exception of The Black-Haired Maiden, the cast aren't traditionally likeable people, and are all drunken losers, which can also put people off (though the point, of course, isn't to empathize with them - in any other series every member of the cast would be the sole comic relief character).
But for those who can get past all that and are willing to let any ideas they have about what anime is supposed to be, The Night is Short is a brilliant, abstract, chaotic mess of frantic, frenetic joy and wonder. It's a mere hour and a half that packs in more content than a full-length series. It's a manic, incomprehensible mess of a movie, and a worthy debut for studio Science Saru.
I’m not generalizing, but it seems to me that there’s some predicament from some people that if something is Masaaki Yuasa anime, it automatically bonded to be something good. Don’t get me wrong, most of his works are exceptional and I liked most of it. I’m not generalizing as I think “The night is short” itself wasn’t a bad movie/ It had many good aspect to the point I can understand people to liking it, but It also just had fair and share problem to ever called it good and recommendable.
The First one is that it is hardly accessible for anyone who aren't familiar
with anime and probably not the best starter if you want to go through Masaaki Yuasa’s. In the Tatami Galaxy, the barriers to many people are the fast-paced dialogue that makes you had to rewind every minutes in order to read subtitles. In this movie, specifically in the first 25 minutes, Is even had more barriers; not only does the dialogues is still fast-paced, It’s very absurd, the story was just some random bullshit about nonsense that no one care about. The character’s even doing some unfunny jokes involving wrestling moves which does occur repeatedly. It does serve its purpose to introduce the characters that play role in the story and to know the basic of their personality and how the main girls is obsessed with drinking but even then it was doesn’t make any sense in the end. Whenever I watching anime I always put some though “if I haven’t known anime much, would I like this?” ‘The night is short’ though, doesn’t have that accessibility because it is too niche, which I think could lead its potential audiences to be lost interest.
The second one is the characters which is sadly quite weak. It is because the personality of these characters are something you have seen before, the protagonist is just some nice guy acting realistically, the ’ god of books’ may be funny but if you have seen Tatami Galaxy you just realize he is carbon copy of Ozu (which is intentional I think). The rest of the cast is as eccentric as they get but the movie doesn’t expand it further. The cast in Tatami Galaxy is also present and they play major role in the story instead just being a cameo, but it doesn’t help much. The anime doesn’t seems to be focused on the aspect.
What it focused on I think is the overall experience with its story and the visual, and I think it deserves credit, for manages to make up simple idea into a convoluted storyline that is somehow still able to be entertaining. The basic premise is quite easy but relatable and effective, it is essentially about some dude who had crush with a woman and he gets some powerful friends with info about her, so basically he would stalk and gets her impressed with information from his friends. Then we moved on to the single night of university festival when the plot be chaotic where to be some competition of eating spicy meatballs in hell, meeting some kids who declare himself as ‘god of books’ and many many other nonsensical thing that could be listed.
What makes this things effectively works is the visual. It is not just there to be some thrown away object and background, but becoming integrated part with the story, making the movie looks like a visual journey. Mostly it was chaotic and abstract but complementing plot very well. Particularly in the final scene which hard to be explained in text formats. But even then it is not artsy for the sake of being artsy, the anime may have some short open chance to be deeply analyzed by its presentation, but it’s not that much matter because taking it away does have zero effect on overall experiences. It is also very aesthetically pleasing, the animation is gorgeous, very vibrant and effectively create happy-go-lucky mood.
The main feature of the sound is definitely the ending by Asian Kung-Fu Generation which could stand on its own without ever experiencing the movie to liking it. The voice acting was good and the actor combined very well with their characters. All In all. The sound was solid
At the end of the day, what we have here is a show that's superficially hard enough to get into yet, I think when one could pass through the beginning of it, it’s actually quite an experience; with its abstract yet pleasing visual trick. Characters that while unexplored but entertaining, eccentric, and funny. The plot that is a convoluted mess that is somehow manages to be easy to follow and entertaining. The finale that’s solid and the journey that making simple story about romance cliché that expanded further in a good way. The night is short is quite an option if you’re getting tired of anime with conventional approach, but I wouldn’t hold your breath expecting someone say you’re weird for liking it.
Note: On my own list I give this one a 5 because it got me two sitting to finish it due to first 25 minutes, but here I’m giving this a 6 because the actual content it has.
Note: I got to see this at a special premiere screening in my city, with Masaaki Yuasa himself in attendance! He's a very lovely guy. I hope that hasn't biased my review too much.
This film is closely intertwined with The Tatami Galaxy, a previous Yuasa-directed work. Their original novels were written by the same author, they share a setting in Kyoto and apparently take place in the same universe - many characters from TG pop up here and there in NiS, if not always in the way you expect them to. It's not strictly a sequel, but you'll get much more out of the film
if you've seen Tatami, so that's something to consider.
Night is Short, much like Tatami Galaxy, is a bit of a difficult sell plot-wise - it focuses mostly on a college student only named Senpai whose only goal is to win the heart of his crush, the titular Girl, over the course of a night in which the two are out and about in Kyoto. Of course, it's not quite that simple- inventive camerawork and use of surrealism turn what could have been a very dull story into an amazingly fun adventure through Kyoto with a bouncy, dynamic cast of lovable characters.
Without revealing too much, the film retains Tatami Galaxy's distinctive, surreal visual style and sense of humour, but is much more lighthearted, comedic, and amazingly over-the-top in places without missing out on conveying its own messages. If you liked Tatami Galaxy, I can practically guarantee you'll love Night is Short.
The increased film budget combined with Yuasa's direction style lead to some beautiful animation sequences, and the Girl is so amazingly cheery, she can't help but grab your interest. An easy 10/10 from me, but then again I also loved Tatami.