This is going to be a hard one, because spoiling any story element here – for those who have not read the novel on which it’s based – could risk compromising your enjoyment and interpretation of an astonishingly weighty film whose premise and messages are enhanced by all the surprises of its plot twists and wacky delivery. It also doesn’t help that by the time you read this, it will already be gone from theaters. It will, undoubtedly, come out on DVD or Blu-ray, and may at some point be available on streaming services, so take this as your marching orders to GO AND FIND AND WATCH THIS INCREDIBLE THING.
For those unfamiliar with the work of the author, artist and studio that wrote and adapted the two novels in this universe to the screen, this will be an entirely new experience. The art and storytelling styles, blending of the mundane with surrealism, the mix of dry humor with almost painful twists of anxiety, and the often frenetic pace might feel like a 90-minute revelation unwinding on the screen.
Background first, I think.
Tomihiko Momiri wrote a pair of freestanding novels that inhabit the same universe of college self-discovery and romance. The first, The Tatami Galaxy, was adapted for television, and all 11 episodes are currently available on Crunchyroll. Be sure to wear your reading glasses, because the frenetic pace will ensure your eyes are glued to the subtitles, so you don’t miss a word. Blending absurdly ultra-flat 2D drawings with crisp 3D animation, the trippy style mashup echoes the tone of the novel.
Momiri’s second novel, The Night is Short, Walk On Girl, spins out as a single night’s odyssey that feels more like a full year, with each season depicting a different vignette as part of the whole. Its film adaptation takes liberties with the structure of the tale without sacrificing any of its goofy humor, extreme time-bending, bizarre characters or deep introspection. Given the credentials of the animator/director, Masaaki Yuasa, this isn’t surprising. Yuasa’s previous work on stylistically unique productions like Space Dandy, My Neighbors the Yamadas and Adventure Time help to clarify how important a unique visual style is in conveying the tone of the story.
Such strong continuity between both animated productions and the novels didn’t end with Yuasa. With the character design undertaken by the novels’ illustrator, Yūsuke Nakamura, and the animation produced by the same studio, Science Saru, we are invited to dive into this unique universe and to inhabit it fully without jarring changes to its delivery.
Here are the basics: An insecure college boy has a crush on a younger, more free-spirited college girl. On a drunken night out on the town, he tries to keep up with her so he can finally confess his feelings. Things get…squirrelly. There is an absurd amount of booze, a couple of gods, vintage pornographic art, oodles of genuine loving kindness between strangers, a tornado of carp, and the element that struck me the hardest – an intense, earnest debate within the boy’s internal legislature over the legitimacy of his feelings for the girl. It was 2-3 minutes of rapid-fire dialogue that never once copped out with repetitions or throwaway lines; every word of that deliberation was significant and drenched with emotional meaning. I felt wrung out, in a really good way.
This crazy original thing has already nabbed top animated feature awards in Japan and Canada, and with a positive RT rating of over 90%, it’s likely going to keep raking in the kudos. Find it on disc or streaming when it’s available, and show your support of deeply original, intricately crafted animated storytelling.
Fathom Events hosted the two-night event – one night subtitled and one night dubbed – and as always they host a great event. Unburdened by the piles of ads and previews normal feature films shovel in front of audiences, a Fathom film event will show you what you came to see, all in the comfort and convenience of your local megaplex. You can find their full schedule of film, anime, theater, opera, concerts and more on the Fathom Events website.
All images by Science Saru, courtesy of GKids