Posted by psgels on 2 December 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews

The target audiences for movies are completely different from those of TV-series. What’s most impressive is that the most overused genre, the family movie, is actually consistently very good and that there are very few people taking advantage of it with cheap and bad story-lines, like what’s currently happening with the fanservice in TV-series. They’re all attempting to be well executed.

Having said that though, there are a lot of movies that just look like each other. I’m of course talking about the My Neighbour Totoro-inspired series: you take a village, you take a kid, and you take some sort of supernatural being, and you try to create a heart-warming story around it. The stories indeed are heart-warming, but they don’t really try to do something new with the genre and tropes. Miyazaki himself did this with Ponyo, a few years ago, but apart from that I can’t really think of many other movies. A Letter to Momo however, gives a really good attempt to stand out, though.

It’s just all so real. These movies stand out with their realism, but this one reallygoes the extra edge: Momo really feels like a typical young girl, and this movie adds so many quirks for her that other movies look over. It’s all in the details, though, but those details are amazing. The animation also really shows this, with a lot of Madhouse’s top people working on it. The faces in this movie are all 2-dimensional, but they have depth. The way they’re animated, the way they move: you feel like they’re more than just a few drawn lines, something quite rare in today’s animation. It only adds even more to the realism and believability.

Where this really sets itself apart though, is in the supernatural creatures that visit Momo. They are nearly always innocent: cute, adorable, mysterious. In this movie, they’re the complete opposites: while they have good intentions, these beings are flawed, annoying, they continuously cause trouble, they keep stealing from everyone, they keep harassing Momo, and they have just generally un-likable personalities. And yet it’s been a while since I laughed as much at a movie as here. They are the kind of characters that were supposed to be annoying, yet only ended up really charming because of it.

The overall plot of this movie is something you should not expect much of: you’ve seen it before in other movies. However, the way in which it does this is remarkable and defnitely deserves a watch as one of the best attempts on how to do it since Totoro. For the Jin Roh fans who were looking forward to this movie though (the director of Jin Ron has also directed this movie, working on it for seven years): expect nothing like it. This movie has no political messages whatsoever, and is the complete opposite of Jin Roh was. It’s a bit of a shame considering how original Jin Roh was and all, but that does not make A Letter to Momo any less impressive.

Storytelling: 8/10 – The plot is nothing special, but how it was told stands out as the best since Totoro of its trope.
Characters: 9/10 – Absolutely lovable, yet different. Excellent acting as well, although the way they developed has been done before.
Production-Values: 9.5/10 – Very realistic. Characters have depth, lots of details and the characters really are brought to life here.
Setting: 8/10 – Realistic portrayal of a random village, nice ideas. Solid

Suggestions:
My Neighbour Totoro
Junkers Come Here

10 Responses

  1. Avatar witchy says:

    I’d seen this weeks before. The ending came into a good full circle. ^^ I wish we’ll get to watch Nerawareta Gakuen and Library War movie soon. :)

  2. Avatar kero says:

    I saw this movie in the cinema, I enjoyed it and thought it was cute, but nothing much really happens for how long the movie was. I would have liked a bit more action, or more changes of scenes.

    I did think it was great how weird/ugly the supernatural creatures were.

  3. Avatar shigurui says:

    Was a little disappointed actually. The realism is there but there is some room for improvement.

    *Spoiler alert*
    Characters development too simple. They seem to have this robotic look (other than occasionally giving off weird smiles exactly like those you see in Omohide Poro Poro), i believe it is intended, which is okay for all the side characters but not for Momo.

    Why so? The main character is supposed to be a city folk, and is supposed to be homesick (to what extent it doesnt matter) but she doesnt seem to display any of these characteristics in the film. The film would have made better sense for me, if Momo appeared more as a spoilt girl in the beginning or something. Well you can say the non-human characters may have helped her alleviate some of these stress throughout but it is the same even when they were not present. Yes she seemed hard time adapting to hew new life in a fishing town but, given that the initial parts of the film has pictured her in an obvious way that she was not interested at all in getting to know her new surrounding, it seemed to me she adapted to the new lifestyle with relative ease and way too fast.

