Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Movie Review: Momo e no Tegami (A Letter to Momo)


From IMDB :

“ Clinging to an unfinished letter written by her recently deceased father, young Momo moves with her mother from bustling Tokyo to the remote Japanese island of Shio. Upon their arrival, she lizard Kawa, the childlike Mame and their hulking ogre leader Iwa. Momo also learns that begins to explore her new habitat, meeting local children and learning their routines and customs. However, it's not long before several bizarre occurrences crop up around the previously tranquil island. Orchards are found ransacked, prized trinkets start disappearing and, worst of all, each morning after her mother leaves for work, Momo hears strange mumblings coming from the attic of their home. Annoyed by these creepy goings-on and her mother's refusal to believe them, Momo embarks on a strange and supernatural adventure to discover the source of the mischief, which leads her to a trio of troublesome imps: the flatulent her visit to the island is in some way connected to her father's mysterious letter. “ – 7.3/10 Rating

What this casual anime fan and yokai-looking human thinks...

I didn’t know much about this movie. Didn’t even know it existed until last week when i was bored and looking through the IMDB app on my phone. Looking through a bunch of trailers and other stuff i glanced at the image for this movie. Curiosity got the best of me and i had a look at the trailer. I was entertained by it. Made me think of Hayao Miyazaki and Ghibli movies and more specifically Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi or better known as Spirited Away. 

So according to what i read up on this movie, it actually wasn’t really done by the creators of Ghost in the Shell as is suggested by the Rotten Tomatoes write up. It was produced by the same studio as the Ghost in the Shell series, Production I.G. which is one of the most well known Japanese animation studios in Japan. They’ve done lots of cool stuff. You should look it up if you love animation.

The director of this movie, Hiroyuki Okiura has worked on Ghost in the Shell among other amazing projects including his own award winning directorial debut Jin-Roh and my favourite anime space adventure Cowboy Bebop:The Movie but to say he was a creator of Ghost in the Shell is a bit misleading. But don’t let this distract you.

This movie was pretty good. It’s in no way as good as Spirited Away but still i think it can stand on its own.

The art work and visuals is to be expected from a studio like Production I.G. At moments it even looks like a Ghibli movie. The details are superb. Lush and beautiful. Not as perfect as a Ghibli movie but still you won’t be disappointed.

The characters are beautifully drawn but will remind you of characters from anime series. If you’ve watched enough anime and especially Production I.G. stuff you’ll see what i mean. There’s nothing really all that especial about them, not like Ghibli movies where every character in every movie is unique in their appearance. Exaggerated in some unique and lovely ways.
The music is also lovely, working with the visuals to enhance it. And occasionally drive it forward.

An expression you might have when watching this movie, maybe... ©Kadokawa Pictures ©ProductionI.G.

Now for the story experience. So Momo moves away from Tokyo with her mother after the death of her father. Prior to the move and after her fathers’ death she finds a letter started by her father in his study. She didn’t leave things off on a happy note when she last saw her father, so you know she has unresolved emotional issues. And the move from her comfort zone to an island probably won’t help.

So they move into an old house. It would seem to be her mother’s old home. It’s old and empty. Just as things seem to start to settle down and in she begins to see things and hear voices. Shadowy things following her mother. Voices up in the attic talking about her and her mother.

So enter Ika, Kawa and Mame. Spirits that seemingly take the form of Yokai’s she saw in a book up in the attic when they first move in. These three look weird and a little creepy but are completely harmless.

When she first sees them. ©Kadokawa Pictures ©ProductionI.G.

When the four first meet of course she freaks out and these freak outs actually make for some entertaining and hilarious scenes. But they’re not laugh out laud hilarious. Maybe more humourous than hilarious.

In between these moments of humourous freak outs you are introduced to the island and the other character who plays a role in getting Momo to open up. A young boy her age who invites her to jump off a bridge. Now don’t get weird thoughts about mass suicide, they’re just jumping off the bridge for a swim in the ocean. In fact you’re treated to this scene of young kids jumping off the bridge in the first few minutes of the opening scene.

A dance routine for you to learn. ©Kadokawa Pictures ©ProductionI.G.

So Momo and the Yokai’s get to know each other and they go through the motions of it. And even get into trouble as the Yokai’s go around stealing stuff around the island to eat. This of course bothers Momo and as it happens on one occasion her mother finds her up in the attic with all the stolen goods and not being able to see the Yokai’s she asks Momo where it all came from. Not wanting to lie she tells the truth but of course isn’t believed. Things are said and Momo runs away from home. This leaves her mother in a panic and brings about an old illness she has.

When things get serious. ©Kadokawa Pictures ©ProductionI.G.

A neighbour finally finds Momo hiding up in the hills and when she finds out about her mother she is determined to find a doctor. Unfortunately a huge typhoon is upon the island and the only doctor on the island is on a different island. Still she’s determined and with the help of an equally if suddenly determined neighbour they head on out. Taking a bridge that has yet to be opened to get to the other island.

The Yokai’s  meanwhile go through a purpose of existence crisis. They’re here for a reason, a mission. And there are some things they can’t or shouldn’t do or they get sent back to the heavens. But they feel guilty for not helping her. But of course they figure something out and with the help of the spirits of the island they come up with a plan.

Sometimes solutions to a problem involve making your own tunnel out of paranormal stuff. ©Kadokawa Pictures ©ProductionI.G.

Things of course go well. The typhoon passes and mother is fine. And it’s time for the Yokai’s to go. They say their farewells and Momo asks them a favor. To take with them a message for her father.

A few days later at a festival where they release boats made of straw with altars on them for those that have passed on, she gets her answer.

When Momo receives a reply to her letter. ©Kadokawa Pictures ©ProductionI.G.

As I said before, I enjoyed this movie. It definitely has it’s moments. If I’ve mentioned Spirited Away it’s only because I saw some similarities between them. You’ll probably notice them too but in no way should you compare the two. In fact, don’t even think or try to remember Spirited Away when you watch A Letter to Momo. Watch this with an open mind and a fresh perspective and you might enjoy it. Also there’s a scene where they kidnap some baby wildboar and are chased by the parents of the said baby wildboar. And then an epic fart happens.

A Letter to Momo was released in 2012 worldwide so you should be able to find it on your favorite movie site or store quite easily. I give it a solid 7.5 out of 10. 


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