Momo is a young girl who grew up in a big city. However, following the premature loss of her father, she has to move with her mother to the old family house on a remote island. Here, time seems to have stopped: old wooden buildings, holy shrines surrounded by trees, fields painstakingly carved out from steep hills... and no shopping mall.
Needless to say, Momo is not too overenthusiastic about this new environment. Most of all, her heart is still feeling uneasy about an unfinished letter left by her father. A letter that contained only two words: "Dear Momo..."
What was dad going to say?
One day, exploring the attic of her new big house, Momo finds a dusty and worn out book. And from that moment, something really unexpected starts happening around her...
"A Letter to Momo" had reportedly taken the director Okiura Hiroyuki 7 years to produce. Allow me to be the first to say, the time and effort spent on perfecting this film have not gone to waste. I was fortunate enough to watch this latest masterpiece at the 2011 TIFF screening.
The art/animation in this movie is top-notch. Production I.G. with assistance from P.A. Works, Studio Pierrot, and CG by Dandelion resulted in stunning visual quality down to the tiniest details. What I especially liked, was the amount of attention paid to body language and gestures. There's so much information to be gleaned from visuals alone,
and that's what I find most interesting about Japanese films. There was also this action sequence near the end that just blew me away. I don't want to spoil, but I have not seen such breathtaking hand-drawn animation since watching "Tonari no Totoro" in the late '80s.
The story begins with the protagonist, Momo, moving to a small fictional island named Shiojima with her mother. Their new house appears to be haunted, and she feels absolutely miserable about moving out of Tokyo. Being a city girl that she is, Momo struggles to adjust to the country life. Instead of playing with the local kids, she eventually befriends three Youkai in her house - Iwa, Kawa, and Mame. Momo begins to appreciate the life on the island, and come to realize the meaning of his late father's unfinished letter to her.
The character development in this movie is absolutely phenomenal. It begins with a light comedy, but through numerous adventures and mishaps on the island, we slowly learn about her past. The transition from comedy to drama is seamless, and it really makes you to care about the protagonist by the end... This film has what I call magic, something Ghibli films of late desperately lack. Although the local kids were severely underused in this movie, I think the three Youkai were the true supporting cast. Their chemistry with the protagonist was excellent, and the humor just comes naturally. Mame's character was especially funny in a quirky way. One can easily tell how much thought and planning has been put into this film just by watching the impeccable timing at which Mame's character was used as comedic relief every single time.
Every piece of music appears to be fully orchestrated, especially the violins stood out to build tension in action scenes. Momo's voice acting by child actress and seiyuu Miyama Karen was a perfect fit, as well as the three Youkai.
"A Letter to Momo" is almost like a homage to Studio Ghibli's kids movies - "My Neighbor Totoro", "Spirited Away", and "Ponyo". It sticks to the tried and tested formula of supernatural spirits that only interacts with kids, and somewhat predictable plot development. However, the producers have managed to merge various elements from all those films into an exciting original story. "A Letter to Momo" is a magical crowd- pleaser with great pacing and a heartwarming story. It's a solid movie that anime and movie fans should not miss.
Possibly the best all-ages anime movie since "Spirited Away" (2001).
A letter to Momo has comfortably been sitting in my 'plan to watch' list for quite a few years now. I'm disappointed that i've left this little masterpiece alone for such a long time, however, glad it has since migrated to my completed list. In my eyes, this film could truly hold it's own against some of the most recognized Ghibli films.
This film, in short, is about a young protagonist named Momo who moves towns with her mother after the death of her father. It's not long until she discovers that the new house she has moved into includes three Youkai that for some
reason are only visible to her. Learning that these three characters aren't leaving any time soon, she befriends them, making life in this new town bearable.
Although not entirely necessary, the character development for the protagonist was extremely refreshing. The detailed depth that Momo received not only helped fans and viewers relate/understand her greater, it played a big part in how the supporting characters in relation to Momo were perceived.
The artwork in this film was outstanding. It doesn't take long at all to realize the effort and time that went into creating such a visually appealing film. A letter to Momo could have been a silent film and it still would have succeeded due to the amount of body language and emotional features that was included. You are able to tell exactly what each character are thinking at all times, simply from looking at them.
There really isn't a lot to say about the sound aspect of this film. The sountrack was wonderful and enhanced the overall feel of the film in every scene. A lot of the music was instrumental and every piece was performed well. Every main and supporting voice actors suited their roles perfectly.
