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Old 2011-09-05, 13:20   Link #1
Theowne
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A Letter to Momo

A Letter to Momo

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Seven years in the making, the exquisitely crafted A Letter to Momo is the highly anticipated second feature from world-renowned anime director Hiroyuki Okiura, whose 1999 film Jin-Roh met with international acclaim.

Clinging to an unfinished letter written by her recently deceased father, Momo learns that the strange and supernatural things happening on Shio Island are connected in some way to her father's mysterious letter. A sensitive coming-of-age story that deals with loss and imagination.
The film is making its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, and tickets for one showing have already sold out - so if you're in the area, get to it! I have already bought tickets for the September 18th showing and will report on it for all of you.

Jin-Roh was an excellent film on the mature side, and it looks like Okiura is trying out Ghibli territory now, with a gentle film that is friendly to all demographics.
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Old 2011-09-05, 17:36   Link #2
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Hats off to you. That festival looks expensive.
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Old 2011-09-05, 18:32   Link #3
Haohmaru
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Subbed trailer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pubzYx8VEIo
Really looking forward to this movie. Okiura is amazing and I really loved Jin-Roh.
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Old 2011-09-05, 22:18   Link #4
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Originally Posted by orion View Post
Hats off to you. That festival looks expensive.
It's nearly $20 a ticket for university-aged viewers, so it's probably the most I've ever paid to see a film. But hey, it's not every day you get to see a world premier half an year prior to its commercial release.

The latest Ghibli film, Kokurikozaka kara, is also having it's international premier here, as opposed to its usual spot, the Venice Film Festival.

Thanks for the trailer, Haohmaru. Looks wonderful.
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Old 2011-09-19, 19:16   Link #5
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I recently attended the showing at TIFF. A fuller review is on my website, but to summarize, I enjoyed it, but it fell somewhat short of my expectations. I would say the film seemed to take something of a middle ground between a Ghibli style of storytelling versus a more Pixar/Disney style. The supernatural elements, for example, are often more in line with some of the talking sidekicks of a Disney film than with, say, the mysticism of Spirited Away or the gentle benevolence of Totoro. The core premise behind the whole thing, involving Momo's deceased father, is quite endearing (I won't spoil it), but the plot trajectory tended to be somewhat predictable.

So, overall, it was a good film, but I admit my expectations had become somewhat astronomical (hearing that the creator of Jin-Roh spent 7 years on a Ghibli-esque film tends to do that).
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Old 2011-09-19, 20:36   Link #6
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Yeah, after hearing someone worked on a film for 7 years, you really can't help but get your expectations way up there. How was it visually btw. I bet it's a masterpiece.
Btw, nice reviews on your site.
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Old 2011-09-19, 20:50   Link #7
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I'm a sucker for seaside settings, so I loved the visuals. There's a pretty grand set-piece towards the end as well - a showcase for the animators, in a way, similar to some of the ocean scenes in Ponyo.
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Old 2012-11-17, 17:02   Link #8
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Time to bring this thread back to life. The BD has been out for a few weeks now.

It was a beautiful movie, with extremely impressive character animation. It's the first time I've seen such expressive characters in an anime movie. No wonder it took seven years to make.

The plot was fairly straightforward and predictable, but it was enjoyable nonetheless, with some emotionally powerful moments. I can understand why it would disappoint some people especially if they had high expectations, but it worked for me.

I'd readily recommend this movie to Ghibli fans, since the storytelling style is pretty similar to their films. You won't be disoriented.
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Old 2012-11-17, 17:41   Link #9
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So there's a thread for this after all...

Have to agree with Kanon that this was nice little story. It was a bit difficult for me to get into at first but I was enjoying myself by the end.
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Old 2012-11-17, 19:23   Link #10
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I wrote this at another forum might as well paste at here too.

Aside really ugly CGi that they abuse to the death for vehicle in first 30 minute, thiis is really beautiful looking movie, especially the animation.. everything looked so smooth, its almost like they using CG.. so many facial expression too,they make the character seem alive, just a great character design and animation work. This might be one the best looking anime move that I ever seen outside Classic Ghibli Works.

For the movie itself after fairly boring first 20 minute, its very fun and compelling.. time flew by till the movie end, the directing also looked very sharp. Its a well executed movie.

Its a shame the movie bombed hard, I wish this is not the end of Okiura's directing career, he clearly a talented director too and not just simply great animator. Would love seeing him and Hosoda leading anime movie industry.

