By: Agent Bunnie
Fathom Events hosted a special 2-day only screening of the anime movie: "Okko's Inn" in select theaters on April 22nd & 23rd. While Agent Afronaut was away in NYC, NY representing our parent organization, EDFU, I - Agent Bunnie - decided to venture out and see what this was all about.
Photo By Agent Bunnie taken at the Veranda Luxe Cinema.
Okko's Inn is not a new anime, but still fairly new that you may not have heard of it or watched it yet. I hadn't caught wind of it before going to the theaters to see it this April. It was initially released in June of 2018, so it's April theater debut was less than a year later here in America. It is based off of a series of books by Hiroko Reijo, who is a Japanese author. These books are not readily available in America, by the way. Before this movie was released, a manga series and a TV series followed -both of which I could not find in the America.
Synopsis (officially released by GKIDS):
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 and prepares to become the inn’s next caretaker, 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 latest feature from famed anime studio Madhouse and director Kitaro Kosaka, who was a key animator on numerous classic films at the venerable Studio Ghibli, seamlessly blends immersive, idyllic landscapes with the storybook charm of Okko’s beloved ghosts. Okko’s Inn delivers a rare ghost story that is firmly grounded in the trials and joys of humanity.
WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! DO NOT READ PAST THIS POINT IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO COME INTO CONTACT WITH SPOILERS!
Official movie poster provided by GKID Films. Use is for information and entertainment only.
Given the brief description that you read above, I was a bit skeptical about this movie before going. So much so, that I read quite a few reviews of the movie before going. Most of the reviews gave it a fair rating at best, with the majority giving it a thumbs down -and that was almost enough to persuade me to stay at home and wait until it was shown at a fan con. Yet, something deep in me told me that I may get something out this movie if I'd just take the time to watch it and when the time came to go to the movie and I didn't have anything to do, I decided to go! And I'm really glad I did! - Oh, and I'll touch on those reviewer's criticisms later on.
The presentation from Fathom started out with a very candid intro from the director, which I found to be very personable and insightful. Kitaro Kosaka told his vision and direction of the film, as well as how it personally related to him.
I'd like to start the actual review by saying that I went on the day that the movie was shown in "dub" or the edition that had been re-voiced by English actors. One big criticism I had read about the film was that the English-dub was horrible and I will say it is not great, and in some parts it will make you cringe. The movie is much more than just simply about a little girl who loses her parents and then grieves, and that had me pleasantly surprised, but also very appreciative. It also emphasized how annoying the English version had been watered down, and that is all too common for Anime brought to America and it needs to stop. American markets want to push a "kids-only" label on this genre and many of these Anime stories are so intricate and deep. The theater I went to had mostly children and by the end of the movie, most of them were zoned out or crawling around on the floor. Anime is definitely not just cartoons.
Okko loses her parents very early in the movie, so the majority of the movie is about her living with her grandmother and adjusting to her new life. We quickly are introduced to the typical city girl that Tokyo-rasied Okko is and it takes her quite some time to adjust to the country-life. We also have the modern versus traditional ways thrown in here, as her grandmother dresses and operates in a traditional Japanese etiquette, but Okko has been raised and living in modern society. It was a predictable outline, but it was nice to see how Okko blended it all together and learned how to use city smarts with traditional practices to not only help customers and also grow as a person. I had read that the original author of the books did a lot of research and interviews when writing this book to really capture the ways of the original inns in Japan, and I feel it was really shown through this adaptation by Kitaro Kosaka.
The ghosts or spirits that Okko can see are limited. The summaries about the movie that I read made it seem like it was going to be a full on haunted house, but really it's just 2 ghosts and then a demon. One ghost is a boy named Uribo who has an attachment to her grandmother, because they were childhood friends. Uribo is still a boy, because his death came during childhood. The other is a little girl named Miyo that Okko sees at school when she has a confrontation with the school bully Matsuki Akino, aka Frilly Pink. It turns out that Miyo is actually the older sister of Matsuki and died before Matsuki was born. The demon comes into the story when Okko finds a bell and releases the demon who has been trapped inside. The take on the demon, who's name is Suzuki, was refreshing. In Western Culture we typically see demons as evil and malevolent, but the original Greek origin of the word literally just seems "spirit" and it wasn't until the anti-Pagan movement that the word "demon" had negative connotations attached to. Suzuki is definitely mischievous, but he means no harm and tries to do better when Okko requests so. Furthermore, he is used as a bridge between our world and the Spirit World. As the film progresses, Okko becomes happier and confident and the more she does the harder it is for her to be able to see and hear Uribo and Miyo. At one point, Okko feels so alone, because she cannot hear or see her ghost friends.
The climax comes at the end when Okko finally grieves. Her connection to the Spirit World help to shield her from this process until her job and the accident come together and she's forced to confront what happened; the man who crashed into her parents car and killed them is a man that she has worked diligently to please at the inn. It's and this breaking point that we see just how much Okko has grown and learned from her time at her grandmother's inn and her role as junior innkeeper, and she grieves in that moment and her parents assure her that she's alright and she can let them go.
I feel this is a good family movie and a movie for all ages, though the deeper meanings and more mature topics may be lost on young children. The movie will be appreciated more by those who have lost someone close to them. The negative reviews comparing this to Casper The Ghost and the likes were clearly people who don't understand the Anime genre and who went into the viewing with a limited mind. This is not your typical ghost story and it's really not about ghosts. The other most noted complaint I read about the movie were that Okko's actions and reactions didn't seem fitting for her age, but having experienced my own mother's passing a few years ago and watching our family of all ages have to deal with it too, I can tell you that I learned very well that everybody deals with death differently and everybody grieves differently, should they choose to grieve, because not everyone does. Lastly, for those who bashed this movie artistically, I would say that they were mostly missing the art of the storytelling which is done beautifully here. The movie comes full circle at the end, with Okko being able to accept the loss of her parents and is also able to assure the spirits that they can move on too, because Uribo knows now that Okko is there to help her grandmother and Okko is able to bridge Miyo with Matsuki. The same dance ceremony you see in the opening that she first sees with her parents, is the one that Okko performs herself along with Matsuki who has come to respect Okko now, and the spirits are there with her to assure they will see her again when they are reborn. Throughout the movie you see many people dealing with loss in many ways, from death to break-ups, and Okko is there learning from it all and if you let go of preconceived notions let the story guide you through, then you may learn too. If nothing else, you'll find comfort from it.
The movie isn't available for purchase yet, but you can pre-order it on Amazon and it will be released July-2,2019. Some major retailers like Target and Best Buy are selling the movie too. I highly encourage you to pick up a copy!
The Afronauts Blog
Afronauts is a collective dedicated to bringing exposure to and understanding of Indigenous Futurism in all its forms.