The trailer for “Okko’s Inn,” the next animated release from GKids, offers a glimpse of such familiar anime tropes as friendly spirits, floating characters, and a wide-eyed young girl’s emotional awakening.
Former Studio Ghibli animator Kitaro Kōsaka directs this enticing, inclusionary ghost story at Studio Madhouse, opening April 22nd and 23rd in select theaters. Kōsaka, one of Hayao Miyazaki’s most talented disciples (supervising the Oscar-winning “Spirited Away,” among many others), offers a twist on ghosts and floating characters wrapped around the hospitality industry.
After her parents are killed in a car accident, Okko stays with her grandmother, an innkeeper, on top of an ancient spring with healing powers. There, Okko encounters friendly spirits that only she can see, who play games, teach her about selflessness, and groom her to become the new caretaker.
“I wanted to depict a girl, at a self-conscious and impressionable age, growing up and learning that there are things you can and cannot manage by yourself,” Kōsaka described in the production notes.
“These days, a lot of conflicts arise from the self-centered attitudes of individuals and nations; however, one business that cannot survive with such attitudes is the hospitality industry. This is because customer satisfaction circles back to benefit the business, but more importantly, the dedication to others brings out the best in people.”
Based on the children’s novel, “Wakaokami wa Shogakusei!,” “Okko’s Inn” made its North American debut at last year’s Animation Is Film Festival. Kōsaka (“Nasu: Summer in Andalusia”) returns to directing after a 10-year break. He worked with Miyazaki on his most recent feature, “The Wind Rises” (2013).