A Letter to Momo (Momo e no Tegami) is feature length anime produced by Production I.G., the people who brought you titles such as GitS, Appleseed, FLCL, Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, The Sky Crawlers, some of the recent Tales of intros/movies, and many other anime titles. While this anime may be a change in pace compared to the studio other notable titles, A Letter to Momo does not fail to impress. Overall, this anime falls under the genre of “drama,” but with the appearance of Japanese folklore “fantasy” could also be attributed.
After moving from the city to a remote island where her mother once lived, Momo deals with this sudden change as well as the sudden death of her father.
Spiteful, selfish, and mischievous demons. Momo is somehow able to see these three spirits, which also means that she has to deal with their crazy antics. Usually demons don’t show themselves to humans; why Momo and why are they even here in the first place?
Momo’s mother and now a widow in mourning. However, she’s seems to be content and filled with nostalgia with the recent move to the island. She consistently urges Momo to make the best of her new life on this island.
The First Ten Minutes
The movie, 2 hours in length, starts off with Momo and her mother making their way by ferry to Shiojima(Shio Island), the island where Ikuko once lived. While alone, Momo stares at letter with only the words “Dear Momo” written. Unfinished letters usually are not carried around by people, and definitely not by the person they were meant for. Suddenly though, three droplets of water fall from the Sky and land directly on Momo. Furthermore, these don’t splatter on impact and are able to move on their own?! While Ikuko seems to be rambling on about the island they are headed towards, Momo is unenthused and apathetic to whatever her mother has to say. The first few minutes serve well to set the tone for how Momo feels about the entire situation and introduce the most important plot item, a letter to Momo.
This is a letter to Momo. Who holds onto an unfinished letter? Why was it not finished in the first place?
Once off the ferry, scenic backdrops showoff Production I.G.’s digital animation techniques as well as introduce us to the daily lives of Shiojima humble citizens. Momo and her mother are picked up by an old friend of Ikuko and brought to their new house, a traditional-styled Japanese house. Greetings and small talk ensue between Ikuko and the elderly owners, while Momo remains shy and disattached from the conversation, as any child would be in a foreign and unknown environment. Momo then proceeds to help the elderly move some luggage to the Sky(attic). Then, Momo sets eyes on a box which contains a book illustrating stories from the Edo period. The illustrations depict several different types of monster and demons, as well as the coinciding terrified humans.
People saw some crazy things way back then. From inspection, it looks like these monsters harassed and villagers back their era. Would that still hold true in present times, where most people don’t believe in such absurd beings?
Well, that’s exactly ten minutes into the movie, and only the setup for a story which tries to address a couple questions in a manner which will warm your heart and boil your conscious to the point where you start to evaluate how you treat your loved ones and others around.
Is this just another demon exorcist movie filled with revenge and spite?
This assumption resides on the opposite side of the spectrum. A Letter to Momo is not about revenge, fighting, or trying to confine the world into working a single way; rather, we follow the life of one young girl trying to overcome the insurmountable feeling of guilt and of leaving feelings left unsaid. How would you feel if you cursed one of your loved ones to never come home again, only to realize you would never see them again? How would you react when you realized that there would never be a chance to formally reconcile with each other? And what would happen if there was a possible way to apologize or, at the very least, say goodbye one last time to your loved one?
This may feel depressing and unsettling to actually imagine such a scenario, but Momo faces this reality on an island where she knows no one and her mother has to leave during the day to work. All alone, cicada buzzing and the sounds of an old and empty house are the only things present that could possibly soothe the emptiness she feels from mourning her father. However, the world is not always so dark. It may be annoying and steal all of your pudding, but certainly not dark. Momo is cursed with a sixth sense, the ability to see the spirits of another world; in this case, three disturbing looking demons which are causing continuous mischief for everyone in the village but more so for Momo. In a series of ridiculous and very GIF-able events, Momo tries to confront these demons and stop them from ruining her new home. Wait, what about the endless, emptiness that was consuming Momo’s conscious? Well, distractions are always good for dealing with those kinds of things; Momo realizes that three demons eating all her pudding is more important.
So pudding-eating demons, they are the main enemies?
Remember, no revenge, almost no fighting, and definitely no katana-wielding canine spirits. What should be taken from Momo’s relationship with these demons is how Momo changes during the course of her new and very hectic life. Sitting around and moping never accomplished anything, and as much as Momo may want to remain in a state of mourning, these demons are hellbent on doing as they please during their stay on the island; this consists of eating (everything) constantly and stealing items from little girls. Overcoming struggles and the accompanying events are what life is about. It wouldn’t be so bad if we could wake up one day and realize that everything wrong in our life was fixed, but that is never going to happen. A Letter to Momo doesn’t try to make the impossible occur either; Momo does get over the death of her father, yet she accomplishes this in a way that reminds everyone that in order to be happy and feel fulfillment, one needs to admit there wrongdoings, recognize their mistakes, and take initiative to make things right. While Momo remains stubborn and unwilling to confront the demons, both real and metaphorically, when the moment arose for initiative to be taken, she boldly acts as a form of repentance for all she has done since the death of her father and as a way to define how she will start living her life.
It takes to time and effort to manage a bunch of foolish demons, but it can be done. Momo also has realized that this island has more to it than old people and farmers. The demons don’t really care much for the scenery though.
Flaws and other causes for concern
There are a few spoilers and key facts which I have not mentioned since they would probably ruin the viewing experience. This anime serves well as a feel-good piece that adds in a bit of humor and suspenseful moments. If you want something that tackles of the topics discussed more seriously, then this isn’t recommended. Looking for a somewhat serious anime that likes to have fun with its characters and lead you through their crazy antics, which in turn end up resolving many problems they began with? This may be that anime. In all regards this is a good movie, though I do not think it tells the story much different from Natsume Yuujinchou (which isn’t a negative point). There was also a point where I felt that the movie was not accomplishing much besides watching demons cause mischief and Momo chasing and yelling after them, though this may very well be the embodiment of the whole movie. However, at the point of the climax and the proceeding falling action is where the movie really shines in terms of resolving problems and bringing out the best in the characters. Occasionally, some movies have a hard time resolving conflict when its expected. Since this is not a tragedy or a horror, resolution is expected and the manner in which character relations are ended or strengthened are done quite well in this movie; there are no sudden disappearance of characters or lack of information when there should be.
Final Arbitrary Score: 1-10 (1-atrocious/10-outstanding)
Animation – Production I.G., nuff said.
GIF-ability – 8, I am going to make reaction GIFs of this very soon.
Cicada Buzzing – 9, for an island in the middle of summer, the cicadas were just at the point of creating a nice, immersive atmosphere.
Moe – 3, 11 year old girl talking to demons and running around town like a lunatic, yelling at the top of her lungs = not moe.
Conscious Jabbing – 7, try not to reflect on your life too much or imagine dreadful scenarios about loved ones.
Humor – 7, had a few good chuckles, and as mentioned before funny faces are funny.
Weird Demon/Spirit Stuff – 6, I think Princess Mononoke and Ghost Hound got this one beat. If anything its pretty mild folklore.
This is a legacy Review, lost in the long past days of Takuchat. Feel free to stop by Speakout and talk about anything! You can buy the movie, here.