The first shot of starry-eyed, risk-taking filmmaker Masaaki Yuasa’s latest venture, The Night is Short, Walk on Girl, is of the nominal gal gulping down a glass of white wine in the midst of a wedding reception. For a moment mid sip, the drink fills her — dainty-framed with a candy apple clip in her short black hair, a Peter Pan-collared dress settled around her décolletage — with its delicious golden fizz before she orders a Bireley’s, more warm-toned effervescence, and toasts to the growing-progressively-inebriated-by-the-minute bride with her group of friends.
It’s little wonder why The Night is Short opened with this image, as the remainder of the film spills out not unlike the way froth from a freshly uncorked champagne bottle does: involuntarily, gloriously, in one foaming stream that will dry sticky and sweet along the stripe in the floor it made. But not even the most elaborate of cocktails — top-shelf liquor and twists of citrus and crushed sugar cubes and their $20 price tags be damned — can compare to the intoxicating, hallucinogenic treat Yuasa concocts here.
Post-nuptials, in the after-party that hums with possibility, The Night is Short, Walk on Girl further follows our protagonist — unassuming, but who could drink a 200-pound rugby player under the table and still have the corporeal wherewithal to glug some spiced saké, sip pink martinis, and knock back cucumber-flecked libations until the sun comes up.
Referred to as The Girl with Black Hair (voiced by Kana Hanazawa), the rum-loving university student looks to grow into adulthood with each drink she downs— all while her admirer, the faint-hearted Senpai (Gen Hoshino), aims to muster enough courage to enter the second phase of Operation AHO: Appear before Her Often, spend time with her beyond carefully planned but passed off as coincidental run-ins, confess his feelings, and hopefully live the rest of his life in love.
Senpai and The Girl with Black Hair have brushed shoulders countless times before — in the hallway, the cafeteria — enough to push their meetings past the point of coincidence. Now, it almost feels like fate that the two would become one. Now, on this bustling, buzzing night in Kyoto where lines no longer exist between fantasy and reality, Senpai could see his dream realized as he creates increasingly outré, always humorous and heartfelt, scenarios to meet up with the Girl while she journeys to find a book she loved as a child.
Never mind that pranksters nicked his underwear, Senpai is ever-determined. Never mind that a year’s worth of seasons pass before dawn, this night is singular and exists in its own plane of reality — one where you can find riotous drinking contests, offbeat book fairs, dancing cults, dinners with demons, and Senpai’s pal Don Underwear (Ryuji Akiyama) sitting in his own funky undergarments until he finds true love.
At one point in the film, The Girl with Black Hair says Kyoto’s Shijo Kiya town is incessant with the laughter of people partying. You’ll find that The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is much the same in its own regards: everlasting with blushed romance and joy, striking funhouse strangeness that recalls Yuasa’s own Lu Over the Wall and Mind Game, an every-color-in-the-rainbow palette glossy and gorgeous enough to shutter the Disney-Pixar confectionery, and people, places, and perfectly imperfect plans to savor like hakuto jelly on your tongue.
A phantasmagorical gift that keeps giving — with bright pandemonium, madness that hinges on the extraterrestrial, animation that melts from luscious into loopy and then curses gravity and slips back up again like blood or cherry Jell-O re-congealing, glacé words and emotions and slices of time on a evening that feels like a thousand — The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is psychedelia incarnate, a delicious trip that may trip you up if you try to anatomize its frenzy, and one that’s better if you don’t.