Earlier this month, All The Anime released theatrical anime A Letter to Momo. A Letter to Momo was animated by renowned studio Production I.G. and directed by Hiroyuki Okiura. Production I.G. have previously produced such titles as Psycho-Pass, Eden of the East, and the Ghost in the Shell series. Director Hiroyuki Okiura previously directed Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade in 1999, though he has also worked as Key Animator on films such as Akira, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, and Paprika. I didn’t know quite what to expect when I sat down to watch A Letter to Momo, but the emotional journey that Momo, and we as viewers, embark on certainly did not disappoint.
A Letter To Momo focuses on 11-year-old Momo, who grew up in Tokyo; when her father dies, she moves with her mother to the Seto Inland Sea. More specifically, they move to her mother’s estate. The scenery here is antiquated but a wonder to behold, with wooden buildings, shrines surrounded by trees, and fields that look out of place on the hills they inhabit. Momo possesses a letter from her father, written, though unfinished, before he died, consisting of only the words “Dear Momo”. The potential for what this letter could’ve been destined to say is the source of Momo’s uneasiness. She opens an old Edo Period picture book in the attic and looks at some of the images before putting it away; three water droplets from the sky enter this book and cause three of the goblins drawn within to take corporeal form.
This is where the journey truly begins, and we are treated to a magical one at that. Momo’s relationship with her mother is explored primarily, though the events that led to the “Dear Momo” letter are also detailed through flashback. She begins a rivalry and then an unlikely friendship with the goblins; their true nature is revealed eventually and paves the way for Momo to repair her relationship with her mother, and fully accept the loss of her father.
The Seto Inland Sea, the island on which Momo lives in particular, is portrayed beautifully in this film. Production I.G. have done an excellent job with the animation throughout, both characters and backgrounds, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were watching a Studio Ghibli film. The goblins lend themselves perfectly to a Ghibli-esque film, and a feeling of nostalgia is evoked early on. A Letter To Momo takes a delicate subject, the premature passing of a young girl’s father, and treats it with the utmost care whilst still weaving it into the story effectively. The animation is mostly fluid throughout, with a cast of likeable characters, both human and otherwise, and the musical score restrained but fitting. There was, however, one occasion during which the animation seemed to drop in framerate noticeably, but only for a few moments.
Both Japanese and English audio options are presented in 5.1 DTS-HD MA and 2.0 LPCM. The Japanese audio options include English subtitles, while the English audio options default to a signs only track; it’s nice to see an optional SDH subtitle track for the English audio though. The subtitles are white and can be read with ease. I opted for the Japanese 5.1 track, and the rear channels were used effectively but not pointlessly. I did switch over to the English track to sample it at one point but found the voicework for Momo to be stale. The Japanese voice work felt as if it had much more attention to detail.
While the collector’s edition includes a 36-page booklet which contains an interview with the director Hiroyuki Okiura, profiles of the Japanese cast and staff, production notes, and a gallery section, there is also an impressive offering on-disc. The 38-minute The Making of Letter To Momo featurette details the production of the movie. The Digital Art Gallery is a short slideshow of art from the film, including a Japanese Theatrical poster, with the movie’s theme as the backing music. Trailers include the Japanese Theatrical trailer, two TV Spots for the movie, the Japanese Home Video Ad, and two interesting additions in an Hiroshima Tourism Ad Featuring A Letter To Momo and a Coffee Drink Ad Featuring A Letter To Momo. A Short sequence of silent animation clips produced before the main feature are included under Animation test clips. Despite the excellent extras included, it would’ve been nice to have seen a Picture-in-Picture storyboard option like we get for Studio Ghibli movies, especially with Letter to Momo splendidly evoking feelings of Ghibli-movie-watching nostalgia.
© 2012 “A Letter to Momo” Film Partners