Most TV shows set in the world of Pokémon focus on trainers and their magical pets ripping and running from one region to another in pursuit of becoming legendary battling teams. But fighting for glory is the last thing on anyone’s mind in Pokémon Concierge — Netflix’s new stop-motion animated series from Dwarf Animation Studio and director Ogawa Iku.
Instead, Pokémon Concierge imagines a tropical paradise where humans and pokémon alike would want to get away to for some much-needed downtime, and the show does such a stellar job of bringing its dream island to life that it might leave you hankering for a vacation of your own.
Set on a lush island where the famed Pokémon Resort welcomes pocket monsters of all shapes and sizes to rest and recharge, Pokémon Concierge tells the story of how a young woman named Haru (Karen Fukuhara) becomes the Resort’s newest employee. After being dumped by her boyfriend, fumbling the ball at her office job, and realizing that she simply isn’t happy with the trajectory of her life, Haru knows she needs to shake things up. Understanding that about herself is what makes it easy for Haru to quit her old job and move when she’s presented with an opportunity to join the Pokémon Resort as its newest concierge.
Like most people dealing with (approximately) quarter-life crises, Haru isn’t entirely sure what she wants as the series opens. But the mere chance of being able to find some purpose and luxuriate on the beach is enough to convince Haru that upending her life to become a special kind of pokémon caregiver is absolutely the right move. Somewhat similar to Pokétsume, the all-too-real existential work dread that puts Haru on her path to the Pokémon Resort makes Pokémon Concierge feel like it’s speaking to an adult audience who grew up loving the franchise.
But as much as older viewers might be able to see themselves in Haru’s search for a Burn(out) Heal, Pokémon Concierge’s narrative beats, its adorable production design, and its theme song by city pop legend Mariya Takeuchi give the show a playful lightheartedness that will appeal to younger viewers. But Pokémon Concierge feels like one of the first times in years that the company’s landed on something truly inspired — largely because of how Dwarf and character designer Tadahiro Uesugi have crafted the series to feel like an intricate, clay-and-felt-filled diorama lovingly brought to life.
Classic Pokémon like Pikachu, Psyduck, and Dragonite have been running around in people’s minds for decades. But Pokémon Concierge highlights small details like the wooliness of an Eevee’s fur or how light bounces off a Mudkip’s skin so effectively that it makes the show seem like it has captured their essences in ways that wouldn’t be possible in another medium.
Much in the same way that Pokémon Concierge’s aesthetic simplicity belies the production’s technical complexity, its stories about shy, insecure, and stressed pokémon needing someone to help them unwind might seem too low stakes to make for interesting television. There’s an intentionality behind the show’s small scope though, and its focus on slowing down to enjoy simple pleasures makes each of this season’s episodes feel like reminders about how important it is to take breaks from the daily grind we all usually feel so beholden to.
At just four episodes, Pokémon Concierge feels both perfectly compact for a breezy watch, and far too short because of how utterly delightful the whole thing is. But with the Pokémon franchise potentially being at something of an inflection point with the most recent generation of mainline games seemingly coming to a close, there’s a chance we could wind up back at the Pokémon Resort in one way or another sooner or later.
Pokémon Concierge also stars Imani Hakim, Josh Keaton, and Lori Alan. All four episodes of Pokémon Concierge are now streaming on Netflix.