Stay Awhile at Okko’s Inn, Everybody is Welcome!

29 Jun

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Release Date: July 2, 2019
GKIDs & Shout! Factory

Plenty of memories exists in Okko’s Inn, the animated adaptation of the novel 若おかみは小学生!This anime offers a lot of interpersonal drama for the titular character and it often comes across in a slice of life style narrative than anything else.

She is an innkeeper in training. At a young age, she has a lot to deal with. After a car accident which killed her parents, to which she miraculously survived, she is off to live with grandma and play with ghosts. These spirits are friendly, if not a little mischievous.

Okko (Seiran Kobayashi) befriends Makoto “Uribo” Tachiuri (Satsumi Matsuda), a childhood friend of Okko’s grandma, who helps her out. He more or less has unfinished business which keeps him to this world. A neighbouring haunt, Miyo (Rina Endō), takes an interest in joining and last if not least is Suzuki, a lesser Oni (Etsuko Kozakura) more interested in good food than causing trouble. He awoke when Okko found an old bell. He’s not out to cause problems, but is like the poltergeist member of this oddball crew. In what I enjoyed about this paranormal aspect is that they are regarded as one of the family; Aspects of Shinto beliefs pepper into the narrative to explain are very protective of Okko.

I have not seen the TV anime adaptation, so comparisons can’t be made. Both are based on a 20 volume series by Hiroko Reiji. To compress that much into a film most likely meant taking some elements out, like in how fast Okko came to terms with the loss of her parents and came to decide in following in the footsteps of grandma. The fact this grief does get addressed makes this film a bit of a tear-jerker.

The two featurettes in bonus material in the home video release even discusses developing Okko, so that newcomers are not totally in the dark. Director Kitarō Kōsaka had to make the cinema version accessible to newcomers and he succeeded at bringing all the heart and charm of the leading character to life. Even Kobayashi as Oriko explains how she brought the character to life. She is a fan of the novels. Also included is the Q&A after the film’s premiere which discusses more of the production elements in play.

I found this film uplifting and, pardoning the pun, very spirited. Even when events remind or come full circle for Okko, she does not let despair ruin her. Her energy and resolve show that life can go on. Happiness is there for anyone wanting to embrace it.

4 Stars out of 5

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