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Pokémon Concierge is my Chicken Soup for the Soul

I just want to play a gentle and sweet Pokémon game

A still from the stop-animation show Pokemon Concierge. Haru reaches out with her hand beyond the camera and looks worried about something in the distance. She’s created with clay and her mouth is wide open in worry. Image: dwarf studios/Netflix
Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

From the moment Haru takes her first steps through the big wooden resort double doors, Pokémon Concierge exudes a bubbly warmth. The stunning coastal locale she finds herself in serves as an oasis for Pokémon and humans alike. A Hoppip gently floats through the lobby; a Rattata leans over to examine a map with people; a Lampent floats along with luggage as a Charmander wearing leis hops with excitement; a small child plays with a towering Metagross on lush green grass.

These early moments establish that Pokémon Concierge won’t be your typical Pokémon show. It doesn’t just look different — Concierge was made in stop motion by the same animation studio behind Rilakkuma and Kaoru — the entire vibe just emanates a softness less common in Pokémon games, shows, and movies. For 25 years, the series has largely focused on catching as many Pokémon as possible and battling (with the notable exception of 1998’s Pikachu’s Vacation and other Pikachu shorts). Now, we get to see them on vacation again, and the result is restorative.

Pokémon Concierge follows Haru, who takes a position working at a Pokémon resort following a string of personal and professional mishaps. In her new role, her job is to keep the Pokémon happy and make sure they’re having fun. Throughout the show’s short four-episode run, we get to know Haru as she learns how to attune herself to the needs of the creatures around her.

A still from the stop-animation show Pokemon Concierge. Three human visitors look over a piece of paper on a counter as a Ratata looks over at it with them while standing on the counter. The Ratata is made with a fuzzy, felt-like material. Image: dwarf studios/Netflix

The resort has an easygoing atmosphere. We don’t see any trainers using Poké Balls on the island, so these Pokémon aren’t portrayed as being captive or captured in any way. While some come with their trainers, others live as wild Pokémon on the island and come and go from the resort as they please. Battles don’t seem to be allowed at the resort: In one brief moment, Haru tries to settle a “fight” between a Graveler and a Metagross, but it turns out that the two were playing.

Don’t get me wrong — I like so much about traditional Pokémon, and I don’t find the battling in mainline Pokémon games to be all that violent. But I’m also the kind of player who feels bad for disturbing Pokémon, or putting them in a box after catching them. I instead gravitate toward Pokémon’s pet-sim elements. I enjoyed taking care of Pikachu in games like Hey You, Pikachu! and Pokémon Channel, and I also appreciate features in the mainline games that allow me to interact with Pokémon — like going on a picnic in Scarlet and Violet. But it’s nothing compared to the love and care we see in Pokémon Concierge.

A still from the stop-animation show Pokemon Concierge. It shows Haru and Psyduck sitting outside and decorating floaties. The Psyduck is closing its eyes and trying to listen to a sound in the shell. Image: dwarf studios/Netflix

What’s best about this particular series — and why I feel like this show is Chicken Soup for Pokémon Fans — is how it shows how living a gentle life doesn’t just help the Pokémon, it also helps Haru. She comes to the island as an anxious office worker who wakes up each morning with a jolt and experiences frequent anxiety pangs about whether or not she’s doing her new duties correctly. What pulls her out of her work-minded shell are the moments she shares with Pokémon — it’s taking an accidental dip in the river after a Pansage tips her over during yoga, or drawing a picture of Psyduck. At first, she frets about doing her job correctly, only to realize that the act of doing it is enough.

Haru gets to fully be herself — weaknesses and all — and so do the Pokémon. It’s all endearing and a welcome change of pace for the franchise. In the end, I couldn’t help but feel like I was the one being taken care of, and not just the Pokémon. It might sound glib, but sometimes you have to grow to love yourself before you can care for others.

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