Okko’s Inn is an Anime film about a Grade Schooler girl named Oriko Seki or Okko for short. Her life takes a drastic turn when she faced with an accident. Due to her near-death experience, she is able to see and talk to ghosts. The film is lighthearted with colorful art, visuals and OST just like the perspective of the main character, but it also visualizes Okko’s hard times, having to cope with her new life after the accident. It’s a story about finding resolution, becoming strong, and learning to forgive. It’s as Makoto Shinkai, the creator of Your Name, Suzume no Tojimari, and many more notable films puts it:
Okko’s Inn was wonderful! It made me laugh and cry so much.
About Okko’s Inn
Okko’s Inn (Wakaokami wa Shougakusei! or The Young Innkeeper Is a Grade Schooler! in Japanese) is a series of Japanese children’s novels, written by Hiroko Reijō and illustrated by Asami. Kodansha released twenty volumes between 2003 and 2013 under the imprint of Aoi Tori Bunko. A manga adaptation with art by Eiko Ōuchi was serialized in Kodansha’s shōjo manga Nakayoshi and collected in seven tankōbon volumes. It received an Anime adaptation in 2018, produced by DLE and Madhouse. The series comprised 24 episodes, each with a duration of 12 minutes.
The film adaptation by the same studios but under different directors, released in 2018, encapsulates the main aspects of the story. While the episodic run leaned towards a more casual and child-friendly tone, the film delves more intimately into Okko’s inner struggle. It received the Excellence Award in the animation category at the 22nd Japan Media Arts Festival. The film was nominated for an Annie Award for Best Animated Feature – Independent.
Okko’s Inn Story and Characters
The story of Okko’s Inn intricately weaves together its narrative and characters. Rather than serving as a backdrop to another plot, the characters’ struggles and growth take center stage. Okko’s development unfolds through various stages, each marked by different encounters—some condensed into mini-arcs, while others extend throughout the entire story. Her encounters with Akane Kanda, Seiko Suiryou, and Bunta Kise are smaller arcs that helps Oriko gets through her struggles and accept various aspects of her loss. And her interactions with Matsuki, Uribo, and other ghosts form a more extended arc.
The Mini Arcs
Okko relocates to her grandmother Mineko’s place at the Hananoyu Inn, a traditional Japanese ryokan featuring open baths with hot springs. Thanks to the ghost Uribo, Okko is aspired to become the Junior Innkeeper and eventually take over the inn. Her journey involves learning the ropes of inn management, and her interactions with various guests play a crucial role in helping her cope with her current mental state. Notably, three characters—Akane Kanda, Seiko Suiryou, and Bunta Kise—each grappling with their own sad and traumatic experiences, contribute to Okko’s growth. Akane copes with the loss of his mother, Seiko struggles with a breakup and finding confident in her work, and Bunta Kise’s arc unfolds as a climactic moment in Okko’s character development.
As Okko witnesses the struggles of others—Akane, Seiko, and Bunta—she is motivated to extend her help. Through this journey, she discovers the strength to accept her own losses and gains, learns to cope with life’s changes, and ultimately grasps the power of forgiveness. Embracing the understanding that she is not alone, Okko finds her true identity as the Junior Innkeeper of Hananoyu. In keeping with the inn’s motto, ‘Hananoyu’s hot spring water rejects no one; it welcomes and heals everyone.’
The Long Arc
In addition to the guests, Okko forms connections with Matsuki, another aspiring Junior Innkeeper determined to take over her family business. Matsuki, an outspoken extrovert, becomes both a rival and a valuable mentor to Okko, offering advice when needed. Okko’s closest companions, however, are the friendly ghosts Uribo, Miyo, and Suzuki. Uribo’s persistence got Okko to become the Junior Innkeeper, while Matsuki’s friendly rivalry motivated her to push her limits. Miyo, Matsuki’s late sister, joins Okko and her group, providing insights that humanize Matsuki. Lastly, the mischievous little demon Suzuki plays a crucial role by attracting troubled customers to the inn, ultimately aiding Okko’s personal growth. Suzuki also helps explain the phenomenon of Okko’s ability to see ghosts.
Despite her progress, Okko still grapples with inner darkness and struggles to fully accept her losses, causing her to lose sight of what she has gained so far. Towards the end, when she loses the ability to see her ghost friends, whom she thought were her sole companions, she discovers the presence of others at Hananoyu who have been by her side all along. This realization helps her understand that she is no longer alone.
Okko’s Inn is a wonderfully crafted animated film that brings joy, sorrow, and hope all together. The movie doesn’t shy away from delivering stunningly animated sequences and expressive character movements. Its childlike perspective infuses playfulness, whimsy, and creates a delightful viewing experience. Even acclaimed director Makoto Shinkai praised this film. I highly recommend watching Okko’s Inn to appreciate this type of anime; the experience is sure to be rewarding. I give it a solid 8 out of 10.