Like many of Japan’s finest animated features (particularly those produced by Studio Ghibli), Okko’s Inn is so elegantly simple and thematically transparent that it defies analytical dissection—its beauty resonates in the heart and soul, not in the brain.
The plot revolves around a young girl that moves to her grandmother’s quaint countryside inn after losing both of her parents in a horrific car accident. Once there, she encounters a trio of lonely ghosts, who encourage her to carry on her family’s legacy by becoming the “junior manager" of the establishment. These supernatural supporting characters aren’t the stereotypical “silly sidekicks” traditionally found in this kind of “kids’ movie”—on the contrary, they play a pivotal role in personifying the protagonist’s internal conflict. Okko’s relationship with her ethereal companions gradually teaches her how to properly process her repressed grief and trauma; she, in turn, gives them the courage to finally let go of their earthly attachments and move on to the afterlife.
Thus, Okko’s Inn is reminiscent of My Neighbor Totoro, A Letter to Momo, and Kiki’s Delivery Service: beneath the exterior of its charmingly minimalistic narrative, there resides profound emotional complexity.