A Hiroyuki Okiura film.
A LETTER TO MOMO (Momo e no Tegami) (2011) is a detailed hand-drawn animated feature by writer/director Hiroyuki Okiura. Oftentimes, many of the Japanese animated films would feature a child in a particular form of parental separation, either through isolation or death. In Miyazaki’s Ponyo (2008), a small boy, who’s father is often away on long fishing trips, befriends a little goldfish princess “Ponyo,” who wishes to become human. In Okiuru’s A Letter to Momo (2011), the central character in the film, Momo, is dealing with the death of a parent. Both films focus is on an emotionally driven storyline, and in both films; the human characters are provided with some form of supernatural companion, which serve as the child’s guardians through tragedy.
When Momo last saw her father, she was furious with him. Unfortunately, he died before the two could reconcile. While sifting through the desks in her father’s office, Momo found an incomplete letter her father had written. The words, “Dear Momo,” was all that was written. The incomplete message Momo kept pocketed, and whenever she had a moment, she would again read the words “Dear Momo,” and wonder what it was her father intended to tell her. Soon after, Momo’s mother moved back to her childhood island of Shio to escape their busy lives in Tokyo.
It is on this small island that Momo meets and befriends three imps or “Yoakai” living in her attic. They are from the spiritual world of the “Above” and Momo traps them in this world, keeping them from returning to the “other side.” Kawa, Mame and Iwa, far from being spiritual horrors and are childish–often found stealing food-stuffs from the local grocery, involving themselves in whatever mischief in order to satisfy their never-ending hunger. The four busy themselves in mischief on the island provides a necessary distraction that allow Momo to escape her grief. Their connection is magical and soon after Momo realizes that her new friends might hold the secret to helping her figure out what her father was trying to tell her.
With the announcement of Hayo Miyazaki‘s retirement, it is of some relief that Okiura’s brand of animated storytelling will still make its way to US audiences. Okiura’s A Letter to Momo is effective at depicting a young girl’s emotional and maturational transition from grief by pairing her alongside spiritual creatures that behave immaturely thereby forcing Momo to take on the role as the “adult” even though these creatures are thousands of years older than she is. Even though there are many moments for comedic relief–the feature remains focused on Momo’s journey through grief.
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