Blu-ray Review: Penguin Highway

The miracle of animation is how you can make a wild animal do exactly what you want. When you animate a film, you don’t have to worry about the animals acting up and biting your cast. You don’t have to fear something going wrong and half of your animals dying on the set from various things. Think of how much a producer and director would have to go through to make a film about penguins wandering around a town in the middle of summer. Can you imagine all the issues that can crop up? Or the bad press if a penguin got squished by the sound cart? So when you have a movie called Penguin Highway, it’s for the best that it’s animated so you can enjoy the story and not worry about what was done to get the penguins to perform. Penguin Highway began as a novel by Tomihiko Morimi. The story was turned into a Manga with illustrations by Keito Yano. Finally it was brought to motion as an animated film by director Hiroyasu Ishida and his crew. While the film has plenty of penguins, it’s also about a boy entering his teenage years.

Aoyama is a rather bookish kid who finds himself a target of the lunkhead school bully. There’s a great scene where he gets his revenge at the dentist office by making the bully fear what he’s really experiencing when he opens his mouth. At the same time Aoyama finds himself attracted to the dentist’s office assistance. He’s finally paying serious attention to the physical nature of women. This is not exactly a sweet and innocent film. Although likewise this isn’t one of those anime films they rent with a major warning. It’s a film meant for someone about the age of Aoyama or older. As they investigate the mystery of where are the penguins coming from, there’s a bit of a science fiction edge to the film. There’s a lot going on in the film that isn’t what it appears to be especially the penguins.

Penguin Highway has director Hiroyasu and his crew create a world where things that don’t make sense can exist. The animation is realistic in approach to characters and the suburban towns. You can believe that thousands of penguins can occupy the streets without setting everyone off in a panic. Aoyama’s character also becomes quite real on this landscape with both his desire to research and also his crush on the dentist’s assistant. This grounds the film even when it could easily be overwhelmed with the science fiction angle. Penguin Highway is as alluring as its name.

The video is 2.20:1 anamorphic. The high resolution lets you appreciate the giant reflective orb in the woods. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD MA with both a Japanese and English dub. Since this is animated, you can watch it either way without the lips being out of sync. The movie is subtitled in English.

DVD with movie and bonus features.

Director Hiroyasu Ishida Interview (21:05) has him still feeling the rush of finally getting to make his first feature length film. He’s nervous when he thinks to deeply about it. He’s grateful to all the people who contributed to the creation of the film.

Author Tomihiko Morimi Interview (11:50) has him excited about his book being turned into a movie. He was happy that Ishida and his crew were fans of the book.

Director Ishida Past Works Promo Video (2:16) are clips from his reel. He really does a lot of work with characters moving over great distances.

Good Night Promo Video (2:07) is the song from the movie. There are penguins.

Shout! Factory presents Penguin Highway. Directed by Hiroyasu Ishida. Screenplay by: Makoto Ueda & Tomihiko Morimi. Starring: Kana Kita, YĆ» Aoi,Landen Beattie, Christine Marie Cabanos , Miki Fukui, Erika Harlacher, Rie Kugimiya, Misaki Kuno & Gideon Modisett. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 117 minutes. Released: August 6, 2019.

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