This weekend, anime distributor Eleven Arts is continuing its U.S. platform release of Penguin Highway in American cinemas. The film is helmed by 30-year-old director Hiroyasu Ishida, who had ben directing short films prior to this feature directorial debut.

The peculiar film, adapted from the novel by Tomihiko Morimi, is set in a small town where friendly penguins have started popping up without explanation. Aoyama, an inquisitive boy in elementary school, takes it upon himself to solve the mystery. (Morimo also wrote Night Is Short, Walk On Girl, which was adapted into an animated feature by Masaaki Yuasa in 2017.)

Produced by Studio Colorido, Penguin Highway was first released in Japan last year where it grossed $2.7 million USD theatrically, and received a nomination for Animation of the Year by the Japan Academy Prize, their equivalent of the Academy Awards. Penguin Highway had its U.S. premiere at the 2018 Crunchyroll Expo and later screened as part of Animation Is Film in Los Angeles last October.

The film has received stellar reviews (100% on Rotten Tomatoes), but so far the only major trade publication to have reviewed the film is Variety. In his piece, Peter Debruge was enthusiastic about the ingenuity of the story and hopeful about Americans embracing anime beyond Ghibli:

An impressive first feature from director Hiroyasu Ishida (whose 2011 graduation short, Rain Town, is worth looking up online), Penguin Highwaysticks 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 — it’s a notch better even than last year’s Oscar-nominated Mirai. That the Academy recognized Mirai, making it the first non-Studio Ghibli anime to be nominated, suggests that Americans are slowly embracing the artistic merits of a medium being produced at such a volume that many don’t know where to begin trying to keep up with all that cartoon content.

Eleven Arts is releasing the film both in Japanese with subtitles and in a new English dub. The 118-minute film is unrated, though the distributor says it’s the equivalent of PG.

For the full list of theaters visit HERE.

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