Penguin Highway

Penguin Highway

Penguin Highway anime movie cover art
Penguin Highway

The Great Penguin Conspiracy

Penguin Highway (ペンギン・ハイウェイ) is a sci-fi, fantasy, mystery anime about penguins in a Japanese town. It’s a weird movie and I thought it was going to be a lot better than it was. Unfortunately, Penguin Highway isn’t a very good movie.

One thing that made Penguin Highway watchable, though, was that I didn’t watch it alone. I watched it as part of the DoubleSama Discord server‘s monthly movie night event. Penguin Highway was December’s movie. And yes, I’m only now getting around to the review.

So, what’s Penguin Highway about? It’s about a conspiracy — at least, at first. You see, one day, Penguins appeared in a small Japanese town. Where did they come from? Why were they there? And, most importantly, do they even actually exist? That’s right, there are penguin truthers in this town who don’t believe the penguins are real.

Aoyama looking at the penguins from the anime movie Penguin Highway
Aoyama looking at the penguins

Now, you may be thinking that it would be pretty easy to prove the existence of some penguins. But, after their initial appearance, the penguins disappeared. Nobody knows where they went. So, it kind of makes sense that those who didn’t see the penguins themselves don’t believe they existed.

Naturally, the most popular theory was that they escaped in transit. But, that doesn’t appear to be the case. No local zoos or aquariums reported the penguins missing. And with that, most of the townspeople lost interest in the mystery of the penguins.

However, there was one boy who didn’t lose interest. Aoyama, a nerd, wants to get to the bottom of the mystery. So, he recruits the help of a local dental assistant with whom he has a questionable relationship. Together, this unlikely pair unravels the truth behind the penguins — and, as it turns out, the universe.

Main Characters

Despite being a nearly 2-hour-long movie, Penguin Highway only has 4 named characters. These are Aoyama, Uchida, Hamamoto, and Suzuki. But, there’s also 5th character worth mentioning, the Lady. We never learn her name, but she’s one of the 2 main characters, along with Aoyama.

Aoyama is a middle schooler at the latest. He’s a young boy who’s interested in things like space and chess. So, as I mentioned earlier, he’s a nerd. He also doesn’t have many friends. Though, this is likely due to his failure to pick up on social cues and the fact that he’s annoying.

Uchida is Aoyama’s one friend (of the same age). He’s also a nerd. But, he seems more well-adjusted than Aoyama. He’ll grow up to be a normal person. However, as he is now, he’s kind of useless. He’s afraid of getting in trouble and doesn’t want to get beat up, for some reason.

Hamamoto, Aoyama, and Uchida from the anime movie Penguin Highway
Hamamoto, Aoyama, and Uchida

Speaking of beating people up, Suzuki is the class bully. Of course, that means he picks on Aoyama and Uchida. Though, I have to say Aoyama kind of deserves it. Suzuki is also the leader of the penguin deniers in Aoyama’s class.

The last of the named characters is Hamamoto. Hamamoto is the popular girl in Aoyama’s class. Suzuki has a crush on Hamamoto. But, she’s more interested in Aoyama because they share similar interests — like space. As the movie progresses, Hamamoto inserts herself into Aoyama and Uchida’s circle.

Finally, we have the Lady. She’s a dentist’s assistant who befriended Aoyama at some point. They play chess together at a local cafe. But, their relationship is a bit worrying. Aoyama has also been to her apartment alone at night to “play chess.” And she even takes him on an out-of-town trip alone.

Pocket Dimension of the Sea

Are you thinking Penguin Highway sounds like a pretty good movie so far? Well, hold your horses. I haven’t actually discussed any of the weird stuff yet. You see, this is a sci-fi anime. And the sci-fi aspects of the movie make no sense.

Let’s start off by spoiling where the Penguins come from — the Lady. That’s right, the Lady is the one who created the penguins (without knowing it). She can turn random objects into penguins by throwing them. And, for some reason, this only works if she’s in direct sunlight.

In case you’re wondering, no, this is never explained. But, it gets weirder. The Lady also creates leopard seal-like monsters that can swim through solid ground. These, she creates while she sleeps. They’re the spawn of her nightmares — or something like that.

Aoyama, Hamamoto, and Uchida looking at the "Sea" from the anime movie Penguin Highway
Aoyama, Hamamoto, and Uchida looking at the “Sea”

Then, there’s also the pocket dimension known as the “Sea.” The “Sea” is a giant sphere of water in the middle of a field. And as we later learn, it’s a portal into another dimension. So, you may be thinking that this must be explained at some point. Well, you’d be wrong.

The closest we get is when Aoyama’s father uses his wallet to explain pocket dimensions. He doesn’t actually explain the “Sea.” He’s just explaining pocket dimensions in general, for some reason. And after this cursory explanation, he hops on a bus and skips town.

Oh, and then there’s another mystery involving the stream that surrounds the town. It’s a circle. It starts and ends at the “Sea.” Again, this is never explained. I assumed this was going to be important. Maybe the stream is a boundary of some kind and will connect back to Aoyama’s father leaving. No. That would make too much sense.

The Dentist’s Assistant Who Never Was

With all the weird stuff surrounding the Lady, it wasn’t much of a surprise when we learned she wasn’t real. Well, she’s real. But, only temporarily. You see, like the penguins and leopard seal monsters, she’s from the “Sea.”

And once the penguin energy (yes, that’s a thing) returns to the “Sea,” the Lady can’t stay around. The “Sea” collapses in on itself and everything from the “Sea” starts disappearing. By the end of the movie, the Lady is gone and Aoyama is only left with his memories of her.

This leads us to my favorite part of the movie. Well, one of my favorite parts. My first favorite part came early on because we watched a poorly translated version. We only realized the movie was available on Crunchyroll after it was over — I assumed that as a movie, it wouldn’t be.

Aoyama and the Lady riding the train from the anime movie Penguin Highway
Aoyama and the Lady riding the train

Anyway, back to my favorite intentional part of the movie. Throughout the whole thing, Hamamoto was flirting with Aoyama. And, as you might expect from Aoyama at this point, he wasn’t picking up on it. But, at the end, after the Lady disappears, he mentions that he still has someone special.

So, he must have finally recognized Hamamoto as a girl, right? Wrong. He’s talking about his memories of the Lady. First, Hamamoto had to compete with a mature woman. Now, she has to compete with the memory of a mature woman. She can’t win.

I’m kind of surprised Aoyama even remembers Hamamoto’s name. She seems so far off his radar that at times it seems like he forgets she exists. It sucks for Hamamoto. But the fact that Aoyama still unintentionally rejects her in the end was too funny to me.

Conclusion

I had to give Penguin Highway a 4/10 in the end. The movie looks nice. And the Lady is cute. But, the plot made absolutely no sense. There were so many twists and turns that ended up going nowhere. You’d think everything would get tied up at the end and make sense. But you’d be wrong.

If you enjoyed this review, remember to click the like button down below. Also, follow me on your social media of choice — links are in the footer.

Finally, I’d like to thank Roman and JasonHK for supporting DoubleSama.com at the Heika tier this month. And I’d like to thank Key Mochi for supporting at the Senpai tier. To learn more about how you too can become a supporter of this blog, check out Patreon.com/DoubleSama.

Discord Community

Discuss anime, manga, and more with our members!

Join Server


Discover more from DoubleSama

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

Leave a Comment