Btw although I'm grieving the fact its bombed, I kinda understand why. Outside being a well-executed movie and entertaining, this movie just lack of hook and "oomph" factor. I think the theme isn't strong enough to attract audience, basically the premise is little quarrel between parent and child + youkai, certainly not that hooking of premise. And I never invested any emotion while watching the movie when that main theme arise, the ending are great though.. make my eyes wet a bit lol.

In conclusion, this is a damn good movie.. with great character animation, they move like real human.
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Old 2012-11-17, 20:40   Link #11
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Actually, I thought the movie was very slow, predictable and could understand why it bombed.

It meandered with universe building, then got back to the letter at the very last minute of the movie. And... it used a disease and the weather as a climax focus.
Spoiler for disease:


Also, those yokai looked like they were traditional yokai and not Ghibli yokai so they weren't exactly easy to look at in the film. This to me definitely did not make it a children's title. Those poor tykes would be scared of the film. Not enough fanservice or romance elements to grab the older crowd so yeah, it's gonna bomb imo.

And if you were cynical, you would be thinking

Spoiler:
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Old 2012-11-18, 00:32   Link #12
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Originally Posted by fertygo View Post
Its a shame the movie bombed hard, I wish this is not the end of Okiura's directing career, he clearly a talented director too and not just simply great animator. Would love seeing him and Hosoda leading anime movie industry.
Interesting that you mentioned Mamoru Hosoda.

Hosoda's Toki o Kakeru Shoujo came out in the same year as Makoto Shinkai's 5 Centimetres Per Second. At the time, I liked TokiKake a lot more the 5cm. TokiKake was a lot more fun, and a lot more expressive. In short, it was a crowd pleaser, while 5cm, being the more depressing title, was, unsurprisingly, overlooked at first.

It's funny how much difference time and hindsight makes. If you were to ask me today which is the stronger film, I'd say without hesitation that it's 5cm.

When it comes to Momo e no Tegami, I suspect that I'll eventually come to a similar conclusion. This movie is likely to grow on me over time, just as 5cm did. As others have commented, the animation quality is superb, especially when it comes to character movement and expression. The poor use of CG for the ferries and a few vehicles is the only minus point in an otherwise near-flawless production. The background art is very well rendered too, and a feast for the eyes. The movie, as a whole, scores highly on a technical level.

In terms of the story, I'm struck by its thematic similarities to Hosoda's Okami no Kodomo Ame to Yuki. Interestingly, that movie has also been criticised for being predictable and a bit too saccharine. Nonetheless, Wolf Children won over mainstream moviegoers on its strength as a heartwarming tale many people could easily relate to.

Momo e no Tegami, unfortunately, dwells on a more low-key subject that was never going to bring the same roller-coaster of emotional highs and lows that Wolf Children did. In this sense, I don't know if it's fair to judge Momo e no Tegami on the basis of its box-office performance.

I feel that Hosoda has a natural flair for creating stories for mainstream audiences. While I greatly admire what he has achieved with just three feature films, in a way, I think he's not yet at a level where he can produce intimate, insightful character studies. Or, more to the point, I don't think he's that type of creator. In contrast, I get the feeling that Hiroyuki Okiura was on to something deeper, something more subtle. It's a pity that he chose a smaller canvas to portray his insight, and therefore received a smaller audience than he deserved.

I would go so far as to say that his approach to this seven-year project reminded me of Yoshifumi Kondo's storytelling in The Whisper of the Heart. There is a level of sincerity and honesty in Okiura's storytelling that I really enjoyed. Okiura's method may not yet be as polished as the late Kondo's, but I think there's a good chance he'll improve. Time, and opportunity, will tell.
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Old 2012-11-18, 06:05   Link #13
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
Interesting that you mentioned Mamoru Hosoda.

Hosoda's Toki o Kakeru Shoujo came out in the same year as Makoto Shinkai's 5 Centimetres Per Second. At the time, I liked TokiKake a lot more the 5cm. TokiKake was a lot more fun, and a lot more expressive. In short, it was a crowd pleaser, while 5cm, being the more depressing title, was, unsurprisingly, overlooked at first.

It's funny how much difference time and hindsight makes. If you were to ask me today which is the stronger film, I'd say without hesitation that it's 5cm.

