“The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl” Review: Walking in a Wired Wonderland

A girl encounters strange sights as she walks around town in this surreal yet wonderful anime movie.



The “Black-Haired Girl” drinking a cherry soda in Kyoto, Japan

James Daly

There’s a strange wonder about an all-night journey: a trip through a world that is still our own, yet seems disconnected from activities and people that disappear during the bright, clear light of day. It can seem dreamlike or even mythical at times, as the journey, especially with the help of some booze, can push people to do things they may not have otherwise expected, and leave them with wonderful memories or harsh regrets by morning light.

Sadly, most nights with a drink for me are usually spent at home before going to bed. However, a movie like the 2017 anime film “The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl” helps capture that feeling in a strange, wonderful package.

“Senpai” running past school monitors as they attempt to stop an unauthorized musical on school grounds (GKIDS Films)

Based on a Japanese novel with the same title, the film is a comedy set in Kyoto and follows the adventures of two nameless university students across one strangely long night. One is a woman, only referred to as the “Black-Haired Girl” by the film’s credits. An optimistic, happy-go-lucky young woman with an amazing ability to hold her drink, she decides one night at a wedding reception to “plunge into the adult world on my own terms” by bar-hopping with friends and seeing what the world has to offer. Following behind her is a male student, only called “Senpai” by the film’s credits, a hapless yet determined man who crushes on the Girl. He had already set up a number of “coincidences” to have them meet each other as if by fate and sees the night as his chance to finally get closer to her.

All of this leads to a series of odd events around town as she wanders the night with him in tow, getting into misadventures along the way, usually separate from one another. Across town, they encounter strange characters and sights, such as an old loan shark who owns a strange and elaborate train home, or the child-like being who claims to be the “God of Used Books.” As the night goes on, things only get more bizarre. The film transcends from relative reality with an oddball cast to a form of magical realism into outright surrealism by the film’s climax.

It’s a film much like “Alice in Wonderland” or perhaps even “After Hours,” where it sticks to the trite phrase of being “about the journey, not the destination” in a more literal way. The film has some form of development, with the Girl and the Senpai slowly inching towards actually meeting each other in ways beyond just the “fate” he sets up or other awkward moments. There is a theme to the film about enjoying oneself with their time rather than groaning about what’s to come. However, “Walk on Girl’s” primary focus is the experience itself, strolling with the Girl from one unique encounter to another to see what amazing or hilarious thing will come next.

The Girl receiving an enormous amount of wine, which she’d proceed to drink down as if it was nothing (GKIDS Films)

I admit, I have a fondness for these kinds of stories. My favorite movie of all time is “Yellow Submarine,” whose plot serves almost entirely as a vehicle for Beatles music videos and for the animators to toy around with the medium. “Walk on Girl” has a similar feel to it. It may be more substantial with regards to plot and theme, but it also strikes me as an excuse to set up goofy scenes and let the animators throw up whatever visuals they want. This even includes a sequence at the film’s climax that seemed to take a page out of those wild, infamous yet stunning sequences from some older animated films, like “Pink Elephants on Parade” or that one scene from “Grinch Night.” While it’s not as outright experimental as that movie or others, it’s still a film that wants to make you laugh or look at things in awe. And it does so very well.

Occasionally, there are some jokes that may cause viewers to roll their eyes or even wince a bit. For example, there is a moment where a middle-aged man attempts to touch the Girl inappropriately, only to get knocked out by her. However, the film quickly moves on to something else, and usually it’s not long before another hilarious, marvelous, or outright bizarre scene occurs. If “Yellow Submarine” attempted to capture all the highs of an LSD drug trip and put them together on film, then “Walk on Girl” arguably does the same with the feeling of a drunken night out on the town. As such, it’s a film that will likely only appeal to those interested in the experience it presents. If one hopes for something deeper, then this film will likely not be a walk they’d want to take.

But if that does sound appealing, then this film will grab you tight and take you on a trip.

One of the Girl’s friends coaxes a stranger to let her come along drinking with him. (GKIDS Films)

The movie’s stellar animation holds up all of this. With gorgeous visual design, it’s like candy to the eyes: bright colors with crisp outlines that pop out, reminiscent of vintage comic illustrations. The animation is fluid and jumps across the screen, with some people and objects bending and stretching at will. In its best moments, “Walk on Girl” feels like a tribute to animation’s strangest capabilities and boundless possibilities.

Despite its many strengths, “Walk on Girl” has one major flaw, in addition to some of the questionable humor: its pacing. Clocking in at 93 minutes, including titles and credits, the film tries to fit in a lot of plot points and destinations. As a result, the transitions between scenes can be abrupt, with the Girl moving from one location to another in a matter of minutes. This can make it difficult for viewers to keep up with the plot, especially given the film’s often surreal and bizarre nature. While “Walk on Girl” is undoubtedly an enjoyable ride, its breakneck pace may make it challenging for some viewers to fully appreciate.

In some ways, it can be good. Nothing ever overstays its welcome in the film, as it moves through each location and shows something new. If this film were somehow double the length, it would be an exhausting journey, like a party running far too long after it should have ended. For what it’s worth, given how many films lately have been liberal with their runtime, it’s refreshing to enjoy a film that makes more cautious use of its time.

But largely, I feel as if it detracts from the film. Though the pace never becomes incomprehensible, it’s difficult to keep track of things at times. And even disregarding the plot, I feel the pace ends up detracting from the mood and impact of the film. For what the Girl would come to describe as a night that felt like a year, it feels more like an eventful evening. An incredible and wild one, but an evening nonetheless, and one where some of the moments didn’t have the impact they could have had with more time to breathe and be felt. Just 10 or even 5 more minutes for runtime could have really helped the movie go from spectacular to something truly special, I feel.

Yet as it is, “The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl” is still a film worth watching, whether you’re a fan of animation or just wanting a wild yet entertaining romp through a strange nighttime world.

“The Night is Short, Walk on Girl” is rated PG-13 and is free to stream for those with HBO Max. Otherwise, the film is available to rent or buy to stream on most video-on-demand services or on DVD or Blu-Ray.

The Girl alongside a crowd of fellow merry-goers, posing for a picture (GKIDS Films)