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A Letter to Momo (2011)
"Momo e no tegami" (original title)

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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 2,102 users   Metascore: 65/100
Reviews: 8 user | 36 critic | 11 from Metacritic.com

Clinging to an unfinished letter written by her recently deceased father, young Momo moves with her mother from bustling Tokyo to the remote Japanese island of Shio. Upon their arrival, she... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Karen Miyama ...
Momo Miyaura (voice)
Yuka ...
Ikuko Miyaura (voice)
Daizaburo Arakawa ...
Kazuo Miyaura (voice)
Toshiyuki Nishida ...
Iwa (voice)
Kôichi Yamadera ...
Kawa (voice)
Cho ...
Mame (voice)
Yoshisada Sakaguchi ...
Great Uncle (voice)
Ikuko Tani ...
Great Auntie (voice)
Takeo Ogawa ...
Koichi (voice)
Kota Fuji ...
Yota (voice)
Katsuki Hashimoto ...
Umi (voice)
...
Momo Miyaura (voice)
...
Ikuko Miyaura (voice)
Kirk Thornton ...
Kazuo Miyaura (voice)
...
Iwa (voice)
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Storyline

Clinging to an unfinished letter written by her recently deceased father, young Momo moves with her mother from bustling Tokyo to the remote Japanese island of Shio. Upon their arrival, she begins to explore her new habitat, meeting local children and learning their routines and customs. However, it's not long before several bizarre occurrences crop up around the previously tranquil island. Orchards are found ransacked, prized trinkets start disappearing and, worst of all, each morning after her mother leaves for work, Momo hears strange mumblings coming from the attic of their home. Annoyed by these creepy goings-on and her mother's refusal to believe them, Momo embarks on a strange and supernatural adventure to discover the source of the mischief, which leads her to a trio of troublesome imps: the flatulent lizard Kawa, the childlike Mame and their hulking ogre leader Iwa. Momo also learns that her visit to the island is in some way connected to her father's mysterious letter. Written by Anonymous

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21 April 2012 (Japan)  »

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A Letter to Momo  »

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User Reviews

 
The Aftermath of the Great Earthquke
18 April 2013 | by (Portland, Maine USA) – See all my reviews

The film is a story about a girl's spiritual growth and overcoming difficulties in a new life. Momo Miyaura, a sullen 11-year-old, encounters three goblins from an old Edo-era's comic book. The goblins are Iwa, Kawa and Mame. Iwas is large, clumsy and honest; Kawa is middle, manipulative and greedy; Mame is small, slow and infantile. They are mischievous, sloppy and dull.

Their appearances are reminiscent of "Kyoka Hyakki Yakyo," an illustration of goblins in an Edo-era comic book called "Kibyoshi." "Kibyoshi" is a precursor of 'manga.' In the Edo era, various images of goblins entertained readers and told valuable lessons.

The film is set in Shio Shima, Inland Sea, an allusion to Yasujiro Ozu's classical film "Tokyo Story." Momo moves from Tokyo to the small island after her father's sudden death. While she is boarding a ship, three drops of spirits come down from the sky and land on her. The drops are the goblins or guardians, which help her reconcile a sad memory about her father. She regrets criticizing her father before he passed away.

In the film, the legendary goblins and Momo develop strange but warmhearted relationships that unite the past and present, or this world and afterlife. A motif of connectedness appears at various levels and creates a poignant but cheerful story. First, it shows continuation of time in Japanese popular culture by making a connection with the funny goblins emerging from a "kibyoshi" and in Momo's contemporary life. The past is linked to the present via 'manga.' The emergence of old 'manga'unfolds a history of Japanese popular culture, which intertwines with her daily life and symbolizes continuity.

Second, the connectedness illustrates the relationships between the spirits and humans in a spectacular way. Various types of spirits such as orchard spirits, ocean spirits and forest spirits assist Momo. This is most memorably exemplified when the spirits collaborate to help her in the midst of a fierce typhoon. Thanks to their support, she overcomes a difficulty. Demonstrating collective forces, the animating spirits generate a harmonious and splendid message that life is working with others. Nobody can live alone.

In addition, the scene also gives us a lesson. Each one of the vigorous spirits provides her with a tiny power that is almost negligible, but its contribution is valuable and finally brings a tremendous result to aid her. It reminds us that selfishness and indifference do not bring anything good. The significant message is that everybody has a role to play in the world. The scene is a pivotal moment of her spiritual growth.

Furthermore, the connectedness with the spirits also underlines a powerful animistic note that we are part of nature, which exerts enormous power and is larger than us. Nature and humans can coexist harmoniously in this world. The connectedness is the key that keeps our lives going.

Third, the connectedness demonstrates that death is not the end of life. The goblins have been sent from Above in order to watch over the living. Their special mission is to rally round Momo and report about her life to Above. Their mission expresses a vastness of time in human life, including the afterlife. In short, the dead also have a mission to do in this world. A person's life in this world is finite, but one receives another mission to complete in the afterlife. The amicable relationships between the hilarious goblins and her imply that the deceased can also return to this world and work together with the living. The connection between the dead and the living indicates a culture of ancestor worship, emphasizing the relationships between ancestors and offspring, or the past and present.

Accordingly, the story offers a strong viewpoint that it is possible that we can be befriended by spirits or the deceased. A sense of infinite life is an unforgettably emotional moment and contributes to her psychological relief that she has another chance to make up with her father. Finally, the togetherness ameliorates her hardship. All the connectedness is linked to a process of her reconciliation with her regret.

This film would be particularly appealing for victims of the unprecedented great earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. Many people unexpectedly lost their loved ones and everyday lives. They were totally unprepared to suffer such tragedies, let alone time to bid farewell. Later, they left their familiar lands and have been struggling with new environments.

In the film, such sentiments are clearly illustrated. Momo's father had an accident at sea and never returned. Her relocation to Shio Shima is an outcome of the loss of her father. The abrupt loss echoes Japanese collective grief and sorrow for those affected by the unbearable incidents.

Likewise, Momo's struggle is part of their struggle. Her feeling of sadness is theirs; her tears are theirs. Eventually, her achievements foreshadow their hopefulness. The story captures her shuttered heart as a reflection of theirs. It epitomizes Japanese psychology – many people hesitate to talk about their tragedy because it is negative.

The film finally offers a moment of catharsis and kindles a flame of hope. Consequently, underlining the importance of familial bonds and hopes that keep them going toward their future, "A Letter to Momo" is a letter to those victims.

More importantly, the story conveys Japanese Gambaro spirit that is an encouragement for people to work hard. The spiritual essence cultivates a sense of esprit-de-corps and persistence. Gambaro spirit is a sense of working hard together and for others, who will help us sometime and somewhere.

Ultimately, intersecting beings from the afterlife with this world, the film informs us of a traditional belief that invisible spirits live together in this world in order to help us.

All the deceased are our guardians, so chin up!


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