A good series leaves you feeling as satisfied as feeling empty, but it can be quite hard to let go of a cast or atmosphere that has become intimate to you. Rarely did an anime draw me in a much as the staggeringly good "The Tatami Galaxy," and leaving its colourful universe left me slightly devastated.
Imagine what a delight it was to discover Masaaki Yuaka had made another trip to Tomihiko Morimi's campus universe in "Night Is Short, Walk On Girl." Although it does not match its predecessor's existential depth (indeed, doesn't aspire to), it is a mostly docile and visually stunning nocturne, and a delightful return to a beloved universe.
The story takes place during the span of one seemingly endless night, during which Kohai (junior), a female university student with an unquenchable thirst for alcohol, is shadowed by Senpai (senior), who is determined to confess his love to her. As she travels from bar to bar, Kohai's open mind and inextinguishable optimism gladden a revue of colourful characters, among whom collectors of erotica, a depressed crime boss, a freshly married man and his bachelor party, a book market ghost, a guerrilla theatre, and the idiosyncratic Higuchi and Hanuki (well known to "Tatami Galaxy" fans.)
I must admit that I am a sucker for night-time scenes, but so would anyone watching this film be. How the warm light comfortably glows behind Yuaki's vibrant colours, set against the cool and mysterious dark of the night is simply irresistible. The animation, design and editing are, as usual, outstanding.
This luscious style compliments the film's thematic subtext. The night's unnatural length emphasises the delirious enjoyment and sorrow the characters experience, as well as the unresolvedness of Senpai's quest. There is a clever increase in intensity and, well, weirdness as time goes on and people become more drunk and entangled in their plots and desires. A good comparison would be the diner scene from Tati's "PlayTime," although that film's virtuosity remains unmatched.
This steady escalation keeps everything moving nicely, but becomes a detractor during the film's final third, which takes place at a night-time school festival. Many elements that have been meticulously set-up come together, as in "The Tatami Galaxy," but not always as smoothly. After the festival, the town is threatened by an illness and a hurricane that appear to be a manifestation of conditions that I found very hard to follow, and events get a sort of race-against-the-clock vibe that feels out of place.
Amongst this extra-personal conflict, the climax actually takes place in Senpai's head, where a battle ensues between what seem to be his superego and id. This is visually interesting, but overall unsatisfactory. With Yuaki's typical quick editing and Morimi's dense exposition, the plot becomes convoluted, and the overstated symbolism feels at odds with the first half's gentle meandering.
Nevertheless, when I think back to "Night Is Short, Walk On Girl," it is this first half I remember best, and very fondly so. Despite its somewhat disappointing conclusion, the film is a largely carefree ode to the night, to being young, to alcohol and to the free spirit. More than that, it is a magical return to a world I could not let go off, and a companion piece that deserves to be treasured.