Well I first heard of A Letter to Momo less than a week ago when a couple of my friends were raving about it and making it clear that it would only been at the Varsity for the rest of the week. I made a note of it and planned to see it when the DVD came out. Then I saw the absolutely glorious poster and decided I couldn’t wait.
I’m embarrassed to say that I was not been familiar with Hiroyuki Okiura and what work of his I had seen I had attributed to Mamoru Oshii. A Letter To Momo is story of a girl who moves to a small town on an island it the inland sea with her mother after the death of her father. Once there she encounters and befriends a trio of yokai (the subtitles translates it as goblins) sent to watch over her and her mother.
All of this is lovingly paced with the film taking it’s own sweet time to put all of the pieces in place. I love it how little details are place in a way that while they are clearly in plain sight you only really notice them until the characters do. (my favorite example is that one of the first bits of evidence of the Yokai’s existence are some packets of pudding they ate. I like how this is very much a child’s story. Momo is very much a shy eleven year old who has fears and jumps to conclusions the way any child would. This is most apparent when she mistakes her mother’s brave face for uncaring leading to the dramatic climax of the film.
This was one of those movies that I wish I’d been able to see twice. Once to actually WATCH the movie and once to take in all of the wonderful details. This film is one of those movies that is a virtual love letter to it’s location (other examples of this in anime I cam name are Kamichu and Haruhi Suzumiya) every street, store and shrine is lovingly painted without the slightest detail left out. Despite this being clearly fantasy this is very much a realist film that slowly and meticulously adds the fantastic elements in a believable way. It did it so well I was genuinely surprised whenever something blatantly “cartoonish” happened.
All in all this is very much a film I will happily put on my list of favorite feature length anime. I kept finding myself comparing it to My Neighbor Totoro with it both about a girl moving to the country, encountering a fantasy world and this is in no way a bad thing.