    I think the director had forgotten to take into account the significance that a young girl (not an adult who may have less of a hard time adapting) is not temporarily staying or vacationing in a place outside Tokyo, but was in a way being forced to be a permanent resident in a new life. I am not even accounting for the fact that she is still grieving from her loved one’s passing, which could have made the fault more dire.

    In fact I was more attracted to the non-human characters because being purely fictional characters, I was spared from having to bother if they are realistic or not. Although I would think it could have been better if they possess more intelligence than what was perceived in the film, I mean they had lived through so many eras (assuming they are much older than mortals) so one should expect them to be able to think or take better responsibility in how to resolve the unexpected problems right?

    Probably everyone else will disagree with my opinion (as I have given my review in IMDB and I am the only one with a rating less than 8/10 lol.) but really, I have seen better anime movies talking about the same subject matter.

    • Avatar someloser says:

      spolit… like spoiled right? well, I’m quite sure that not all cityfolk are supposed to be spoiled, and truthfully it would probably be a bit weird for a girl to continue her spoiled nature after being guilted by the death of her father. As for character development, the girl finally plays with the other children only at the end of the film, and throughout the film she makes attempts to play with the other kids, so is it really that fast? Then again the demons also go about and help her adapt as well.

      also, can you list the better anime movies as well? im running out of movies to watch.

      • Avatar shigurui says:

        I am refering to the reluctance to cope with the new environment, or maybe she doesn’t need to be reluctant, but if anyone of us is in that situation we will have to cope with unfamiliar grounds right? Whether she is actually a spoilt brat or not, from the perspective residents in that town it is likely they will view her as a spoilt brat.

        That indirectly takes a lot away from character development as well because she seems to be less affected by all these things than what I had expected. But you are right the development is there, just not at a large enough quantum in my opinion, because there was no ‘low base’.

        I cant think of a good movie recently, but this movie reminds me a lot about Omohide Poro Poro because the people in these 2 movies had the same robotic look and the weird smile that you see occasionally, unlike in other anime. But for Omohide’s case, that structure made more sense to me

        • Avatar shigurui says:

          Nyangoro’s mention of From the Poppy Hill impressed me as well.

        • Avatar mulligan says:

          Agree with above commentors re the somewhat “fixed” look to characters, but I actually enjoyed that spared, natural approach. It’s a different take on ‘realism’ compared to say Miyazaki or even Satoshi Kon’s work.

          Personally I felt the most outstanding feature of this film was actually timing – both in shots, action and also humour and dialogue. My immediate thought went straight to Spirited Away and Toki Kakeru Shoujo (have not yet seen Ookami no Kodomo). But I think Momo really distinguished itself in the quality of animation.

          Overall a really likeable film, would love to see more like this from Japan’s animation production houses in future.

  4. Avatar Nyangoro says:

    I, too, wasn’t especially thrilled with this work. I mean, it gets quite a few points in certain places (such as the production values and the setting); but when you get right down to it, the actual meat just wasn’t there for me. I thoroughly enjoyed both Momo and her mother, finding them to be very well-crafted characters, but everyone else felt much more wooden by comparison.

    The worst part, however, was the fact that the movie takes two-hours to go all of a foot. All the major development is crammed into the very beginning and the very ending, with the middle feeling more like needless padding than meaningful events. The creatures especially have dreadfully little purpose here, and slow the 2nd act down to a painful grind.

    I was amazed when I saw that this one take the prize at APSA, especially over the likes of Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki and From Up on Poppy Hill. Now, I haven’t seen the former yet, but the latter is one of my favorite post-2000 Ghibli-produced films (second only to Spirited Away).

  5. Avatar Juno says:

    This was a great movie. I was surprised to find out it took place right near the city I was living in 4 years ago (Imabari), so the atmosphere caught me in a soft spot. =3

  6. Avatar Rincewind says:

    I just watched this movie. Love it.

    Its fantastic. The animation is amazing. The expression, the movements, its so… lively.
    The story is great too, the pacing is just right. And the characters are very likeable. The youkai antics are pure fun!

    It’s a must see for me.

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