There's something about the playful, magical realist novels of Tomihiko Morimi that seems to lend itself to animated adaptations. Those adaptations include TV series like "The Tatami Galaxy" ("Yojohan Shinwa Taikei") and "The Eccentric Family" ("Uchoten Kazoku"), plus last year's film "The Night is Short, Walk on Girl" ("Yoru wa Mijikashi Arukeyo Otome"). This time around, it's the author's 2010 "Penguin Highway" that's been given the anime treatment.

At the center of the film is Aoyama (Kana Kita), a fourth-grader who's practically the definition of precocious. With notebooks full of observations and theories, the pint-size anthropologist speaks and acts like an adult, which can occasionally vex his classmates. In fact, Aoyama has calculated exactly how many days are left until he officially becomes an adult — when, he explains matter-of-factly, he will marry the film's other protagonist, an unnamed dental hygienist-slash-shogi teacher (Yu Aoi).

It isn't long before Aoyama's powers of observation are put to the test as, out of nowhere, a waddle of penguins shows up in his quiet town. And these are no ordinary birds: They appear and disappear seemingly at random, and seem to have something to do with a strange ball of energy that appears in town around the same time.