Thanks to Madman, we watched Penguin Highway (Pengin Haiwei) on high-quality Blu-ray. The film directed by Hiroyasu Ishida was released in 2018 by Studio Colorido.
Aoyama, a self-confident and very intelligent 4th grade student tries to solve the mystery of the sudden appearance of a bunch of penguins in his town. Clearly a paranormal phenomenon, the penguins materialise in the strangest ways. Aoyama’s investigation is shared with his adult crush, a beautiful dental assistant that plays chess with him in a coffee shop regularly.
Making things more interesting, a new girl arrives in Aoyama’s class. The girl, Hamamoto, seems to be as clever as he is, reading the theory of relativity despite her age. Aoyama is quite curious about her, when she suddenly invites him to a secret place. He accepts only if he can bring his best friend. The trio goes deep in the forest to investigate a huge orb she’s found that they decide to call ‘The Ocean’. The classmates go back every day after school to try to understand the orb and its connection with the penguin mystery.
From Studio Ghibli alumni animator Yojiro Arai, this beautiful story is filled with childhood nostalgia. It’s a well-written story that transcends age. The crushes, the hormones, the school bullying and the child-like sense of adventure are all beautifully orchestrated. The film has cute character designs and a gorgeous artwork that incorporates hand-coloured backgrounds and exciting 3D sequences to show the strange supernatural phenomena.
Overall, Penguin Highway is a charming film to see with the whole family.