Tavern Watch is an irregular series showcasing fantasy taverns in film.
Sometimes it just happens. You’re on the hunt for something to watch and Netflix gets it just right. So it was with the animated film Okko’s Inn! I’m not a big anime viewer by any stretch, but apparently some of my other choices led me straight into this lovely movie that I think you will enjoy as well. Spoiler warning – I’m going to get into some significant plot points.
Off the bat this movie deals with heavy subject matter. The parents of the title character die fairly early on. Okko is then sent to live with her grandmother, who runs the eponymous inn.
As dearly as I love a good inn, I find I am very unfamiliar with the inns and taverns of non-European cultures. They’re there, of course, but it seems they aren’t as large a part of other fantasy traditions. It’s something I’ve often wanted to learn more about and, thankfully, throughout the movie we learn a great deal about the hospitality culture of Japan. And this movie is soaked in traditional Japanese culture.
Our first glimpse of this is at the top, in the scene where Okko’s parents are killed. During the accident, Okko sees a boy floating above her. As it so happens, this boy is a spirit who has a special connection to the inn at which she is about to live! There are also many, many peeks into the Japanese mindset of warmth through the inn itself and more than a few impressions of Shinto ritual.
The boy (Makoto) is our jumping off point into the main thrust of Okko’s Inn, that is Okko struggling to adapt to life at this rural, traditional inn while also struggling to deal with the loss of her parents and bickering with the proprietor of another, much more modern, inn across town.
Between these central plot points we are treated to scenes of cozy, enlivening slice-of-life moments.
We get the privilege of seeing Okko and her grandmother serve their guests with sumptuously drawn meals, tempting beverages, and humble service that fully illustrate what it means to be an innkeeper. For that reason alone I cannot recommend the film highly enough for readers like you, lovers of the tavern.
And yet Okko’s Inn is also a profoundly, beautifully sad movie. It deals with loss and grief, children dying far before their time, tradition, and togetherness. In that way it should be nostalgic for lovers of the work of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. It’s also immaculately paced and edited.
So, as long as some of the heavier scenes aren’t off-putting for you, Okko’s Inn is a treat! Snuggle up and enjoy — Okko’s Inn is available on Netflix right now.