|"A Letter to Momo"|
"A Letter to Momo" has been out in Japan and on the film festival circuit since 2011, so it may seem odd to be talking about it and its trailer.
Well, that's because the film was released in Japan in 2011, but it has had sporadic releases internationally. Right now, it is playing in some large U.S. cities. So, just like a used, um, "pre-owned" car, well, it's new to you!
The story is very family friendly. A girl, Momo, whose father has just passed away is visited by funny spirits from the Great Beyond. Only she can see them (of course), so they become her "special friends." In turn, they are really there to watch out for her. They are kind of like bumbling spies, because Momo isn't even supposed to know they are there for her, but they were too clumsy to hide.
The title comes from an unfinished letter left to Momo by her dad.
Naturally, this is all about coming of age and how kids can deal with grief and all that. The girl's experience is not cartoonish, but rather quite true-to-life, so it is not all fun and games. But a lot of it is. The director is very sensitive and respectful of the young girl's feelings, so this may actually be a good film for some kids to see to help them deal with their own issues, whatever they are.
Director Hiroyuki Okiura reportedly spent years putting this together. It is quite watchable. I will be a spoil-sport and point out that anyone who is expecting the vivid colors and fancy animation of Studio Ghibli is bound to be disappointed. It is good for what it is, after that stop the comparisons or you'll just be disappointed. Looking at the production companies - Bandai Visual Company, Chubu-nippon Broadcasting Company (CBC), Chugoku Broadcasting (RCC) - this may have been at least intended to be a Japanese television movie. Hey, you go where the money is, but that would explain the dull look to the animation, with a decidedly tv-style of drawing.
The promotional advertising touts that this is "from the creators of 'Ghost in the Shell,'" but believe me when I tell you that this has absolutely nothing in common with that classic except the fact that they both are animation.
Amanda Pace and Stephanie Sheh do the English dubs of the leads.