One of the toughest moments in any person’s life can be the first time you lose a loved one. The journey from sadness to acceptance can be difficult, but life can move on. Animation has often been used to open up conversations with children and young adults about the emotional impacts of death, and how life can continue. Bambi, Up and many other films have tackled this phenomenon to create fulfilling experiences. Okko’s Inn, the latest film from SHOUT! Factory and GKIDS Animation, offers one of the most emotionally rewarding films of 2019. With a fresh approach to the fruitful territory, we have an early contender for a slot in the Best Animated Feature race at Oscar.
Okko’s Inn follows a young girl Oriko “Okko” Seki after she loses her parents in a car accident. She goes to live with her grandmother Mineko, who runs a small inn in the countryside. Shortly after arriving, she meets a ghost named Uri-bo and the two become friends. Through her time with Uri-bo, she begins to experience a supernatural world around her, while finding her place as the new junior innkeeper of the inn and living her life after the death of her parents.
Directed by Kitaro Kosaka, Okko’s Inn thrives thanks to a blend of superb animation and excellent storytelling. Using “Waka Okami wa Shōgakusei!” by Hiroko Reijo as its source material, the story unfolds with excellent pacing and character building sequences. Rather than getting bogged down in the grief that surrounds the film, Kosaka allows his characters to openly explore the ways in which grief can manifest itself in many forms. It also brings to life the reality of how we experience life after death. Even as depression and dread take over, moments of joy can creep into our lives. Okko’s balances these lighthearted and fun moments with some heartbreaking and tear-inducing reveals. Okko‘s balance rewards its audience with cathartic and empathetic moments that will stay with you long after the movie.
The animation also pushes a stylized and complete vision to the screen. Many Western audiences will shorthand the footage as the Ghibli house style, but Kosaka’s choice to utilize CGI in dynamic footage makes for some genuinely great shots. Every cent of the budget is present on the screen and the footage is gorgeous as a result. The use of the ghosts for spectacular and unworldly actions also gives the animators a real chance to play with the physics of the world. It also offers the audience a view of unusual angles that would not otherwise be available.
The quality of the Blu-Ray is stunning and offers a very comprehensive look at the making of the film. A pair of great interviews Kosaka and Seiran Kobayashi (The Japanese voice of Okko) make for some excellent behind the scenes visions. A Q&A from the premiere helps sell the cultural impact of the story and creates an excellent visual to show American audiences the appeal of the story.
Overall, the Blu-Ray release of Okko’s Inn gives audiences plenty of reason to rush out and buy it. Not only does it contain an excellent film, but the special features help sell the complete experience. Okko’s Inn will give audiences plenty of reasons to cheer. It also brings you on a journey of self-discovery and emotion. Okko’s should be an early contender for Best Animated Feature, and thanks to the Blu-Ray, we have plenty of obvious campaign materials on hand. If GKIDS and SHOUT! play their cards right, they could be looking at a film destined to catch on with audiences around the world.
What did you think of Okko’s Inn? Do you think it can make a run for Best Animated Feature? Let us hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Okko’s Inn releases on Blu-Ray and DVD on July 2nd, 2019.
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