Story: Tomihiko Morimi
Translation: Emily Balistrieri
What They Say:
A college student spends an evening out, unwittingly attracting the attention of various men whose paths she crosses. One in particular, an upperclassman who has been nursing a crush on her for some time, has chosen this night to make his true feelings known.
Will the two come together, or will this girl just keep on walking…?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Boy meets girl stories are a tale as old as time, and yet our society functions in such a way that makes us gravitate towards them every time. From schlocky rom-coms to deconstructions spanning unexpected genres, stories revolving around the simple premise of a man wooing a woman over a set amount of time are so incredibly heteronormative and yet stupendously celebrated because… it’s just something general audiences are pre-programmed to enjoy. And that’s just fine.
The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is not a simple boy meets girl story. If anything, author Tomohiko Morimori establishes both his unnamed leads in such a way that almost feels like he couldn’t care less about whether or not the two ultimately end up together. And that’s because their meeting is never the primary concern of the story. It may be the primary concern of the unnamed upperclassman, but it’s never the outright concern of the story. Throughout Walk on Girl, the two unnamed college students in question are treated less as romantic interests, and more like thematic foils to each other.
Spanning over the course of four short stories, the narration bounces back and forth between the main guy and girl, as they set off on the unexpected misadventures of their college life, running into each other “by chance” along the way. While the two are technically co-leads of the stories, the college girl clearly shines brightest of the two. Whether it comes to bar-hopping, book fairs, or school festivals, she always enters them head-on with a can-do, peppy attitude. She comes off as spunky and quirky without entering the uncanny valley more associated with the Zooey Deschanels of the world. Meanwhile, her upperclassman takes a near opposite approach to his own college life, acting more on desire for love than desire for an interesting experience. He lives most of his life in his own head, second-guessing his own actions, and favoring sophistry over any direct logic to justify his own actions (or lack therof). The two are both simultaneously unique and bland in that they’re the prime examples of the type of students you’d expect to find on any college campus, and yet are all-in on that single character trait that it comes off less as a cardboard cutout personality and more as a cartoonish representation.
And it’s through this cartoonish representation that the real charm of the book comes to light. Whether it’s social drinking, or simple book shopping, it’s clear that Morimi takes pleasure in highlighting the everyday life, his characters serving as the colorful vessels to bring us from point A to B until we’re eventually catapulted into the stratosphere and beyond. Main characters aside, the entire supporting cast have a similar amount of charm to them, with rich backstories that never feel like gimmicks because they actually end up influencing the story in one way or another. Characters like the mysterious Higuchi, or the elderly Rihaku show Morimi’s range in character types, while still allowing room for story concepts to fully stretch.
Of the four stories, the first and fourth ones definitely stand out the most, as they harken back to each other and feel the most thematically connected. In the first story, we follow both leads on a night of bar-hopping and social drinking, while the last story focuses on a mysterious cold that’s spread throughout the town. It’s not a simple coincidence that both stories focus on the characters bouncing between many different social circles, and getting a taste of a life outside their own. As the unnamed girl travels fancy-free, visiting people she wouldn’t normally interact with outside these circumstances, it’s clear that her approach to life has opened up many opportunities for her. Meanwhile, her upperclassman’s more single-minded approach at romancing her and giving others little of his time feels more counterproductive (not to mention stupendously incel-y). Yet Morimi never makes a point of saying one approach is better than the other, and if anything is able to coolly present both characters in an unbiased fashion, challenging both lifestyles as well as praising them for their strengths.
If anything, the book’s own downsides are the handful of typos (caught “kotatsu” misspelled on the same page it was also correctly spelled), and some of the lulls in the middle stories. In particular, Morimi’s focus on calling himself out on the contrivedness of the school festival story felt wholly unnecessary and interrupts the flow of the narrative. Even as a wink to the readers, the story itself would have benefit from a more straight-laced earnestness that the majority of the book so thoroughly embraced.
It’s not a surprise that a movie director as mesmerizing as Masaaki Yuasa has adapted something like The Night is Short, Walk on Girl. The book itself already feels more like an experience than a traditional story. And yet it never fully goes off the rails so as to alienate general audiences, pulling back just enough to maintain a sense of order, all while thoroughly expressing its chaos in a most palatable manner.
Content Grade: B+
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: B+
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen On
Release Date: August 13, 2019