A letter to Momo is simple, but done exceptionally well. It's truly a shame that its popularity is so low because it is without a doubt one of the most brilliant anime films of the decade. Although having never watched this, it had such a nostalgic feeling throughout the entire movie. I would recommend all ages to give it a try. 9/10
An attempt at an all-ages family film dealing with childhood traumas (in this case, the loss of a parent) with fantasy/supernatural entities as acoping mechanism; very Ghibliesque, particularly similar to _My Neighbor Totoro_ in using the device of a move to the remote countryside (an island) to live in an old-fashioned building and encountering folkoric creatures. Sounds promising, yet I was disappointed.
The basic trouble with _Momo_ is that it executes well on *none* of these aspects. Momo herself is an ultra-bland character who cannot stand any comparison with Ghibli heroines like Sen or Shizuku. The island setting is woefully underused throughout the movie (except for
the pig-chasing scene). The architecture and backgrounds are accurate but again, bland. The music is unmemorable and cannot be commented on. The trio of supernatural characters are more irritating than they are ever interesting or endearing and I wished that almost all of their scenes didn't exist as the humor is nonexistent. The animation is adequate but again bland, except for whoever worked on the pig-chasing scene and the pulsating spirits at the shrine (who stand out as the most visually interesting aspect of the movie, and give the later bridge scene its interest). And the plot...
The plot has a truly outrageous reliance on cliches - from the guilt of Momo telling her father to leave right before his accidental death to her mother conveniently developing Anime Coughing Sickness (yes, really! they really had the chutzpah to use that cliche!) to endlessly predictable scenes (serious question: in the mirror-breaking scene, is there anyone who from the first cut didn't know that that mirror was going to break?) to scenes so illogical that the movie can't even depict the events (why on earth would a doctor agree to cross the bridge at the end in the middle of a typhoon...? don't ask _Momo_, it just cuts straight from getting across to the happily-ever-after). It compounds these scenes with a lack of imagination (no use of the "Night Parade of One Hundred Demons" is just criminal) and in the ending where it commits the greatest of sins for this kind of movie by forcing a heavy-handed conclusion and collapsing the border of reality/imagination. It has the bad taste of, like pornography, insisting on showing you everything. I could have maybe tolerated all the rest of it and considered it mediocre but still watchable far down the list after the Ghibli movies, _Wolf Children_, etc, but that choice of ending is a final kick in the nuts and insult to everyone who watches it.
It is very hard to deal with the death of a loved one. It's even harder to watch a child loose a parent at such a young age and the spouse, even though they must move on. Knows now that the person they married, they dedicated their love to is gone. This painful reminder sets up our story for the young Momo and her mother. Leaving Tokyo after the sudden death of her father, Momo and mom move out to a big island where the grandparents live. Now they must adjust to a new life, as Momo has difficulties with this, her mother fits in
pretty quick, looking for job and even meeting an old friend. But it's harder for Momo. Losing her father so suddenly and him leaving a mysterious letter that only reads: "Dear Momo" she is trying to find her place in this new home. But things suddenly change drastically when she believes her new home is haunted. After hearing strange noises, food mysteriously disappearing and voices coming from the attic. Momo ventures up there to find three goblins have made it their home. There names are Mama, Iwa and Kawa and they have no intentions of leaving.
Much like the environmental, action packed films of studio Ghibli, this film is more family based and has a slice of life feeling to it. From the opening credits of the ship sailing a beautiful crested blue sea to large fielded mountains surrounded by the ocean I knew I was in love right away. For I love Japanese culture and their agricultural ways of living. I am just a snobby American, living in my four sided box which I leave in my box on wheels to my job and then come home and eat TV dinners. I would love to live on an island, grow my own fruits and vegetables, walk every where and swim in the ocean. So whenever I watch anime that deals with this kind of setting, it puts me in a nostalgic mood to just get up and leave. But of course there are other reasons to like A LETTER TO MOMO. Being an anime of course it has spiritual elements to it and the goblins come into play here. I liked them a lot and their character designs, especially Mame who looks like a naked green gremlin. They have all their own unique characteristics and its fun to watch them interact with Momo, as she gradually gets more use to them. Even when she teaches them things like not to steal, they pay her back with teaching her how to overcome fears and open up and ultimately that develops Momo into a fully fleshed out character. As she learns more about the goblins, we learn more about Momo and even her last days with her father.
I've always liked Production I.G. and they do a good job with the characters here. Making the humans look very realistic (no big boobs here) and the goblins all stand out as their own. The film was written and directed by Hiroyuki Okiura who does a great job with telling his story and pacing it. Hardly dwendling, except for maybe the beginning of act 3 where things kind of slow down and become slightly tedious. But he, like a lot of Japanese filmmakers can make the simplest things special. Where else would you find people talking about a clock or being chased by wild boars entertaining in the same aspects. Because the dialog is good and the story is fun. It's one of the kidder anime out there, but A LETTER TO MOMO is a beautiful little film and might even be a hidden gem. If you love anime see it for sure.