Okko’s Inn is a film adaptation of the children’s literature series by author Hiroko Reijo and tells the story of Oriko “Okko” Seki, a young orphan whose parents are killed in a car crash that she miraculously survives. Okko is taken in by her grandmother Mineko who runs a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) and finds herself dealing with new surroundings, a new job, bugs and lizards, and most significantly, supernatural activity.
Whilst moping in her room Okko finds herself face-to-face with a happy-go-lucky ghost named Makoto or “Uribo”. After taking his advice and declaring that she’d become a junior innkeeper, events only get stranger as supernatural characters continue to pop up and help Okko adjust to her new surroundings, her responsibilities and how to deal with her grief.
The supporting characters include another ghost called Miyo, the deceased older sister of Okko’s aloof classmate whose family also runs an inn, a young demon named Suzuki who has quite the appetite and a fortune teller named Glory Suiryo who takes a liking to Okko and takes her shopping, providing Okko with an older sister figure who understands her connection to the spiritual realm.
They all get some nice moments and in some cases character depth too. For instance the usually goofy Uribo gets some poignant backstory as we learn about their friendship with Okko’s grandmother and how he passed away.
The climax of the film is also rather poignant and ties into the themes of the story rather well. I won’t spoil it here but it conveys all the themes established moving forward, getting used to new surroundings and accepting death and the loss it brings.
Okko’s Inn was directed by Kitarô Kôsaka (Nasu: Summer in Andalusia) who had previously worked in Hayao Miyazaki’s animation department at Studio Ghibli and though I feel that making comparisons to Ghibli films is a bit overdone, this film is reminiscent of those classics in all the right ways.
Looking at the voice cast Okko’s Inn the Japanese actors all do good jobs with their roles. Okko is voiced by Seiran Kobayashi, a young actress who wonderfully conveys the emotional development that the character goes through. The English dub is also solid overall for those who prefer to watch their anime dubbed.
The score for the film was composed by Keiichi Suzuki whose arrangements accompany the story well and provide an extra depth to some of the more emotional moments. Okko’s Inn also has a few songs including the lively Jinkan Bunjee Jump! by Kobayashi Seiran that plays during Okko and Glory’s trip to the mall and the ending theme song Mataashita by Sakura Fujiwara. These songs are pleasant and complement the score nicely.
Okko’s Inn is brought to the UK by Manga Entertainment. The film is visually rich and sometimes gorgeous and the Blu-ray does a solid job of conveying this.
Overall, Okko’s Inn is an entertaining and often poignant film that deals with its themes maturely but also with a warmth that makes it accessible for a younger audience but deep enough for older viewers to appreciate too. Director Kitarô Kôsaka shows some promise and I look forward to their future works.