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Anime / A Letter to Momo

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A Letter to Momo is a 2011 anime film written and directed by Hiroyuki Okiura and produced by Production I.G. Okiura was previously responsible for Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, but as this film was not scripted by Mamoru Oshii, it is much easier to understand.

Momo Miyaura (Karen Miyama) is an 11-year old girl who has recently moved to her mother Ikuko's (Yuka) hometown on a small island in Japan's Inland Sea. She and her mother are in mourning after an accident that killed her oceanographer father Kazuo (Daizaburo Arakawa), whose last words to her were the words "Dear Momo," the beginning of a letter he was not able to finish. Soon after she moves in, she realises she is being followed by three youkai (goblins); previous gods sent to Earth to watch over the living in order to atone for their crimes.

The film also stars Toshiyuki Nishida as Iwa, Kōichi Yamadera as Kawa and Chō as Mame.

A Letter to Momo debuted at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, and has also been shown at other film festivals in various cities worldwide, including Honolulu (USA), Glasgow (UK), Sitges (Spain), Warsaw (Poland), and Busan (S. Korea).

This film provides examples of:

  • Animal Motifs: Kawa has the most resemblance to a frog.
  • The Atoner:
    • All the goblins are on earth as punishment because they broke rules as gods.
    • Momo herself decides to make up for what she said to Kazuo and Ikuko.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: While calling out Kazuo for not attending the Vienna Boys Choir concert, Momo tells him she doesn't care if he comes back. Moments later, Kazuo dies during his research project.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The goblins help Momo and Koichi cross the bridge to search for a doctor to heal Ikuko's asthma problems.
  • Big Eater: The three banished goblins.
  • Big Heroic Run: Towards the end of the film, Momo and Koichi have to go across the bridge with the goblins' help to save Ikuko's life.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: Big Iwa, Thin Kawa, and Short Mame.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Ikuko is saved from her asthma attack and she and Momo make up for their earlier argument. Momo finally knows what her father wanted to write in his letter to her. But Momo must bid farewell to the trio, but thanks them for all they have done.
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: Momo runs away from her house during her argument with Ikuko. But when Ikuko suffers an asthma attack, Momo rushes her to a doctor and they reconcile after everything is said and done.
  • But Now I Must Go: The trio have to leave at the end and bid farewell to Momo.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Momo calls out her parents at different points in the film and they both lead to tragic results.
    • Momo calls Kazuo out on not coming to see the Vienna Boys Choir concert with her and Ikuko before his death.
    • By the end of the film, Momo calls Ikuko out for forgetting about Kazuo (or so she thinks) before she pulls a "Screw This, I'm Outta Here" moment.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Ikuko tells Momo that while her husband could write an excellent research paper, he was at a complete lost when it came to writing his feelings.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The spirit friends that are seen around Mame come back to help Momo find a doctor for her sick mother during the storm.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Koichi is implied to be the Unlucky one for Ikuko, it is mentioned that they were close childhood friends and that Ikuko is still very special for him.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Mame's not all there. Umi, too, if her big brother is to be believed.
  • Daydream Believer: Iwa and Kawa spin a tale to Momo about being trapped in a book for thousands of years, and now she's awakened them. Mame ends up believing it too because he forgot his own past.
  • Death by Origin Story: Kazuo Miyaura dies years before the story begins.
  • Disappeared Dad: Kazuo's death is what kicks off the whole plot.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Kawa doesn't like fish because it makes him gassy.
  • Driving Question: What was supposed to be on that letter?
  • Due to the Dead: At the end of the film, the local Seto Island residents float paper lanterns down the ocean in remembrance of the kin who were lost over the years. Among them are Yota and Momo's distant relatives.
  • The Exile: The goblins on earth are exiled because they broke rules while serving as gods.
  • Expy: Mame is more-or-less an anime version of Gollum. They even share a voice actor in Japanese.
  • Extremely Protective Child: At the end of the film, Momo runs out into a worsening storm to help get Ikuko to the hospital.
  • Fartillery: One of Kawa's attempts at trying to stop a boar from saving its children that he is about to eat.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Momo has a prolonged one at the beginning when Kazuo dies.
