The Night is Short, Walk on Girl (Yoru wa Mijikashi Arukeyo Otome, the novel which propelled author Tomihiko Morimi’s name to nationwide fame, has finally been adapted into an anime film and was released in Japanese cinemas on 7 April. The original novel was published in 2006 and became so popular that it won second place in Japan Booksellers’ Award in the following year. It has sold over 1.3 million copies.
The anime film adaptation is directed by Masaaki Yuasa, who is well-known for directing the 2010 anime series The Tatami Galaxy (Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei), also based on a novel by Morimi. The animation is by Yuasa’s anime studio Science SARU, the script is written by Makoto Ueda from the theatrical company Europe Kikaku, and the artist Yuusuke Nakamura designed the characters (Nakamura is the cover artist for the novels The Tatami Galaxy and The Night is Short, Walk on Girl). The music is produced by Michiru Ooshima. The main staff members are the same as in The Tatami Galaxy.The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is a movie that will capture the hearts of both Yuasa and Morimi fans.
In addition to this anime film adaptation, Yuasa is also directing the upcoming Lu Over the Wall (Yoake Tsugeru Lu no Uta), an original anime movie which will be released in May 2017. With such a busy schedule, Yuasa was kind enough to accept our interview, and we got the chance to ask him about his feelings towards Morimi’s novel and the thoughts he had while making the film adaptation.
[Interview/Article Composition: Ayaka Kawamata]
Both ‘I’ and ‘Senpai’ are Cowardly Boys who Hesitate to Take the Last Step
The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is the very novel which has made Tomihiko Morimi’s name widely known by the public. I’m sure there are many people who first picked up this book for its beautiful cover, and have become Morimi fans since then. Over a decade has passed since its release. Why did you choose this timing to make the anime film adaptation?
Director Masaaki Yuasa (hereinafter referred to as Yuasa)
‘I think many people were charmed by this novel and have tried to adapt it into a film in the past, but it must have been a really difficult challenge. I first got this offer after directing the anime adaptation of The Tatami Galaxy on Fuji Television’s late-night Noitamina slot, but the plan fizzled out. Soon after, I received the same offer once again, and I honestly felt that it may not work out this time, too. However, despite such worries, the making of the movie went smoothly, as I had already made many preparations when I got the offer the first time.’
Do you think that the success of The Tatami Galaxy was one of the reasons why this new filmmaking went smoothly?
‘I think so. Most of the staff members for this new film had also joined the making of The Tatami Galaxy. Therefore, we were able to think, “He would love this” or “She would give the okay to that” and so on. Everyone understood each other very well, and we also understood our own duties. I think when things go well, they continue to go well. Anything we tried, it just turned out the way we wanted.’
I’ve heard that you sent a passionate letter to Gen Hoshino, offering him a role in the film. Why did you choose Hoshino to voice the main character?
‘When we were having a meeting to choose the cast members, everyone got really excited that Hoshino would make a perfect match. It was almost as if the movie-making would not proceed until Hoshino accepted the offer. Although I was worried that he might be very busy, all the staff members, including me, were anxious to work with him, and we were definitely sure that the movie would be terrific with Hoshino as the protagonist. That is why I sent the letter telling him how much his voice would match the movie.’
So, it was a dream come true. Hoshino has always been very popular among fans, but he became extremely famous after his success in the recent TV drama that he starred in.
‘We had made the offer before the drama, and I think this was another lucky thing about this film. Like I said, everything just turned out the way we wanted!’
The other main cast members are Kana Hanazawa and Hiroshi Kamiya, as well as Ryuuji Akiyama from the popular comedy trio Robert. These stellar and unique members were another reason why the movie has gained a lot of public attention.
‘Hanazawa was another cast member to whom we directly offered the role. Her voice is soft, and yet has the inner strength that we thought would definitely match “the girl with black hair”. Akiyama is one of my favorite comedians. He has a beautiful voice, he can sing, and he can do just about anything. He has the amazing talent to make anyone laugh. Finally, we were sure that Kamiya would do an excellent job at the “handsome” aspect.’
I feel that although all the characters in Morimi’s novels are unique and strange, they each have such fascinating personalities that the fans can make many different interpretations about them.
‘Yeah, I agree [laugh]. A good example is Master Higuchi (Higuchi-shishou). I got so many reactions about him [laugh].’
