Pengin haiwei [Penguin Highway] (2018)

Pengin haiwei
Director: Hiroyasu Ishida
Writer: Makoto Ueda
Based on: Tomihiko Morimi‘s novel
Cast: Kana Kita, Yû Aoi, Rie Kugimiya, Miki Fukui, Megumi Han,
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 22.9.2019

Aoyama-kun (Kana Kita) is in fourth grade and a scientist at heart. He keeps extensive records of the things he sees and experiences. So when penguins suddenly show up in his village, that seems like a phenomenon worthy of his investigation. He soon realizes that the penguins are tied to Onê-san (Yû Aoi) who works at the dental clinic. The further his investigation goes, the stranger things become.

The Penguin Highway is cute but it so didn’t work for me, I was surprised how little something can work for me that starts off promising enough.

The film poster showing Onê-san and Aoyama-kun flying on the backs of many, many penguins.

Penguin Highway has nice animation and looks good. I also really loved the idea with the sudden appearance of penguins, and I thought that Aoyama was a really nice character. With his scientific mindset and his structured manners, I read him as autistic – and we don’t get enough neuroatypical characters.

But everytime the story revolved around Onê-san, I just wanted to cringe cringe cringe. And the story revolves around her a lot – she is at the absolute center of it. First of all, why does she get a job and an apartment, but not a freaking name? (Onê-san is something like Big Sister.) And then it turns out that she is literally the mystery that Aoyama has to solve and really, aren’t we past the stage where women are a mystery for men to obsess over?

Aoyama-kun and Uchida kun observing something. Aoyama has a notebook in his hand, Uchida looks scared.

Speaking of men: Aoyama is not a man, he is a boy. He is 10 years old. He still loses his baby teeth. Why was it necessary for him to be completely obsessed with Onê-san’s boobs? And why didn’t anybody think it is weird that a grown woman constantly hangs out with a 10-year-old? All of this just made me incredibly uncomfortable.

In addition to that, the film has a few lengths in the middle and the subtitles were often unreadable because they were white-on-white. Ultimately, the film just felt like a low point for me.

A penguin in front of a city background.

Summarizing: No, thank you.

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