When it comes to Momo e no Tegami, I suspect that I'll eventually come to a similar conclusion.
The comparison between 5cm and Tokikake that you made are very weird. Maybe your point is only about how likely Letter to Momo became movie that more memorable to you like 5cm, if that's the case I'm apologize.

But I don't see how 5cm were less hit-maker movie/not attracting (regardless its successful to doing so or not)big audience like Tokikake, just because its more sadder doesn't mean the movie are supposed to be less hooking, especially for movie that attract so many "Its was so sad, make me crying, so its a great movie" from casual audiences. I just can't see how 5cm are less trying to hook audience and more subtle in delivering message. Both have typical story that you can easily see as Live-action hit.

You're right about Hosoda though, he's hit maker.. he just have nose to moving mass to enjoy his work, although heavier critic may say his movie isn't thought provoking etc.

Back to Okiura and this movie, I need to watch Jin-roh to say what kind of director he is, but he clearly talented and I would love to see more work from him.

And if he trying this type of movie again, I want to he try to give stronger narrative.. I don't know about subtlety but Letter to Momo was a bit playing too safe, its can be much stronger movie even with a lot subtlety to deliver the message. Like your example, Whisper of the Heart.
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Old 2012-11-18, 11:31   Link #14
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The comparison between 5cm and Tokikake that you made are very weird. Maybe your point is only about how likely Letter to Momo became movie that more memorable to you like 5cm, if that's the case I'm apologize.
Yup. I get the feeling that Momo e no Tegami is the kind of movie that will get better with time, at least for me, as was the case with 5 Centimetres Per Second.

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Originally Posted by fertygo View Post
But I don't see how 5cm were less hit-maker movie/not attracting (regardless its successful to doing so or not)big audience like Tokikake, just because its more sadder doesn't mean the movie are supposed to be less hooking, especially for movie that attract so many "Its was so sad, make me crying, so its a great movie" from casual audiences.
That's not what I meant. Simply put, 5cm had less impact on me on first viewing than did Toki o Kakeru Shoujo. Among other apparent shortcomings, 5cm ended unconventionally. Its deeper message and themes were also not immediately obvious at first glance. On first viewing, it seemed very much like a movie with an unresolved ending, and it struck me as a very amateurish production. It wasn't at least a couple of months later that the emotional impact of 5cm finally sank in. Even then, it was not the movie itself, but the song which inspired it, that gradually changed my mind.

TokiKake, on the other hand, wears its heart on its sleeves, much like Mamoru Hosoda's two subsequent movies. Hosoda, I feel, is great at producing blockbuster films — great entertainment that makes you laugh or cry, but which you won't really need to think much about after you leave the theatre. Hosoda tends not to delve very deep in his stories, but that's what I like about his style. He excels at heartfelt simplicity.

In the end, it doesn't matter if the none of the above makes any sense to you, because I'm describing something completely subjective, namely my personal reaction to both movies over time. I apologise only for not being able to describe more clearly what I'm trying to say.

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Originally Posted by fertygo View Post
Back to Okiura and this movie, I need to watch Jin-roh to say what kind of director he is, but he clearly talented and I would love to see more work from him.

And if he trying this type of movie again, I want to he try to give stronger narrative.. I don't know about subtlety but Letter to Momo was a bit playing too safe, its can be much stronger movie even with a lot subtlety to deliver the message. Like your example, Whisper of the Heart.
The key reason Momo e no Tegami left a strong impact on me is its animation quality. The character designs basically followed the same style Hiroyuki Okiura used in Jin-Roh. One look at that earlier movie, and you'd quickly guess that the designs were by the same person. That's how distinctive they are. However, when you compare the two movies closely, you'll notice how far Okiura has come in terms of animating movement and facial expressions. There's no denying that he has improved greatly in this department.

That makes me wonder how he's gone about thinking about the characters in Momo, the lives they lead, the experiences they've accumulated, the feelings they hide. That's the subtlety I see in this movie, the extra quality I feel will reward those who take a closer look at his storytelling method.

You're right in that the story itself is not so subtle. As orion said, it's a fairly straightforward tale. But, to me, it's a straightforward tale done with great attention to detail, and with a level of skill you don't often see in anime. That's the softer aspect of this movie which attracts me.

Last edited by TinyRedLeaf; 2012-11-18 at 11:45.
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Old 2012-11-20, 18:16   Link #15
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Enjoyed this movie, tho I kinda wish there had been less "slapsticky" elements. