One the one hand, I personally enjoy realistically rendered anime. It is far too easy to fall into tropes and traps when you deal with a ‘traditional’ anime style, so when it is more like-life (let me direct you towards “Basilisk”, one fantastic-looking anime), I glom onto it. However, I do not dismiss the experimental; especially when there is a compelling story behind it (let me direct you towards “Dead Leaves”, one imaginative and strikingly insane anime.)
When this offering came up, “Yoru wa Mijikashi Aruke yo Otome” (“The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl”), it initially reminded me of “Tatami Galaxy”, in that there was a lot visually going on (alas, they have not dubbed that one and I need it as so to catch the imagery), despite the rather cartoony art direction. Then I later discovered it was done by the same people who did that series, so that means they can handle complex visuals and important dialogue without wimping out on either.
This entire movie happens over the course of a long-feeling night. We begin with “The Black-Haired Girl” (she is Otome, but that name is rarely mentioned), a college student, on the streets of Kyoto, for a fun evening out with her friends. However, in pursuit of her is ‘Senpai’, an upper classman who has strong feelings for Otome. His previous plan of action of calculatedly bumping into her every day while making it seem like a meaningful coincidence, is not working, so he has to take a bolder approach, which is to track her down and lay out his confession.
But this is more than a mere night of drinking. She is looking for a special book, a book she had as a child and lost, a book that means much to her, a book that may be on sale at the outdoor book stall. She will hunt it down. He will hunt her down. He will also hunt down the book, perhaps beat her to it and make the love connection when presenting it to her.
In the way, so to speak, are an assortment of the strangest people and peculiar circumstances ever contrived to keep two people apart, and here is where the greatest strength of the movie lays. Despite how ‘odd’ the situations seem, it all comes off as normal. Otome’s biggest asset is that she can drink and drink and drink and drink and drink and not get drunk at all. There is a marvelous sequence where she puts one eccentric under the table while imbibing a marvelous offering, then flitters upon her way.
Senpai gets roped into an eating contest, where he has to eat the hottest food possible. This is where the fluid nature of the animation comes into effect. Yes, we play the cartoon aspect for all it’s worth, so when people eat this food, their skin turns bright red, their lips puff out in spicy allergic reaction to it and they weep massive tears of pain and enjoyment while stuffing pillow-size wads into their mouths and have gigantic cheeks of food as they try to gulp it all down. Under most circumstances, this would ruin what one is trying to do, but since there is already a surreal quality to everything, it comes off as plausible.
I enjoyed this film immensely, because of all the side stories going on and the lunatic nature of a night out and that the story lines are kept apart until they are needed for the ultimate confluence of climatic action. There is never a fear of danger or uncertainty. Everyone flings themselves into the deep end and sees what is going to happen, but have a sense of knowing it is all going to work out to their benefit. It is all hyper-exaggerated in everything that is done, but it all comes together. This might be a hard offering to track down, as it appears to have really flown under the radar, but much like Otome looking for her book, it is well worth the effort.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 9 (Cartoony, but effective)
Plot 8 (Simple, but well-played)
Pacing 9 (Overall, non-stop)
Effectiveness 9 (Makes several strong points at once)
Conclusion 9 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but it has finished)
Fan Service 1 (A similar show would be “Ouran High School”)
Overall 9 (Crisp, sharp and sparkling)
3 ½ stars