Anime is something of a strange fixture in Fantasia. In the programming schedule, it’s either a very early showing or gets the rare late slot if it’s got a horror taste. This one got the prize for best animated feature this year, and seeing as it has been my only animated choice it’s going to be a shoe-in for my pick as well – nevertheless that also means, it gets scrutinized even closer.
Penguin Highway is a great film by Hiroyasu Ishida that contains a lot of childish charm and wonder and it does a lot of things write with just a couple of missteps. Overall it is extremely positive, but specifically it sorta uses tropes that have little reason to be in the film. Relying on tropes is nothing new, but it hampers my usual audience focus.
Done right first and foremost in the animation in both visuals and sound. It’s summer, the sun shines, the birds are chirping and Aoyama counts the days, literally, to the time in which he will be an adult. He’s a fan of analyzing and overanalyzing everything and is a fan of the scientific method: hypothesis, experimentation, results, analysis, further experimentation, new results and conclusion.
The penguins are a mystery, and one that seems tied to Aoyama’s older crush: a young lady that works at the dentist. The Lady as he calls her, teaches him chess and has all sorts of quirky ways to do things and inspire Aoyama to work out any problem. When mysterious quirky penguins start appearing from nowhere, our intrepid scientist will take the case only to realize that it’s tied to the Lady herself. Have you recognized the Manic Pixie Girl trope yet…?
Soon enough Aoyama starts researching with the help of his best friend the clumsy Uchida. As he keeps tracking down the penguins he also runs into his classmate Hamamoto, who’s conducting a research of her own. Inevitably, they’ll find everything is connected and collaborate while school bully Suzuki tries to make trouble for the team.
Recommended with one reservation. I honestly enjoyed the anime. I wish they didn’t feel the need to state that Aoyama has a thing for the Lady or when he brings up boobs because he does. It was unnecessary and seems like an awkward fit. as if someone needed to remind us that Aoyama will care about girls when he’s older. Other than that, it’s a fine non-sensical anime film.
That will do for now.