A Kawaii Ghostly Anime With Real Heart
We may never see the likes of Studio Ghibli ever again depending on Miyazaki’s growing age and remaining ambition, but the beloved anime studio continues to have an outsized impact on the industry. Key Studio Ghibli animator Kitaro Kosaka takes the reins as director of the wondrous and eternally kawaii Okko’s Inn. Animated by Madhouse, the wonderful gem of a movie sees a young girl overcome great tragedy thanks to helpful ghosts only she can see.
The sweet, heartwarming anime tale delivers a poignant message while deftly combining humor and gentle pathos. A young girl tragically loses her parents and soon meets friendly ghosts that help her find a purpose in life, as she works at her grandmother’s inn in the rural countryside. Filled with emotional resonance and a genuinely heartfelt sentiment, Okko’s Inn is a ghostly delight for anime fans.
Having survived a tragic car accident that killed her parents, the young Okko is sent to live with her elderly grandmother. The grandmother runs the Harunoya, a small spa and inn in the resort community of Hananoyu. The area’s bathing waters are famous for their healing properties.
…sweet family entertainment for all ages
…sweet family entertainment for all ages
There Okko begins to see ghosts, including the friendly Uribo. Uribo is the ghost of a child that passed away many years before. A mischievous ghost by the name of Miyo comes later. A small demon going by Suzuki completes the group.
Prodded by Uribo, Okko decides to become the junior innkeeper for her grandmother’s place. The hard-working girl realizes her grandmother isn’t getting any younger and needs the help. Soon Okko has to tackle the problems brought on by a series of guests, aided by her new ghost companions. Everything comes together nicely as Okko grows into her role as innkeeper while coming to grips with the loss of her parents.
Adapting a popular series of novels by Hiroko Reijo aimed at younger girls and having already been animated for television, director Kitaro Kosaka and crew polish the basic premise of Okko’s Inn into a moving film with deft nuance and smooth storytelling. The characters are fundamentally likable and Okko herself is a perfectly enjoyable protagonist. While it may have been initially intended for children, Okko’s Inn is sweet family entertainment for all ages.
Call me a softie for warm, friendly anime that goes after an all-ages audience. Okko’s Inn is a huggable delight that entertains as it weaves a positive message.
Okko’s Inn is lushly animated by one of the better known Japanese studios, Madhouse. Responsible for such anime movies ranging from Ninja Scroll to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Okko’s Inn is another feather in their cap. The traditional animation employed here is a perfect fit for Blu-ray video, bright and colorful. Definitely made with the theatrical Japanese market in mind, Okko’s Inn exudes beautiful animation and vivid picture quality. The friendly character designs are directly overseen by the novel’s original illustrator, Asami.
The fluid hand-drawn animation looks pristine in this sparkling 1080P presentation shown at its native 1.77:1 aspect ratio. The 95-minute main feature has a flawless AVC encode, beautifully rendered without banding on a spacious BD-50 at top parameters.
It’s hard citing any problems in the sparkling video quality. Perfect black levels, a deep color palette, and a striking contrast enhance the polished backgrounds filled with the surrounding forest. Detail is higher than expected for anime aimed at a slightly younger audience. There’s real texture beyond the line art.
While a small step behind the best picture quality Studio Ghibli has to offer on Blu-ray, Okko’s Inn is a real treat for anime fans. Madhouse has served up a visual winner on multiple levels.
Both the original Japanese audio and a satisfactory English dub come in 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio. The careful, delicate mix has strong placement and decent separation of its elements. Dialogue is cleanly delivered in the well-balanced surround mix with a wide dynamic range. The cozy mix is largely limited to the front soundstage with some ambient rear support for the instrumental score. Okko’s Inn offers realistic audio design but few wow moments.
Madigan Kacmar voices Okko in the English dub, while Seiran Kobayashi has the honors in the Japanese audio. Both dubs do a fine job of appropriately casting each character. If you don’t understand Japanese or loathe subtitles, the English dub is perfectly fine. However, I’ll recommend the Japanese audio for Okko’s Inn.
Secondary audio options include 5.1 French Dolby Digital and 5.1 Descriptive English Dolby Digital. English SDH subtitles are included for the English dub, while a second set of English subtitles provide a real translation of the Japanese audio. I did notice the Japanese translation softens a few of the harsher words in English for younger audiences. Otherwise the Japanese audio’s intent isn’t far off from the English subtitles or dub.
GKIDS and Shout Factory team up once again for an excellent anime Blu-ray release. The Blu-ray and DVD combo set for Okko’s Inn arrives with a glossy slipcover.
All the bonus features have Japanese audio with English subtitles provided.
Interview With The Director (04:16 in HD) – Studio Ghibli veteran Kitarō Kōsaka discusses his approach and the challenges of adapting the lengthy source novel, among other topics. It’s a focused interview session covering several different questions.
Interview With Seiran Kobayashi (03:39 in HD) – The young Japanese voice actress playing Okko discusses her admiration for the movie and her character, including her take on Okko in the novels compared to what the director wanted.
Q & A @ Japanese Premiere W/ Director and Producers (20:52 in HD) – A fairly standard group panel which includes the director, the head animator at Madhouse, and a key producer. They discuss being surprised at the movie’s overwhelming success since it was intended for young girls, only to find it gained a much wider audience.
Trailers & TV Spots (04:43 in HD) – Both U.S. And Japanese trailers are included.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
Warm, huggable anime made for the entire family that combines laughs and genuine emotion, skillfully made by experienced Studio Ghibli animator Kitaro Kosaka and Madhouse.
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