Penguin Highway is an animated film adaptation of a novel of the same title by MORIMI Tomihiko. A fourth-grader, Aoyama-kun, whose daily task is to research things happening in his immediate environment, has a crush on One-e-san who works as a dental assistant at a dental clinic. One day, a large number of penguins appear in the boy’s neighborhood, and he witnesses One-e-san throwing a Coke can that transforms into a penguin. On top of this, Aoyama-kun’s classmate Hamamoto-san discovers a mysterious spherical “sea” on a grass field deep in the woods, and Aoyama-kun begins investigating that, too. His investigation discovers links between a series of mysterious events, including the deterioration of One-e-san’s health and the appearance of a predator that preys on the penguins. Since his student years, director ISHIDA Hiroyasu has released numerous self-produced animated films, including Fumiko’s Confession (2009), which won the Excellence Award in the Animation Division of the 14th Japan Media Arts Festival. In 2013, he made his theater movie debut with Hinata no Aoshigure, for which he wrote the screenplay, directed, and animated. Penguin Highway is Ishida’s debut as director of a feature-length movie.
1 h. 58 min.
© 2018 Tomihiko Morimi, KADOKAWA / Penguin Highway Production Committee
A large number of the works submitted at this year’s Japan Media Arts Festival feature strong and energetic female characters. Penguin Highway is one of these works. Take for instance One-e-san who has an impressive presence with her breasts, which captivate the boy. Hamamoto-san, who is depicted as the female version of the protagonist, also holds her ground as an important character that highlights the personality of the prepubescent boy. The character design and personalities feel somewhat stereotypical, but the interactions woven by the characters are delightful, and create a fresh and sparkling ambience in this young adult SF animation. The film skips over any theoretical arguments, so it is easy to get into it. The parts that form the main theme are not forced upon the audience, but rather entrusted to it. Personally, I also liked the emphasis on the lively and energetic depiction of the penguins. I believe that after watching this film, the audience will leave the theater feeling refreshed and exhilarated. But I think that if Aoyama-kun had been a classmate of mine, I would have argued with him. (UDA Konosuke)