Image Source: Ken Arai on Twitter
To be honest, I just wanted to write this article all in “noots.”
Pingu in the City is a new CG-animated show by Polygon Pictures, the studio that animated Knights of Sidonia and Ajin. It’s a reboot of the Swiss-British show Pingu, which was animated not in CG, but instead with claymation. The series aired in Switzerland between 1986 and 2000, and in the United Kingdom between 2003 and 2006. Now it’s Japan’s time to take on the baton over ten years later.
Pingu in the City follows Pingu, a penguin, well, living in a city. A city inhabited by other penguins, that is. In the first episode, Pingu works at a restaurant. In the second, he helps to pave a sidewalk for the local flower shop. In the third, he babysits a group of rambunctious baby penguins. And, in episode 4, he helps out at a bakery.
But here’s the catch: Pingu never speaks in a language the viewer can understand.
Whether it be the older series or Pingu in the City, Pingu has never spoken English, Japanese, or any other human language. No, this bird speaks “Penguinese,” so besides the occasional “Pingu” being audible, nothing you hear in this show will be comprehensible. It’s just a bunch of gibberish and “noot noot”s (which are apparently spelled as “nug nug”s officially).
But what this show succeeds at is its comedy without using comprehensible language. Pingu in the City is broadcast on NHK Educational TV, an educational broadcasting system for children in Japan. Kids at the age to watch this channel usually don’t have a big grasp on language, making a show without any language at all (and with adorable animals running across the screen) a perfect fit. Children may not have a grasp on language, but children find things funny. Pingu and the other characters’ funny voices, vibrant expressions, and expressive movements make for both some heart-warming cuteness and some hilarious comedy.
Just by picking up on the verbal and social cues, it’s easy to put the stories together. And gosh darn it, these penguins are so darn adorable. My favorite episode so far has to be the third, in which Pingu is given the task of taking care of a huge group of baby penguins. Cooped up inside, they resort to throwing around a soccer ball inside of the house. Of course, Pingu takes away their ball with a “noot.” And golly gee, the way the kid penguins flap their wings gently to plead Pingu to give it back to them is one of the cutest things I’ve seen all day—that and their exercise dance only a few seconds later.
While Pingu starts out being a complete jerk in this episode, ignoring the kids and watching TV (heck, the only reason he gets angry in the first place is because their soccer-playing gets in the way of his couch-potato-ing), he starts being more of a good penguin as the episode proceeds. Not only does he go full-on coach mode, when the kids get in trouble with oncoming traffic, he rushes to save them. When they finally fall asleep inside, he does his darndest to keep the volume down outside and inside to keep them sleeping, giving hell to the neighborhood grandpa for having the radio on too loud. He even turns off the TV in order not to wake them up!
Pingu in the City is a hilarious, heart-warming, and adorable, and it’s a darn shame it’s not streaming outside of Japan. Because of its lack of words, it could be the perfect show for both adults and children to enjoy together. I give a great big congratulatory “noot noot” to Polygon Pictures for faithfully bringing this franchise back to life, in CG no less.
Pingu in the City is not available for streaming at this time.