Oriko Seki (though always called "Okko") is a 6th-grade girl. When she and her parents are involved in an horrific car accident, her parents perish, but she is mysteriously saved- and gains the ability to see supernatural beings (ghosts AND demons) as the result of her near-death experience. She winds up in the care of her grandmother Mineko, who runs a ryokan/hot spring spa called Harunoya. She gains new friends and supporters (human and otherwise) through her resolve to help others, even as she has to deal with lingering trauma over her parents' deaths.
Just from the promotional material about this film, I suspected this might be less than original, and indeed much of this reminded me of the Recommendations: the inn setting, with the staff's obsession with pleasing the customers; the competition between the heroine's smaller, more traditional ryokan versus a more well-heeled inn just down the road; and even the publication of a review with the power to make (or break) an inn's attendance- all of these recalled Hanasaku Iroha vividly; while one Matsuki Akino's spat with Okko reminded me of similar quarrels among peers of the young heroines in shows and movies like When Marnie Was There. The ghost angle reminded me of Marnie too; while none of Okko's supernatural companions are exactly relatives of hers (with the major exception of her parents' spirits, who DO show up frequently), one, a nose-picking kid named Uribo, does have a connection of sorts with a member of Okko's family, while another, named Miyo, DOES have a familial connection with someone else Okko knows. There's also a demon named Suzuki, who Okko accidentally unleashes, but he's pretty agreeable as demons go (except for having an insatiable appetite for the ryokan's cooking.) This supernatural triumvirate ends up hanging out with Okko, and together they're pretty delightful when interacting with Okko, who they become more protective of, and concerned for, over time. ("I'm worried about Okko's future.")
The story faces Okko with guests who suffered comparable tragedies to Okko's, and even (later) someone who was more intimately connected with Okko's own loss. In a short introduction to the film by director Kitaro Kousaka (a Studio Ghibli alumnus), we learn that the director's objective was to show a character overcoming adversity through kindness and service to others. Fine, but to be honest it seemed to me that Okko was practically railroaded into becoming the heir to the inn (and it just seemed wrong to me to force a career choice on a sixth-grader.) Okko also keeps having panic attacks when triggered by circumstances that remind her of the accident. Fortunately, she gains a human friend, named Glory Suiryo, a fortuneteller who becomes a kind of big sister/surrogate parent to her. (My wife watched this one with me, and frankly wondered how a fortuneteller could have such a "cool car", and afford to shower gifts on someone. Maybe she's just very good a fortunetelling (she certainly seems to be genuinely psychic.) Maybe she used her precognitive abilities to make a killing in the stock market. Or perhaps she's a "trust fund baby", and her job is basically just a hobby. (I've MET some of those.))
I've also got to mention Matsuki, Okko's "enemy"/rival (though we suspect that, given the director's intentions, even THAT will work out somehow.) Matsuki is called "frilly pink" by Okko in the subtitles, which is only partially fair- she's not ALWAYS frilly (granted, she IS always "flashy"; in one scene she's wearing what look like spangled Lycra pants), though it's certainly true that all her clothes are a shocking-pink color. She's got the usual rich-girl attitude of superiority. She's also a kind of walking Bartlett's Familiar Quotations- though at least she's always careful to give attribution. (Her sources are pretty diverse.) Her obsession with one color, and the quotes, did make her stand out a bit from similar adversaries in other shows. (And also give her a little comic edge over more one-dimensional "mean girls"; that I DID appreciate.)
I REALLY liked Glory (and the demon too, come to think of it), and Okko's a sympathetic enough character, but I did have to dock it one star for that frequent feeling of deja vu. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Psychological trauma, adult situations.
Version(s) Viewed: Theatrical Release
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Okko's Inn © 2018 Madhouse.
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