Theatrical releases of anime movies here in the states are always an exciting time for me. These days, I never miss an anime film’s American debut—so long as they meet my two requirements: 1) Must be coming to a theater near me and 2) MUST be subbed. Whether the movie itself was a flop or not, I tend to always have a good time seeing them the way they are meant to be experienced. Sure, I could do without being surrounded by strangers in a large, dimly lit room, but there’s just nothing that beats a giant screen and cinema quality sound. Decent headphones and an HD computer monitor can’t really compare to the true theater experience, even though they do allow me to take screenshots for my blog. Viewing preferences aside though, your set up can only be as good as the awesome things you have to show on it. Luckily Night is Short, Walk on Girl has plenty of awesomeness to go around.
From hilarious writing to mind-bending visuals, compellingly freeform animation and everything else in between, Night is Short, Walk on Girl has crammed in more than enough cool things to capture the attention of any viewer, no matter how jaded. However, of all the interesting aspects this movie contained—thematically and technically—I was left most impressed by its brilliant use of the basics. A masterful showcase of the fundamentals of drawing, that is.
Night is Short, Walk on Girl seems like it’s challenging itself in regard to its 2D visual design and animation. It’s as if someone at the studio posed a question to their fellow workers: “What if we tried making our 2D film as 3-dimensional as possible without using shading of any kind? and then Masaaki Yuasa simply replied “Yes”. Keep in mind, shading is the cornerstone of realistic/3-dimensional drawing, because light and shadow ARE what define the reality of which we visually perceive. The way light casts on and bounces off objects is what allows us to visually identify and differentiate our surroundings. If not for light and shadow, our perception of 3D space wouldn’t exist the way we see it now. Yet somehow, Night is Short manages to get pretty damn close in mimicking our reality without it, or at the very least, creates an illusion so enjoyable one can’t help but forget—for an hour and thirty-three minutes—about our filthy, worthless, 3-dimensional existence.
To explain how Night is Short does it, one must first elaborate on the basics of drawing perspective. Drawing perspective is based on the number of vanishing points you wish to implement. To understand what a vanishing point is, one must simply visualize themselves standing on a straight railroad track and looking in direction the tracks lead. The two rails appear to converge into one single point on the horizon, and then they disappear: That’s a vanishing point, as well as the criteria for a one-point perspective. A two-point perspective has two vanishing points, just like looking down two streets at a crossing, and a three-point perspective has…well, you get the point…and these points in particular are actually quite moot, as Night is Short, Walk on Girl barely uses them.
Instead, the film relies heavily on a zero-point perspective, having no vanishing points whatsoever. Because of this, zero-point perspectives have to use other tricks to give off a sense of depth, following even simpler rules of perception:
1) Objects seem larger the closer they are to the view, and smaller the further they are away.
2) Objects further away from the viewer seem less detailed than when they are closer.
3) Objects placed higher on a plane seem farther away than those placed lower.
4) Overlapping objects create a feeling of depth because that which is in front will, to some degree, cover what is behind it.
You probably already knew all this, but it must be said in order to predicate what comes next: How this is used in the movie.
When examining the individual frames of Night is Short, one will see all these tricks of zero-point perspective be put into action. Shots of large crowds—such as the boisterous bar scene with Otome, her friends, and a bunch of older men—have been made with a clear attention to detail in regard to individuals’ placements on the plane of the shot, the size of each character in relation to that placement, and distinct overlapping of each other and the props around them—mostly alcohol bottle and glasses. The same goes for the police chase scene with Senpai. The cops behind him are smaller, they stand higher on the plane, and are overlapped by Senpai’s large figure in front of them. The police also slightly overlap each other to just the degree that we could notice the illusion of depth.
Coupled with the challenge I mentioned earlier about “[not] using shading of any kind”, there exists another challenge, though this is one that applies to every film in existence. To find the weakness in any given composition and make up for it—to make every frame count—that is the filmmaker’s challenge. Strangely enough, Night is Short continues to overly challenge itself in this respect by picking shots and angles that wouldn’t exactly benefit a 2D animation’s pursuit of “depth without shading”. This film has so many wide shots, yet every one of them looks great. They’re all filled with people and props and colors, and are delivered with such precise detail and timing that we’re sent over to the next shot just before the previous was about to grow stale.
Of course, the film isn’t just a bunch of pedestrian shots spruced up with excellent design and animation. There are still plenty of interesting shots taken at powerful angles, such as the low angle shots of the old men doing the sophist dance. This is a reoccurring shot in the movie, and in it we see characters performing a bold, interpretive dance—coming towards the camera at a diagonal while swaying their arms to and from our position as viewers. Following the first trick of zero-point perspective that I listed, their close hand becomes enormous whilst their away hand turns miniscule, and those sizes pull back and forth with their positioning in the composition.
Night is Short, Walk on Girl utilizes these tricks many more times throughout the film, giving each frame a unique visual appeal. It should be noted that, while all these effects are incredibly well, the most pronounced of them all has to be the overlapping. I mean, I titled this post “Layers of Fun…” for a reason. Overlapping in Night is Short is particularly effective because of the very way its characters are designed. Solid colors and definite line art make for compositions that leave nothing lost in the shadows. Nothing blends together by accident—every character, every drink they hold, every book they read, every apple that falls on their head—they’re all well-defined.
And while that makes for some neat and striking images, that’s not where the benefits to such an art style end. No shading and minimalistic character designs makes things a million times easier for animators, and allows for them to get more ambitious…or more bizarre. Thanks to Masaaki Yuasa, we were allowed to see both in Night is Short, Walk on Girl. While I do adore shows like Sound! Euphonium for their stunning realism, I also love works from Masaaki Yuasa for the complete opposite reason. Letting his animators run wild is what Yuasa is known for, and he’s produced some of the craziest things I’ve ever seen because of it. Not being tied to realism means having fewer overall details to account for when drawing each frame (with over 100,000 frames being in an hour and a half feature), and so animators are granted more leeway to create motion—and motion is what animation is all about. Shounen anime aren’t remembered for their countless hours of still-frames and mundane talking/walking cycles—they’re remembered for their high-flying, fist-flinging, fire-spitting action scenes that come maybe twice a season. So, with less details to worry about AND Masaaki Yuasa on as director, one can expect to be in for layers upon layers of this stunning, surreal, super-crazy-awesome-ass-shit.
…Although, Night is Short, Walk on Girl seemed a lot tamer than some of his other works, only slipping into the surreal for a moment rather than being surreal throughout the entirety. Which I think I might prefer, things can get a bit jarring when nothing is grounded. Anyway, what did you think about Night is Short, Walk on Girl? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Or thoughts about my piece. Or let’s just talk about the weather. Where I’m at, it’s cold.
Thanks for reading.
Oh, and also…it’s good to be back.