What They Say:
After losing her parents in a car accident, Okko goes to live in the countryside with her grandmother, who runs a traditional Japanese inn built on top of an ancient spring said to have healing waters. While she goes about her chores, Okko discovers there are spirits who live there that only she can see – not scary ones, but welcoming ghosts who keep her company, play games and help her navigate her new environment. The inn’s motto is that it welcomes all and will reject none, and this is soon put to the test as a string of new guests challenge Okko’s ability to be a gracious host.
The audio presentation for this release brings us both the Japanese and English language tracks in 5.1 using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. A lossy Dolby Digital track is also included for the French 5.1 mix. The film is one that has some minor moments of action and big events happening but that’s not the defining aspect of it it. The film is more dialogue-based along with incidental sounds to help bring it all together in an interesting way, which it succeeds well at. There’s a lot of good placement because of the spiritual side of the film that lets it move about well. The bass gets a nice workout from time to time as well as a few things thrown to the rear channels. But by and large, it’s more straightforward but well-executed in how it handles the forward soundstage. Dialogue is sharp, clean and problem free throughout.
Originally released in 2018, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC. Animated by DLE and Madhouse, the film has a fantastic look with a rich color design that leaps off the screen. While it may work with somewhat simpler and more rounded character designs, they look great and there’s a lot of very fluid motion throughout in the movements that gives it a great look. Backgrounds have a lot of detail and the world feels lived in the way it should, but the color design is where it really shines the most. It just brings it all to life in a strong way and the greater view of the film shines because of it. The encoding captures everything beautifully with clean colors, no macroblocking or noise, and colors that pop beautifully.
The packaging design for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds both formats against the wall without any hinges involved. The first press comes with an o-card that replicates the case artwork but with better color reproduction that gives it a bit more impact. The familiar key visual is here with Okko in the foreground and the inn behind her with a few spiritual characters appearing in different places across the cover. It’s colorful with all the blues and greens that captures the nature aspect well while also sliding the logo in, which has a house design, so that it looks like it’s within the mountain itself. It’s an appealing cover all around that catches the eye. The back cover has a nice array of images from the film in a larger size to check out and there’s a good summary of the premise. The extras are clearly listed but it lacks a good breakdown of the language options and subtitle options which is frustrating as they’re a key decision for many. That information is on the case itself and not the slipcover so you can see the fuller breakdown.
The menu design for this release is pretty simple as it’s just a blue bar along the bottom with the selections in white while having a yellow highlight box but it works well in a way that’s hard to pin down. The colors just click and it has all the right workings otherwise with quick load times and it doesn’t interfere much during regular playback. What the majority of the menu is made up of are clips from the film and it works well with a good bit of color and appealing design in it to get you curious about what’s to come. The logo along the upper right is simple in its overall design and doesn’t obstruct hardly at all, which is an added plus. It’s a solidly functional menu that does exactly what it needs to do.
The extras for the release bring a decent bit of fun with its focus on the Japanese side. The first piece is the director’s interview which is just about four minutes and covers a few basics about his involvement in the film. We also get an interview with the Japanese voice actress behind Okko which is a little under four minutes and keeps things simple and positive with how it was adapted from the book. The big extra is from the premiere screening in Japan with the director and producers there, covering about twenty minutes of questions with the audience about the film.
Based on the novel series by Hiroko Reijo that ran for ten years and produced ten volumes, Okko’s Inn came out in the summer of 2018 amid the two-cour run of a TV series through its original title of Waka Okami wa Shōgakusei!. The film brought in Kitaro Kosaka to direct it from a screenplay by Reiko Yoshida and Kosaka talks in the extras a bit about his uncertainty of working on a “girls film” having not worked on anything like that before. The film has some fantastic production values to it with DLE and Madhouse animating it and the end result is a beautiful work that slowly captures your attention as you follow this young girls’ journey that no child should have to go through, but that if they do this is one of the best possible ways.
The film focuses on Oriko Seki, who is nicknamed Okko. Her family has a place in the countryside known as Hananoyou Inn where the family was visiting for a festival and we get a nice look at the family and how close it is from this. But tragedy strikes on the way back from the festival as a car accident happens and both of her parents are killed. For Okko, she ends up being taken in by her grandmother at the inn and the only real plan is to just help Okko through this tough phase. What becomes problematic for Okko is that it doesn’t take long after arriving and making it clear she has no idea how to live in a place like this that she also sees a certain spirit. Namely the spirit of a boy who died decades ago nearby, Makoto, and he’s just delighted that for the first time someone can actually see him and that has him conversing with her far more than she wants – at least initially.
The initial fun really is a basic fish out of water thing since you have Okko coming to live at a five-room inn, small in this town to be sure, and just having no clue how to act with guests. There’s an understandable side of it but there’s also the fact that guests don’t know her recent tragedy and can’t excuse it. That doesn’t make up a lot of the story, however, because Okko gets a lot of help from Makoto as she ends up accidentally repeating what he says – which has her essentially saying that she’ll take over the inn someday and will become a junior innkeeper in the next few years. With a small staff that’s like family, it’s heartening to them and they put her to work easily enough and the bonds start growing from there. Often this is shown as a real hardship – and Okko does struggle with this new kind of hard work – but it’s done by a loving group of people that are helping to shape her to what she “said” she wanted to be.
The film really gets underway from here as Okko, touched by death with the close-call that she had that took her parents, is able to engage with Makoto and to get her life started up again, which includes school. That naturally gives her a foil there with “pink fluffy,” a fellow student named Matsuki who has an air of superiority about her because of the size of her family’s inn and what they do in town. There’s a lot to like with the school side as it goes forward, and this relationship in general, as we see Okko get used to life in this tourist destination town and the work od running an inn. There are a few other spirits residing here that we see with their tales and connections and Makoto’s own connection to events going on is explored but not overdone. There’s also an exploration of a couple of guests that come to stay with a father and son whose son is ill, having left the hospital as part of his recovery. There’s a lot more to this but it unfolds beautifully as we see the way so many things are interconnected all while watching as Okko finds her place in the world after such tragic events.
While there’s an air of predictability about some elements of the film, Okko’s Inn charmed its way into my heart. I really liked Okko as we see her life upended and having to figure out a way to cope with – and that’s before a snot-nosed spirit shows up and begins to mess with her life even more. The cast grows well and naturally here without a forced hand and that lets us be drawn into the story and its world all the more. GKIDS put together a solid dub to go with this and I’m envious of those that got to see this on the big screen. With a strong encode of some great materials, this is a very good package that fits into the larger GKIDS library and includes some very good extras for fans of the film. Very recommended – and has me hopeful someone will get the TV series sometime.
Japanese DTS-HD 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, French Dolby Digital 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Director’s Interview, Seiran Kobayashi Interview, Q&A Event, Trailers
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: GKIDS / Shout! Factory
Release Date: July 2nd, 2019
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.