Film Review: ‘Penguin Highway’

Something is piping small, cat-sized penguins into the middle of a small-town field in “Penguin Highway,” an irresistibly out-there mystery that plays like a cross between “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Stranger Things,” if either of those influences’ sense of horror were replaced with wonder, and their weird happenings took place in broad daylight rather than more atmospheric darkness.

Here, while most of the locals scratch their head in puzzlement, a booksmart kid named Aoyama (Kana Kita) has half a dozen hypotheses — perhaps they’re abandoned pets, or maybe they’re crows “that have undergone a sudden mutation to become fat” — and takes it upon himself to investigate.An impressive first feature from director Hiroyasu Ishida, “Penguin Highway” sticks to the big-eyed, fine-limbed aesthetic seen in most adult-targeted anime, but fleshes out the characters at the screenplay level, such that the entire enterprise stands apart — a notch better

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