The Plot:

Not to be confused with Disneynature’s “Penguins,” this sci-fi coming-of-age animated feature starts out with penguins on the loose in a suburb far from Antarctica and then has kid geniuses trying to solve this mysterious occurrence.

Lynn’s Take:

One of the most enchanting anime features, “Penguin Highway” has surprises around every corner. Its magical quality has as much to do with its unexplained phenomena storyline as its endearing pre-teen heroes.

Fourth grader Aoyama has 3,888 more days until he is an adult and he fills them with adventure. He is joined by several school chums and that begins an unforgettable summer of scientific discovery.

An adaptation of Tomihiko Morimi’s best-seller, the movie unfolds like one terrific young adult novel, with smart kids and keen characters. How they are all woven, randomly it seems, into this story is another mystery.

Both the story and the artwork are rich in details and beautifully woven together. But it does not unfold at the fast pace of slick American animation, for this story has far more layers than we’re usually accustomed to with the fluffy whiz-bang U.S. offerings.

The film was nominated for the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year and won the Axis: The Satoshi Kon Award for Excellence in Animation Award at the Fantasia International Film Festival.

It’s of such top-notch quality and fascinating whimsy that I had to look twice to see if it was a Studio Ghibli film. Eleven Arts Anime Studio of Los Angeles is the distributor, and this will put them on the map. This is director Hiriyasu Ishida’s first feature, although he is acclaimed for shorts.

Of note: The film does not start in St. Louis until Monday, April 22. And it does feature some mature content.

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