Pokémon Concierge: The Kotaku Australia Review

Pokémon Concierge: The Kotaku Australia Review

Pokémon Concierge isn’t just one of the best animated series to come out of Nintendo’s all-conquering monster brand in years, it’s also a treat for animation heads.

At a slim order of just four episodes that each run for 20 minutes or less, Pokémon Concierge is a show with a clear message to impart. Its reliance on excellent, beautifully animated stop-motion models with carefully blended CGI backgrounds likely contributed to its shortened episode order — the painstaking nature of its animation likely demanded an eye-watering budget — but let’s not focus on that right now.

Pokémon Concierge follows the adventures of a positive young go-getter named Haru (who might be a klutzy-but-charming self-insert of series writer Doki Harumi? I can’t confirm that, but the series’ final credit appears to gesture at the possibility). Haru is hired at a resort for Pokémon. Like all the staff at the resort, her role is to help Pokémon relax. She is a friend, a mentor, a therapist, a PT, a lifestyle coach and, at times, a personal butler for the Pokémon in her care. No one on the island can resist her clumsy, earnest charms. She befriends a reclusive Psyduck and slowly, coaxingly, turns it into her new best friend.

Each of the show’s four episodes deals with a different Important Message for young kids, its intended audience. The first episode is about Haru learning to adapt to challenging new circumstances and overcome her personal anxieties. The third episode is about evolution and how we all grow and change throughout our lives. The fourth and final episode is about a shy and anxious Pikachu having trouble finding its voice. It’s all very straightforward, and adults will immediately pick up the very wholesome messages the show puts down.

If you have kids who like Pokémon, they will love this. If you yourself love Pokémon, you’re going to love this. That’s the review. It’s short, sweet, and has a big, kind heart. I really liked it, and I hope Netflix commissions more. Kenneth from the Kotaku US team also reviewed the show, and you can check that out over here.

Ok, let’s talk about the animation now

Oh my god, the animation in this show is so beautifully realised. I’m gonna embed the trailer right here so you can see it for yourself.

Everyone looks like little toys! The Pokémon are all fuzzy! Little guys made out of felt!

I’m a lifelong animation nerd, and I spent all four episodes losing my mind over the craftsmanship on display here. All of the animation in the show was produced by Dwarf Studios in Japan, which is famous for producing Domokun shorts in the 2010s. Netflix produced a short, three-minute Making Of clip for YouTube where you can watch the animators creating Haru and Psyduck’s flight on Dragonite’s back, frame by frame.

There aren’t enough creatives getting the green light to make beautiful, slowly-made, hand-crafted stuff like this anymore. That it’s bankrolled by Netflix, a company known for pumping out rushed content on tight budgets, is all the more surprising. The blue screens behind each of the show’s models and small physical sets also show how well it used CGI to fill in the gaps. This is how CGI is supposed to be used — you’re so busy staring at the work going on in front of you that the background CGI blends seamlessly into the wider image.

The animators talk about looking carefully at their models to understand better how each character might move. “Psyduck’s body has a very simple form,” says one of the animators in the clip (who is sadly unnamed — c’mon, Netflix, credit your artists in a making-of!). “It has very short legs, and its arms don’t reach its belly. Its range of movement is limited, so when it walks or runs, we wanted it to look a little dopey. We deliberately added a few pointless movements.”

That’s the good stuff. That’s what I’m talking about.

Even the show’s sets are filled with tiny details — a watering can that looks like a Horsea, a kettle that looks like a Pokéball with a spout and a handle on it. These sets aren’t massive either- you can see their size and scale in the Making Of video above, and yet they’re rich with these subtle little details for fans to spot on repeat viewings.

Pokémon Concierge is fantastic stuff on every level. It has something for audiences of any age, and the fact that you can binge it all in an hour on a sleepy weekend afternoon only makes it that much sweeter. A new high-watermark for adaptations of Nintendo’s big-name IP.

Image: Netflix, Kotaku Australia

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