Production I.G.’s new anime film The Concierge at Hokkyoku Department Store (Hokkyoku Hakkaten no Concierge-san), or The Concierge, has made its U.S. premiere ahead of the 2024 schedule. It was first shown at the TCL Chinese Theater in Los Angeles as a part of the Animation Is Film Festival 2023 on October 21. The Concierge, alongside another anime film, Phoenix: The Reminisce of Flowers, was nominated to be a part of the festival’s competition. I was not quite sure what to expect from this movie ever since I first heard about it during this year’s Aniplex Online Fest in September. After seeing The Boy and The Heron, I came in with no expectations. I was glad that I got the opportunity to see it when I did.
The Concierge is based on a manga written by Tsuchika Nishimura called The Concierge Hokkyoku Department Store. It was serialized in Big Comic Zokan and published in two volumes by Shogakukan. The movie was released by Aniplex.
The movie follows the story of Akino, a concierge in training at the Hokkyoku Department Store. The Department store isn’t just any department store, this one caters to unusual animals. To follow her dream of becoming a full-fledged concierge, Akino runs around to fulfill the wishes of customers with various needs and problems. All under the watchful eye of the floor manager and her senior concierge.
The first thing I noticed about the film was the art and animation. The visual techniques used for this movie were aesthetically pleasing to the eye. There were even some scenes where I noticed they used an art style of colored pencils. It was a nice touch to the movie as it provided a cute, colorful, warm, and welcoming feeling.
In fact, The Concierge was itself a cute movie filled with different scenes between Akino and the customers of the department store (which were of course animals). Each scene evoked many different emotions in me: there were sweet and romantic scenes, happy scenes, funny scenes, as well as sad scenes. There was even a scene between Akino and a seal that, although dramatic, made me feel a bit annoyed and mad for Akino. Although what happens a bit after the scene is somewhat satisfying. The scene still reminded me of my experience working at a customer service job and it was shown almost perfectly towards the truth.
The characters were also enjoyable to watch. I thought having a department store for animals with humans as employees was an interesting concept. I wasn’t quite sure what it would look like though. As it turns out, it is just like any real life department store, only with animals as customers. Most of the animals shown in the film are cute and we even get to see some extinct species. Each of the animals has a distinct personality, and I thought they were befitting of their species. The strong cast of Japanese voice actors helped bring their personalities to life, and I particularly liked the peacock! There were even a few human characters who provided support and help to Akino when she needed it. Especially the floor manager. Although quite serious and angry, he was actually a funny character since he always seemed to pop up in places you’d least expect.
While I enjoyed most of the characters, Akino was the one that stood out to me the most. When watching certain anime, I often like characters who try their best at the job they enjoy. So it wasn’t a surprise to me when out of all the characters in the movie, I enjoyed her the most. Akino is a hardworking person who very much loves the department store. Even though she makes lots of mistakes, you can tell in every scene that she has good intentions and enjoys working as a concierge.
As someone who recently started to find her passion and enjoyment in life, Akino felt relatable. Seeing her work hard at the job she probably dreamed of was awe-inspiring. It made me think about my own life and what I want to do. The scenes where Akino is afraid of making a mistake or thinking she is not good enough were also relatable and I can really understand how she felt as someone who has gone through that experience as well. It was such a pleasure to see her growth as a character and the improvements she made as a concierge.
I do feel like I learned a little bit about the animals as I watched the movie. The characters called these animals “Very Important Animals,” and they were considered VIP animals. I may be over-analyzing, but it feels like I learned a bit more about animals (including the extinct species), and like there is a lesson to be learned from them. I could be mistaken though. Most of the extinct animals shown had one thing in common that led to their extinction: humans.
While The Concierge was not as hyped or popular as The Boy and The Heron, it was a great movie in its own right. I heard that many people who weren’t expecting much from the movie ended up enjoying it. The movie gave more of a slice-of-life vibe, so it’s a perfect watch if you’re a fan of the genre. It might not be the right film to watch for people who are hoping for more action or drama though.
The Concierge was an adorable movie to watch with its aesthetically pleasing art style, animation and lovable characters. I feel that it would make for a great TV anime series, but after finding out that the manga was only two volumes long, it was a good idea for them to make it an anime film. Akino’s learning experience can be something we can all take inspiration from, but I am not completely sure about the message they were trying to convey. Either way, the movie was enjoyable to watch and it gave a satisfactory ending.
Crunchyroll previously announced that they have licensed the movie and is set to release in North America in 2024.
Feature Image via: Animation Is Film Festival 2023
©2023 Tsuchika Nishimura/Shogakukan/”Hokugoku Department Store Concierge” Production Committee; ©2016-2023 Animation Is Film