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.
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.
I'm not a good writer.
Yeah, this is not a good way to start a review, but I don't care - I'm actually quite postive that this is going to get lost in between all the other thousand reviews around here. My english is also not that good - it's not my main language - , but I try my best.
You're - If there's someone other than me reading this - probably wondering: "What the hell does it have to do with Yoru wa Mijikashi Arukeyo Otome?"
Well, it's quite simple: It's about trying your best.
We have a black-haired girl walking on and letting life lead her
way. And then there is this boy. He tries his best to talk to her so keeps stalking her and doing what would look like "coincidences" - Even though he sucks at doing this. And this is it, that's what the movie is about. It's an overly used formula - There were so many things that could go wrong here, and none of them did. Masaaki Yuasa created one of the most ambitious animations I've ever watched keeping everything as simple as possible. From the animation to the music, but, funnily enough, it feels complex. Everything fits, nothing feels unnecessary. And I want to go into all the details, so let's go by sections:
The animation is one of the strongest points of the movie. Psychedelic, chaotic, colorful and addictive. Incredibly addictive.
The non-stop frenetic vibe throughout the whole movie fits perfectly into the animation's atmosphere, with its complex angles, eye-catching cinematography and smooth movements. Also, I can't forget to talk about the beautiful backgrounds and the overall setting, they're just as important and as vivid as the character's animations. I think it's complicated to describe and review it, so I recommend you to see it for yourself, and if you have, you know that I'm right. But I'm not that surprised, since it's the original Yojōhan Shinwa Taikei team. I don't have much else to talk about it, because of spoilers, but be prepared for a flash flood of 24 flamboyant frames per second.
The plot is as always - if you compare it to Yuasa's older works - , straightforward, with a simple objective but with a monstruous combination of everything possible, creating an incredibly captivating mess. Makoto Ueda created a consistent combination of drama, comedy and romance - something that it's incredibly rare to happen these days. I haven't read the novel - wirtten by Tomohiko Morimi - , so I can't talk about it or make comparisons. I would like to talk about the characters here, but I think it would be more fitting to write it on the next section, since it's probably the most important part of the whole movie.
The characters are my favorite part about this movie. Every single one of them have an incredibly focused background, it feels like you're walking and living all this mess with the black-haired girl. They feel real, I could relate to every single character - even the most absurd ones like Jōgasaki.
Senpai's character is the most detailed one, filled with doubt, love and weird unnamed desires - his head is so tumultuous that if it had caught fire in the middle of the movie I wouldn't have been surprised. I would've loved to go into details with him but I don't want to spoil anything, so let's just jump to the second character I want to talk about that it's obviously kurokami no otome - also known as the black-haired girl. She's the complete opposite of him, and as the title suggests, she is always walking forward. Her optimistic way of thinking is contagious.
Even though my favorite character didn't appear, we have a substitute for him, Furuhonichi no kamisama - that would be something like God of the used books. He may not be as interesting and as deep as Ozu but he sure as hell feels like him enough to fill the gap.
I'm not going into detail about the other characters because that would make this review turn into a term paper. So let's just go to the next section.
Starting with the soundtrack, I have only watched it once, so I can't really point out exactly the good and bad points of it. It isn't huge, and the right songs plays at the right moments. There are some particular moment that has some events related to music and I hope that they release a soundtrack with these in it. The sounds overall are good, nothing unnecessary or unfitting. It flows well with the movie.
½. Full Square
Well, this is where I basically make a conclusion. This movie, in my opinion, feels like a 93 minutes dream. It's filled with familiar faces and they are true to what made them be who they were on Yojōhan Shinwa Taikei. The fast paced and always changing mood is also another already seen theme but it's presented in a different way, more open hearted and romantic. Another really important fact to notice is that the romance doesn't ruin the movie's pace, it's actually the base of the food chain, without it, the movie would crumble.
I've noticed some complaints about the way how this movie deals with certain events and I've got to disagree on them. I really don't want to go into details, but in my opinion, the movie would feel completely shallow without its charming "full character's background in three lines" moments and the really absurd way of telling the story. The chaos is what makes this movie what it is.
I wouldn't recommend this everyone, it follows the same style as Yojōhan Shinwa Taikei, and if you're familiar with Yuasa's works: Don't be in doubt, watch this as soon as you can. If you're curious about what it is about, feel free to watch it - And if you like it, spread the word to people you know that will like. I don't recommend it to people who doesn't like things with a """experimental""" vibe. The free-shaped characters animation, 50 lines in 10 seconds narrative and surrealism will make some people go flaccid in a matter of seconds. Either way, I hope you have as much fun as I had watching this and I'm pretty sure that this will become a 10/10 someday - it's just a matter of time. And rewatches (And if you have watched it, I hope you liked). I'll finish this review here, because the night is too short for you to waste your time reading this - That if, anyone reads this at all.