Losing a loved one is always hard- especially if you part on bad terms. You are left wondering, “Could we have mended our differences before the end?” yet knowing that now, you would never know.
So, imagine how hard that must be for a teenage girl. Especially when three clumsy goblins enter the picture.
OK, I admit that premise sounds weird. And yet, it somehow works.
A Letter to Momo is a 2011 animated film written and directed by Hiroyuki Okiura. Even the animation is unusual; it’s very realistic, much more than most Animes tend to be. This works in its favor, however.
In the film, Momo Miyaura is an 11-year old girl whose father recently perished in a boating accident. And yes, she was mad at him at the time, over him not taking her on a trip as promised due to his work. He tried to apologize in a letter, but never got past writing, “Dear Momo”. Now she treasures it as her last connection to him.
She and her mother move into a small island. At first she hates it- she misses the city and its too shy to befriend the local kids.
And then… weird things start to happen.
Food disappears. Momo begins to see shadows move, that no one else seem to notice.
Eventually, she is able to fully see the shadows for what they are: invisible goblins. (Actually they are likely Japanese monsters called bakemono, but the English version calls them goblins.) Naturally, Momo freaks out, but no one will believe her.
She then decides to confront the goblins, and ends up accidentally getting her hands on an amulet which is their only way to return to the Spirit World. It is now that she learns they are a trio of cowardly, clumsy idiots. Not really dangerous- just a nuisance.
Now at an impasse, Momo and the goblins must learn to deal with each other. They claim they are here to protect her family, since they were defeated in the past by an ancestor of hers (this isn’t exactly true, but I’m not telling you the full truth as it is a major spoiler.) Also they cannot help stealing food as they are cursed with eternal hunger; Momo’s attempts to fix this leads them into trouble.
Did I mention that Momo’s mother is sick? Yeah that might count as a spoiler, except it’s just SO obvious it’s going to figure into the climax of the story. It’s the how that’s the real spoiler: all I’ll say is that I wasn’t expecting what they did- in effect, the movie switches into a different genre by the last act, and yet it still works!
A Letter To Momo is probably the most Miyazaki-like film I’ve seen NOT made by Miyazaki: the story of a girl dealing with loss and friendship, and growing up as a result… with the help of some bumbling goblins. My only complaint is that, at two hours, it’s a little too long- it seemed to drag in places. I think an hour and a half running time would have served it better.
Recommended for: fans of drama, comedy, and the supernatural.