I give this cute kids series about a girl working at an inn...a 70/100.
Ever since I first started getting into anime, the place I always frequent for anime news is, well, Anime News Network. That's every anime fan's go-to place for anything related to it, from news to informative articles. That's how I found out about Okko's Inn...well, technically the movie version, which is coming out on DVD in the US next week. I looked it up and found that it was a series as well, and a fairly recent one. Having been bored, I decided to sit down and watch it. Eh...I wouldn't say this series is anything great, just average and plain, with only a few good moments here and there.
So what's the story? After the death of her parents, 12-year-old Oriko Seki, or Okko for short, is sent to live with her grandmother in the countryside. Said grandmother, Mineko, runs an old Japanese-style inn. But when Okko gets there, she sees a strange boy hanging around...and said boy is a ghost. Uribo, Mineko's childhood friend from years ago, hangs around the inn and tries to convince Okko to become the next innkeeper. She refuses at first, but she finds the role foisted on her anyway. Afterward, she finds herself training to become a hostess, dealing with a variety of colorful guests and competing with another girl, Matsuki, whose family runs a more modern style inn. She even befriends Matsuki's dead older sister, Mio, who comes to hang out at the inn every now and again. Every day is an exciting new adventure for Okko and her ghostly friends, and over time, she learns the ins and outs of working at an inn.
Not gonna lie: the animation in this series is...limited, to say the least. There's a lot of still frames, and the series has a particular problem with side views of the characters faces. Whenever a character is viewed from the side, particularly the children, their faces look strangely round and bloated, like they're trying to chew a huge amount of food. Other times body parts such as eyes are out of place, and anatomy can get skewed at times. Some episodes have better animation than others, particularly when they make use of lighting and color in episodes that involve making hot springs all sparkly, but that's about it. The music is rather generic as well, so I don't have much to say about it. The ending songs are pretty nice, though.
The characters are kinda a mixed bag. On one hand, I do like Okko, Uribo, and Mio's dynamic. They're pretty cute when they're all together, even if the ghosts wind up getting more development than Okko herself does, and Matsuki, who seems like a typical mean girl at first, does warm up to Okko later and they work together a lot in later episodes. The series mostly centers on Okko, who's a pretty decent, realistic kid trying to take on an adult role, who screws up every now and again but learns new things and tries to help in any way she can, even if she's reckless and impulsive at times. Not the most interesting character, but relatively sweet. Throughout the series, Okko deals with a variety of guests, from a classmate who has body image issues to a wannabe exorcist. But I feel like the series really gave Okko the shaft when she really needed development the most. For one, we know nothing of her life before she came to Harunoya, and one arc later in the series teases the idea of Okko questioning her abilities as an innkeeper after a guy she meets is better than her at everything, but then the series completely meanders into something else while completely squandering any chance they had of fleshing Okko out some more, really having her come to terms with her flaws, and have her change. Also, Suzuki was just there for comic relief and not much else.
Yeah, the series' biggest issue is that it tries to play things safe and doesn't do anything that'll really bring out its best. Many of the story arcs, while consisting of two episodes each, are rather short, which is because the episodes are 10 minutes long, and they tend to get resolved rather quickly, without much nuance. Other times, it builds up to one thing but completely swerves into something else entirely. It doesn't really seem to know what it wants to do at times, so as a result, the story comes off as being rather incomplete and half-baked. I really want to like this show more than I do, because it has a lot of elements that I really like. But its desire to dabble in cliches and play it safe ultimately held it back.
There is a silver lining to this, though: As I said before, there's going to be a movie for Okko's Inn coming out in a bit, and from what I've seen from trailers and interviews, it's going to be a completely original story in a different continuity from the series. Best of all, it's going to focus specifically on Okko and her struggles to become a good hostess, deal with the loss of her parents, and what happens when she doesn't have her ghost friends. I'm really excited to see how it plays out. The series is cute and harmless, but generic at best. Nothing great, but nothing bad, and it does teach some good lessons to kids.