Saturday, March 09, 2024

NYCIFF ’24: The Concierge

Retail analysts keep predicting the extinction of the department store. If that happens, the Hokkyoku Department Store would then match its clientele. Somehow, the store exists somewhere outside of time. Inside, humans wait on customers who entirely consist of extinct species. The newest employee is a bit clumsy, but she is earnest and conscientious. Nevertheless, retail is still tough work in Yoshimi Itazu’s anime feature The Concierge, based on Tsuchika Nishimura’s manga, which screens during the 2024 New York International Children’s Film Festival.

Akino once stumbled into the Hokkyoku as a little girl, finding herself dazzled by the elegant concierge. Now life (or is it afterlife? The film and manga keep discreetly vague on that point) has come full circle for her, since she was hired as the Hokkyoku’s newest concierge. Her colleagues recognize her kind heart, especially Eruru. Akino thinks he is a customer she literally keeps stepping on, but he is really the president. He is also a great auk, so don’t call him a penguin, even though he enjoys sliding across the polished floors of the mall, as if they were ice flows (which is a pretty cute bit of business).

Unfortunately, Toudou, the Snidely Whiplash-like floor manager is constantly on her case. The pressure keeps mounting with each nearly impossible request, like the customer searching for a discontinued fragrance. Fortunately, a lot of her co-workers are willing to pitch in to help, including Eruru behind-the-scenes.

When you really think about the premise, you would assume
The Concierge is profoundly sad. There is indeed a bittersweet tone, but its wistful charm is a pleasure to experience. The animation is also incredibly endearing. It looks more like the Ernest & Celestine films than previous anime franchises produced by Production I.G, but it well suits the characters.

This is just a great film. It has adorable talking animals and humans working together, but on a deeper level, it functions like an anthropomorphic
What Dreams May Come. The Concierge is completely appropriate for young viewers, but slightly more grown-up folks might get even more satisfaction from it. Very highly recommended, The Concierge screens tomorrow (3/10) and next Saturday (3/16) as part of this year’s NYICFF.