Okko’s Inn movie review: An endearing Japanese animated tale of playful spirits from Studio Ghibli veteran Kitaro Kosaka

Okko’s Inn movie review: An endearing Japanese animated tale of playful spirits from Studio Ghibli veteran Kitaro Kosaka

A young girl with the power to see supernatural spirits learns how to be a responsible and independent innkeeper

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Okko (left) meets a new friend in Makoto, a playful supernatural spirit.
Photo: Medialink Entertainment Limited

Okko’s Inn is an endearing and bittersweet animated coming-of-age tale about a Japanese girl from the city who must learn to adapt to life in the countryside. The meaningful film celebrates the power of love, and shows us how quickly a child can adapt and blossom even in the face of adversity.

When Okko’s parents are killed in a tragic car accident, she moves in with her strict grandmother and helps to run her traditional inn. Grandmother’s small old inn is built on top of a spring believed to be blessed by God, and has the power to heal the wounded. As her ancient family motto is to accept and welcome guests from all walks of life, Okko strives to serve them, who is each suffering some kind of loss.

One day, Okko discovers that only she has the ability to see and communicate with playful spirits who have been living around the inn for ages. Her developing relationship with these supernatural beings and experiences with the inn’s varied guests will help Okko on her journey of growth.

The characters are all irresistible and unique in their own way: The protagonist Okko is initially clumsy, impulsive, capricious and naive, but her experiences at the inn teach her to be independent, responsible and resilient.

Her new best friend Makoto, a young boy spirit, loves to pick his nose but is extremely affectionate and loyal. An angelic looking girl spirit Miyo is mischievous but always willing to help, and devil-like baby spirit Suzuki is always greedy for sweets, but has a super adorable appearance and accent.

The dialogue in the movie, mostly between the young characters, is very simple and straightforward. The children’s language or baby talk may be boring at times for a grown-up audience, but everyone will fall in love with the adorably sincere and often hilarious expressions of the characters.

Okko is befriended by many youthful ghosts at her grandmother's inn.
Photo: Medialink Entertainment Limited

The audience will also be rewarded by an action-packed plot which, little by little, reveals how each character’s life is connected to and resonates with one another’s.

The visually-pleasing animation captures the lasting bonds of family and friends, and delivers a hopeful message that all forms of love transcend time and space. It is also a lovely portrayal of Japan as a land of beauty and gratitude, with rich traditions and cultures.

Okko’s Inn is probably not the most impressive animation ever made by Ghibli veterans (it is helmed by Kitaro Kosaka, Studio Ghibli’s former Supervising Animation Director), but it is still a beautiful and relatable film that will speak to the child in everyone’s heart.

Edited by Jamie Lam


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