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momo e no tegami [Oct. 29th, 2011|02:06 pm]
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I recently saw the anime movie Momo e no tegami (A Letter to Momo) by the studio Production I.G (I think most famous for Ghost in the Shell SAC?) at the local film festival. At the time I hadn't realized that it hadn't actually been widely released, even in Japan. According to the rather lacking in content official site it should come out spring 2012. In any case, this is the story of a pre-teen girl Momo. Her father has died and she and her mother are moving to a small island in the Inland Sea to stay with her mother's relatives (who speak a dialect that made it somewhat hard to understand them sometimes...thank goodness for the subtitles ^^;). Momo deeply regrets her last words to her father and is rather sullen in the beginning (I love the sub-monosyllabic responses she makes to her mom. You know, can't even be bothered to say "yes" or "no," gotta go with "mm" or whatever). She has to come out of her sullenness when she's confronted by goblins that inhabit her new house, and naturally has an adventure (or two) and grows up just a bit. It reminded me of Ghibli movies with young female protagonists such as Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro), Majo no Takkyuubin (Kiki's Delivery Service), Mimi wo Sumaseba (Whisper of the Heart), and maybe even a touch of Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away). The animation was fully hand-done, and according to the producer* who was at the screening it took a long time (7 years?) because the director waited to get the animators he wanted to work on it when they could.

I have to say that while I enjoyed it and thought it was pretty well-done, I didn't love love love it. It didn't touch and move me nearly as much as the Miyazaki movies I mentioned above. I think it didn't help that I thought there were too many elements I'd seen before, but without that touch of magic, of whimsy that the best of Miyazaki's movies have. I feel bad comparing the movie to Miyazaki's movies, but at the same time they surely new they would be compared. It is in the strike zone of the heartwarming story of a girl with supernatural stuff thrown in done so well by Miyazaki.

In the end, though, I'd highly recommend this movie to most people. It is touching and sweet. It's so old-school it felt rather refreshing. Check out the teaser to see a bit more.

*OMG they needed a real translator for the producer. They had a couple of Japanese women who barely made any sense in English (and naturally totally failed to convey the producer's words to the audience). Painful to the extreme. >_< According to the producer, the director was inspired by some old Japanese movie featuring a man traveling around Japan with goblins. He found an old book exactly like one that appears in Momo in a used bookshop, which I believe helped him envision what the goblins looked like.