Studio Ghibli may have (temporarily) shuttered its doors five years ago, but its former animators are thriving. Aside from the majority Ghibli-staffed Studio Ponoc, which this year released the acclaimed anthology film Modest Heroes, Ghibli alums are proving that they don’t need the iconic Totoro symbol backing them to deliver quality work.
The latest alum to earn the spotlight is Kitaro Kosaka, who had worked on Ghibli films like The Wind Rises, Spirited Away, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. He brings that emotion-driven Ghibli sensibility to Okko’s Inn, a charming and offbeat ghost story set to hit U.S. theaters in April. Watch the Okko’s Inn trailer below.
Kitaro Kosaka teams up with Madhouse, the studio behind Satoshi Kon classics like Paprika and the early films of Mamoru Hosoda (whose most recent feature Mirai was nominated for an Oscar), to direct Okko’s Inn, a ghost story about a young girl who goes to live with her grandmother in a traditional Japanese inn after her parents die. She soon discovers that the inn is filed with spirits and ghosts whose mischievous ways create all sorts of shenanigans.
The Okko’s Inn trailer has shades of My Neighbor Totoro, but has more of the kookier elements of Whisper of the Heart, which Kosaka had worked as an animation director. It seems like an absolute joy to watch.
Here is the official synopsis for Okko’s Inn:
After losing her parents in a car accident, Okko goes to live in the countryside with her grandmother, who runs a traditional Japanese inn built on top of an ancient spring said to have healing waters. While she goes about her chores and prepares to become the inn’s next caretaker, Okko discovers there are spirits who live there that only she can see – not scary ones, but welcoming ghosts who keep her company, play games and help her navigate her new environment. The inn’s motto is that it welcomes all and will reject none, and this is soon put to the test as a string of new guests challenge Okko’s ability to be a gracious host. But ultimately Okko discovers that dedicating herself to others becomes the key to taking care of herself. The latest feature from famed anime studio Madhouse and director Kitaro Kosaka, who was a key animator on numerous classic films at the venerable Studio Ghibli, seamlessly blends immersive, idyllic landscapes with the storybook charm of Okko’s beloved ghosts. Okko’s Inn delivers a rare ghost story that -despite several floating characters – is firmly grounded in the trials and joys of humanity.