Recent times have been kind to fans of animation director Yuasa Masaaki. The man has been quite prolific: in 2017 we got two new films from him, and Netflix viewers could start 2018 with his 10-episode-take on Go Nagai's Devilman universe. Better yet: all of these were produced by Choi Eunyoung, who is a kick-ass director herself (just check her AWESOME episode of Space Dandy if you don't believe me).
Fans in the Netherlands could start 2018 in another way as well: the International Film Festival Rotterdam showed The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl as part of their Maximum Overdive programme, which highlights extreme genre mash-ups of current pop-culture. It's as good a description of Yuasa's work as any, for his animation is generally far removed from anything that can be called "typically anime".
In The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl we follow two students: a girl, and a boy who loves her but dares not confess it. One evening, he gathers up courage and sets out to tell her about his feelings, but the girl gets caught up in many adventures, preventing his efforts.
As the night turns crazier and crazier (think yakuza, drinking contests, musicals, gods and pandemics), will both ever get the romance they pine for so much?
In most of Yuasa's works, from Mind-Game to Ping Pong (the anime) to The Tatami Galaxy, the focus is on a "just do it!" mentality, and how your life will improve from it. Never be afraid to feel, to love, or even to hate, as long as you're honest with yourself. Hell, even in Devilman Crybaby, all characters would have greatly benefited from confessing from the start who they love and what they hate. And The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl is no exception.
Like Yuasa's 2010 series The Tatami Galaxy, this film is based on the best-selling works of writer Morimi Tomihiko, and has university life in Kyoto as its background. The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl even features the same protagonists, and fans can spot many familiar characters in the background. As someone who loves The Tatami Galaxy it immediately brought me back to its laugh-out-loud funny, exuberant, eclectic and most of all COLOURFUL universe (check: even their posters look the same).
The plot often winds itself into the realms of the absurd or supernatural, and the animation is busy and wild. After forty minutes the film could happily have ended and I would have been content, yet by then you've only had the first of three distinct episodes. It's a bit much and an overload of the senses at times, but the feelings always come across as honest and I couldn't help myself rooting for the main characters.
That the films of Yuasa Masaaki are not for everyone is reflected in the audience rating The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl got from the Rotterdam festival viewers, a somewhat meagre 3.7 out of 5. Then again, I also overheard people asking if there was a way to grant the film a "6". Me, I am fully in love with the output of Choi Eunyoung and Yuasa Masaaki. May they be as prolific as the past year, for a long time to come!