The Nibei foundation, in partnership with Eleven Arts Studios, recently invited me to a special screening of the new anime film Penguin Highway. Penguin Highway is directed by Hiroyasu Ishida and produced by Studio Colorido.
Penguins have mysteriously appeared in a small Japanese suburb, and research-obsessed 4th-grade student Aoyama is determined to find the source. Teaming up with his fellow elementary school researchers, as well as the lady from his dentist’s office, he must dodge his school bullies and the grown-up research team investigating the phenomenon in order to solve the penguin mystery.
If you’re looking for a film to hit you right in the nostalgia feels, this one delivers. It will leave you longing for the summertime adventures you had as a child, and for the natural inquisitiveness of childhood. From the moment he is introduced, Aoyama is relatable and charming. His serious demeanor and preoccupation with research is adorable alongside his thoughts and views of the world as a typical 4th grade boy (aka boobs.) He deals with bullies with a mischievous wit and a straight face, and is already determined to marry the lady who works at his dentist’s office.
Let’s go on an adventure!
Aoyama reacts to the introduction of magical elements as any good scientific mind would; without shock. However, because of this, as Aoyama gets further into his research, the film begins to drag a bit, as the characters spend a lot of time taking notes and observing magical phenomenon with such professionalism that at times I found myself wishing that someone would just kind of freak out about the situation a little bit. I mean, there’s magical manifesting penguins for goodness sake! The film does pick back up again, but it’s nearly two-hour runtime could definitely have been shaved down.
Penguin Highway is a cute film that leaves you pondering the mysteries long after the credits roll, but the longer runtime and dragging middle prevents me from completely falling in love with it. However the animation is bright and beautiful and the penguins are adorable. Now I’m ready to go outside on an adventure!
Go see Penguin Highway when it hits theaters April 12