Akino’s first day as concierge at the Bazar du Cercle Polar is not a cakewalk: discretion, friendliness and anticipation of needs are at the heart of the job that the employee, a bit naive, but full of good will, struggles to embrace. . It is true that the clientele of this department store is tricky: animals of all hairs and feathers, dressed up, sensitive and demanding. Akino’s clumsiness doesn’t help. What an idea, for example, to ask this female mustelid if she can get rid of her mink without seeing that it is her children! At the slightest misstep, her manager, Mr. Todo, sharp eyes over a small black mustache, does not fail to lecture her.
In The Department Store Concierge (translated from Japanese by Aurélien Estager, Le Lézard noir, 288 pages, 18 euros. In bookstores September 8), a work that he wishes above all ” playful “, Tsuchika Nishimura depicts anthropomorphic animals served by humans. The mangaka, born in 1984, plays with a paradox that is not trivial in times of environmental crisis: “Initially, it is humans who show violence in relation to animals. I found it interesting that they have to be particularly nice to them here”he explains to World. Relevant “a kind of masochism in human acts”he ends up considering that humanity itself is on the way to extinction, and wants “to show that we do not necessarily have a privileged position in relation to animals”. Among the beasts he enjoys representing the most, bears. “They live more or less close to us in Japan. They are both very dangerous and very cute. I like this irony. »
An imaginary establishment
Beyond poetic comedy, where the fact of not being able to predict animal reactions creates the element of surprise, the cartoonist sketches out a social parody in which he puts those who blend into the background, such as elevator operators or hostesses, having himself worked at the cash desks of a “depato”a popular Japanese derivative of department stores, “department stores” in English. His imaginary establishment is meticulously inspired by existing brands – led by Le Bon Marché in Paris and its emblematic Escalators.
For his menagerie, it is not so much from the side of La Fontaine or the Anglo-Saxon illustrators that you have to seek the touch of Tsuchika Nishimura: the author draws rather from the side of Disney’s animated film zootopia (2016). Finnish artist Tove Jansson, world famous for her Moominsalso irrigates his albums, which the French discovered at the Black Lizard with Eisbahn (2019) and Goodbye Mina (2021).
Alternative mangaka not very verbose, monopolized by his career as an illustrator – of book covers in particular -, Tsuchika Nishimura likes anyway to take his time and slow down the frantic pace of the reader, he who regrets that, “in Japan, we tend to consume manga more and more quickly”.
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