    • Momo enters one of these again after her argument with Ikuko. It only takes Momo realizing that Ikuko is having an asthma attack and her looking at the photos of Ikuko and Kazuo to finally snap her out of it.
  • Heroic Bystander: Koichi and the goblins who help Momo during the climax.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Yota mentions to Momo how his father and the other fathers would sail the straw boats, unaware that Momo's father is dead until Momo explains to him about it.
  • Invisible to Normals: The goblins are only visible to Momo because they hit her when they fell from the sky. Umi sees them, too, but it's not explained why.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Even with their annoying personalities, Iwa and Kawa prove not to be totally heartless.
  • Kid with the Leash: Momo, once she get a hold the pass.
  • Looks Like Orlok: Mame. Bald check, pointy ears check, sharp teeth check. But he's a good guy.
  • Mama Bear:
    • The two boars (one a mother) chase Iwa, Kawa, and Momo because the former two kidnapped their babies.
    • Ikuko goes out into a storm to look for Momo.
  • The Mourning After: At the beginning, Momo is still in grief over Kazuo's death.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Momo has one when Kazuo died, especially after they had an argument.
    • Ikuko when she realizes how harsh she was during her and Momo's argument.
    • When Momo returns to her home, she realizes that her argument with Ikuko caused the latter to suffer an asthma attack. It spurns her into searching for a doctor to heal her mother.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Mame is the least Jerkass member of the trio of goblins.
    • Yota is quite laid back and sensitive.
    • Kazuo, Momo's deceased father, was described as "one of the rare good ones".
  • No Antagonist: There's no main villain against Momo in the story.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: The youkai in the story resemble goblins, and are called as such in the official translations.
  • Outliving One's Offspring:
    • Ikuko secretly can't hold herself together ever since Kazuo's death.
    • Towards the end of the film, Ikuko has to deal with the aftermath of Momo running off after a huge disagreement, exacerbated by her asthma problems.
  • Papa Wolf: The two boars (one a father) chase Iwa, Kawa, and Momo because the former two kidnapped their babies.
  • Parting-Words Regret:
    • Before Kazuo's death, Momo tells him she doesn't care if he comes back. She is so guilt-ridden over it.
    • Towards the end of the film, Momo regrets the last things she said to Ikuko when she realizes that their argument caused Ikuko to suffer an asthma attack. Then, Ikuko and Momo reconcile after everything is said and done.
  • Pet the Dog: At the end of the film, Momo takes Ikuko to the hospital for her asthma and they eventually reconcile.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Momo often wears a pink shirt and fittingly enough, her name is Japanese for pink.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Kazuo's fatal boating accident kicks off the film's plot.
  • Posthumous Character: Momo's father Kazuo is dead by the time the film starts.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Momo gives a brutal one to Ikuko during their argument, thinking that she didn't care about Momo or Kazuo after his death. Later, it turns into a Parting-Words Regret.
  • Ship Tease: Yota appears to have crush on Momo.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Implied. Kazuo, Momo's father and Ikuko's husband, was described as a good, kind man.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Kazuo wore them when he was alive and was in career involving doing research papers, and Ikuko stated he wrote excellent ones.
  • Stepford Smiler: Momo's mother Ikuko keeps everything bottled up. This comes back hard on her when Momo inadvertently causes her to have an asthma attack after their argument.
  • Super-Speed: Iwa can run really fast.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • After Kazuo dies, Ikuko has to return to her home on the Seto Island Sea, taking Momo with her.
    • The goblins' kidnapping of the boars' babies causes them to be chased by the boars.
    • At the end of the film, the stress of keeping her true feelings bottled up as well as realizing how harsh she was to Momo after the latter runs off into a worsening storm both cause Ikuko to suffer a severe asthma attack. And when she has to find her daughter later on, her asthma problems worsen.
  • This Is Something She's Got to Do Herself: At the end of the film, Momo asks the goblins to help save Ikuko, but decides to go it alone when they decline her help.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Kazuo gave Ikuko a mirror when they were dating. Kawa accidentally breaks it.
  • Was Too Hard on Her: Ikuko admits that she went overboard after her argument with Momo causes the latter to run off.
  • Youkai: The story features the three goblins sent to Earth to watch over Momo, there are also others living in the forest. They all come together near the end to help Momo.
  • You Can See Me?: The goblins get the shock of their lives when they realize Momo is staring right at them.