A Letter to Momo has recently been blessed with a Blu-Ray release from everyone’s favourite Australian distributor, Madman, and it’s hard to argue with the results. Hiroyuki Okiura’s 2011 anime feature warrants the HD sheen, its gorgeous visuals showcasing a traditional Japanese island town – complete with handpainted backdrops – and a trio of goofy, grotesque ghosts.
If that sounds sorta-Miyazaki-esque, you’re not wrong. In many ways, A Letter to Momo resembles a teenaged take on the Ghibli founder’s films. Offering a reflection on grief and regret (the titular letter is one written – or unwritten – by the teen protagonist’s late father) with a supernatural spin, it doesn’t quite attain the magic spark of Miyazaki’s best. Its resemblances to My Neighbour Totoro don’t come with that (perfect) film’s atmosphere of childish glee and pastoral peace, and the resolution of its arc feels pat in a way that Miyazaki’s films never did.
It’s hard to blame Okiura for not living up to such a master. The biggest culprit, I’d argue, isn’t the animation nor the characterisation nor the plotting, but the pacing. Running to an unnecessary two hours, it’s easy to imagine a tighter cut better capturing the mystical aura the film’s going for.