Okko’s Inn (Waka Okami wa Shōgakusei!) 2018
I want to call Okko’s Inn a sweet film but I feel like I’ve used that descriptor far too often lately, and somehow ‘charming’ seems to have subtle hints of condescension? Equally, I reckon ‘lovely’ isn’t quite right either but if you can imagine a word that somehow evokes all three, you’ll have an idea of what I’m going for!
Kirato Kosaka directed the movie and his Ghibli-pedigree is noted on my DVD and I think I do see his influence on the character design but I haven’t checked the manga or novels to see if that’s true. And there are some clear parallels to Spirited Away with Sen working in a bathhouse and helping spirits, while here Okko works in a hot spring-themed inn and helps spirits and human guests – but I think Okko’s Inn is more a film about grief and community.
And like most modern anime, it’s beautiful and vibrant – it especially feels like extra attention to detail on the settings and costumes was clear but I guess if I had to note a quibble then it might be on some of the character design, as the kids seemed to almost too cute? Having said that, it does work – they’re cute for sure. And the story is definitely moving, with the drama taking a bigger role than the comedy or supernatural aspects.
In a little interview included as part of the special features I saw Kosaka mention that it was hard to choose and then merge a range of storylines that the novels, manga and TV series had covered, and ultimately the ones used all feed in to Okko’s emotional journey but I think I wanted a little more of some aspects and less of others… but this is not to say the movie is chaotic because it’s not. In fact, my favourite aspect aside from the main storyline was probably the side story of Okko and Glory, as I’m always a fan of mentor-like relationships.
If this sounds like your sort of genre and you’re looking for what’s probably a compressed version of Okko’s story, then this is definitely worthwhile, even if it’s a familiar tale of determination and compassion (in some ways).