Letter To Momo film review: the next big anime hit?

Hayao Miyazaki is channelled in the Ghibli-inspired Letter To Momo

Animator Hiroyuki Okiura, who worked on Ghost In The Shell, along with many other famous Production IG anime films, tries his hand at both writing and directing for the first time in this good-looking hand-drawn animation. This long-awaited follow up to dark fantasy, Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (screenplay from Mamoru Oshii) bears many similarities to Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli output.

When 11-year-old Momo’s father suddenly passes away, she and her mother move from Tokyo to live with her grand auntie and uncle on the remote island of Shio. Momo’s father’s early departure proves difficult for both women, but is especially hard on Momo, who finds an unfinished note from him addressed to her, which leads her to all kinds of conjecture as to his unspoken thoughts.

Momo is left alone at home while her guardians work in the lush green fields of the island, which leads her imagination to start running wild. When her auntie presents her with a spooky comic-book, she scares herself silly thinking about ghosts and goblins. Her fear of a ghastly presence makes itself known in the form of three greedy goblins who get her into all kinds of trouble and take her on a marvellous adventure through the wilderness of youth and the agonies of grief.

A high-speed chase sequence which recalls the rapid, surreal momentum of Cat Bus from My Neighbour Totoro blended with the haphazard intensity of the parade scene from Paprika proves to be exhilarating. Okiura swaps out his gentle, playful animation towards the end of his anime with spectacular results that evoke the growing pains and anxieties of his main character.

This accessible and heartfelt anime charms because of its honesty and impressive attention detail, though it never quite reaches the same impressive heights as Miyazaki’s imaginative adventures. In comparison with the aforementioned Ghibli, it sadly suffers from too many similarities. The three naughty spirit creatures who accompany Momo, one of
who includes a frog with the superpower of toxic flatulence, adds an anarchic spirit that should appeal to young viewers.