Yes, Master Higuchi. He has such a unique character design [laugh].
‘When we started making the anime adaptation of The Tatamy Galaxy, I’d already seen the cover illustration of The Night is Short, Walk on Girl drawn by Yuusuke Nakamura, so I wanted the character design for The Tatami Galaxy to be cute in the same way. However, I also had an image of Ozu and Master Higuchi in my mind, so I explained to Nakamura how I wanted these characters to look. I trusted Nakamura with the designing of “I” (the protagonist of The Tatami Galaxy) and the other characters, though. When I was in college, there was this student who was famous for being “popular among girls,” and he is the model of Master Higuchi. Although this student was said to be really popular, he was not as good-looking as I had expected [laugh]. He was light-hearted and always smiling. He had a warm aura and often played the guitar. At first, I wondered why girls liked him so much, but now I feel that those types of boys may be more attractive than boys who are just good-looking.’
Master Higuchi also appears in this new movie.
‘In my mind, the settings of The Tatamy Galaxy and The Night is Short, Walk on Girl are parallel worlds, and the two stories just have a different couple as the leading characters. That’s why I had Ozu, Hanuki-san, and Master Higuchi all appear in both stories. Well, actually, to be exact, the Ozu-like character in The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is the God of Old Book Markets (Furuhon-ichi no Kami-sama). I’m sure many readers of the original novel had an image of the God of Old Book Markets as being a cute boy.’
Yes, I have heard such opinions. In the stage play adaptation, this God is played by an actress, and it was a cute character. Nevertheless, I think the God of Old Book Markets in the stage play and in this new film both have similar personalities and like pulling pranks.
‘My image of the God of Old Book Markets was a younger version of Ozu. I’ve always been a big fan of Hiroyuki Yoshino who voiced Ozu, so that is why I chose him as the voice of this God, too.’
I think that the fans all have a shared image of “the girl with black hair” and “Senpai” because they’ve seen the character illustrations made by Yuusuke Nakamura. However, when I actually saw the movie adaptation, it seemed that both of these characters had new unique aspects which you added to the original. “The girl with black hair” does some strange moves in the movie. For example, she mimics a steam train when standing in front of a vending machine alone. It was very surprising for this girl to do such funny movements.
‘I may have illustrated my strong image of “the girl with black hair” in the movie adaptation. In the original novel, there is a scene where she walks like a robot, so I decided to make her move like ASIMO, the robot which was gaining public attention at the same time as the novel’s release. Then, I decided to add another strange movement. I chose the movement of a train, in relation to the book Ra ta ta tam. Anyway, for the most parts, it’s all in accordance with the original story.’
Another surprising factor was the sophism dance (kiben odori). I was so amazed by the funny dance moves [laugh].
‘Just from the description in the novel, I am pretty sure the dance movements in the movie were faithful to the original [laugh]. No, to be honest, after I reread the book, I thought that I may have changed it a little bit [laugh]. It’s said that the movement of the butt was powerful in the novel, so I had this image of a strange dance. If someone actually did those moves in real life, they would probably fall over. However, it would not become funny if the characters didn’t move in overdramatic ways in the anime, so I made the dance as weird as possible.’
From your point of view, what kind of young man is ‘Senpai’?
‘As I mentioned before, the setting of this film is in a parallel world of The Tatami Galaxy, so “Senpai” is similar to “I”, but not as eccentric. Well, he may have become a little eccentric as we created the film. “Senpai” is more hard-working and optimistic than “I”, but they are both cowardly boys who hesitate to take the last step. In The Tatami Galaxy, I couldn’t figure out the exact reason why “I” was such a coward, but I finally understood why after making this movie.’
Why do you think ‘Senpai’ hesitates to take the last step?
‘He is not performing so well in school, and he feels that he does not have any superb talents, so he just does not have confidence in himself. However, he also feels that he is more sophisticated than other people, so he can’t swallow his pride either. He wouldn’t accept being made fun of, so he is a very difficult character to get along with. Even if I were to tell him that he should change his attitude, he probably would say, “I can’t” or “That’s not it.” If I were to have a friend like him, he would probably be really annoying [laugh]. However, in the film, his efforts are finally recognized and respected by “the girl with black hair”, and this warmed my heart.’
(Next Page: ‘It’s okay to make a slight change to the original story, as long as it’s funny)
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