Penguin Highway / ペンギン・ハイウェイ (2018)
DIRECTOR: Hiroyasu Ishida
WRITER: Makoto Ueda
CAST: Kana Kita, Yû Aoi
Adpated from a book, a 4th grade boy has a crush on an older woman who works at the dentist’s office that he goes to but that’s not the only thing on his mind. When penguins start appearing in his town, he decides to investigate with his best friend.
This film exhibits one of the great things that make animation a special medium. There are simply things you can draw that you couldn’t possibly replicate in real life or even with the aid of photo-realistic computer graphics. That sort of imagination and creativity are on display in this film.
The story develops at a casual pace with some typical school events like Aoyama (Kana Kita) contending with a bully interspersed with his investigations of the penguins. There’s also his encounters with the older woman whom he calls Oneesan (Yu Aoi). In Japanese, Onnesan can mean elder sister or young lady. Initially, he is attracted to her large breasts and the film does focus on them from Aoyama’s viewpoint more than once. You may find this amusing or utterly pointless. Story-wise it doesn’t add anything. Oneesan, however, does have a connection with the penguins. As if penguins in Japan wasn’t mysterious enough, later on, a smart young girl joins Aoyama’s class and asks him to help her investigate another mystery deep in the forest.
This is mostly a light adventure, suitable for kids and families. The characters are likeable but don’t expect too much depth to them. Animation and visuals are good from what I could tell although I watched this on a screener which was low resolution (definitely less than 1080p) so I can’t give a fair evaluation of it. What turns this from a rather typical children’s movie with a bit of fantasy is the final act (which the trailer gives a glimpse of with the flying penguins) that goes way out there and is absolutely amazing. It ends with a bittersweet emotional moment.
Seen on a screener at Fantasia International Film Festival.
The ending credits theme song “Good Night” is sung by Utada Hikaru.