Plot: As Okko and her parents leave a popular spring, the young girl learns that the area is so visited because the waters are said to have special powers. The claims of mystical healing draw in numerous tourists and others, most of whom hope to find some solace in the location’s supposed magic. But when a tragic car accident claims the lives of her parents on the ride home, Okko is sent to live with her grandmother, who runs an inn near the same ancient spring. In the accident, Okko saw a vision of a young boy who floated into the sky, so when he sees the same boy in her grandmother’s inn, she freaks out a little. As it turns out, he is a ghost and while he seems friendly enough, Okko is of course unnerved by the experience. He soon tries to guide her to help with the inn’s upkeep and that includes other ghosts, but can Okko learn to put her unique new talent to good use?
Entertainment Value: Okko’s Inn does involve ghosts, but this a warm, thoughtful picture that focuses more on personal growth than the supernatural. This does mean the movie has some of those dreaded life lessons, but while they’re obvious and prominent, the messages never overpower the other elements. So yes, the power of helping others is always evident here, but this and other lessons are told via colorful characters and an engaging narrative. In other words, Okko’s Inn offers ample sugar to help the so called medicine go down and the movie never feels like it is talking down to viewers, so both children and adults can appreciate the experience. I appreciated that the movie takes care in developing characters and keeping a sense of humor active, while also dealing with some serious, emotional issues. This is a smart, well crafted movie that will likely appeal audiences well outside the usual animation crowds, as it is well written and hits a lot of effective beats. I also think Okko’s Inn has solid replay value, so it easily earns a solid recommendation.
As much I as liked the story and characters of Okko’s Inn, I’d likely recommend it based on the visuals alone, as this is simply a gorgeous movie. The animation is breathtaking at times and has such depth, attention to detail, and dynamic presence. Even scenes that deal with routine elements like a meal have visual flair, with little touches woven in that capture your attention. In the more involved scenes, this effect is amplified, as the film’s world bursts to life in vivid colors and so much visual depth. I can see fans revisiting scenes just to pause and soak in all the little details, there’s that much going on in some of the sequences. The character designs are varied and well done, with a unique feel, but also rooted in traditional anime elements. But it is the world itself that drew me into the visuals, superb animation this one. The voice work is quite good as well, both the original Japanese and the English language track, though as is often the case, I think the original soundtrack is a better fit. In any case, either is a viable option and the voice talent involved is more than capable.
The Disc: Okko’s Inn is released on Blu-ray via Shout Factory and GKIDS, in a gorgeous high definition presentation. The movie’s animation is beautiful and the visuals shine in this treatment, so vivid and razor sharp. I think the colors stand out the most, with vibrant hues and stark black levels, which help create this visual feast that is likely to enrapture most viewers. The image is clean and refined as well, with about as much detail as the animation allows. This is a remarkable presentation that animation fans are sure to delight in. This release also includes Japanese, English, and French language tracks, as well as subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. The extras provide interviews with director Kitaro Kosaka and voice talent Seiran Kobayashi, a Q&A session at the film’s premier, tv spots, and trailers.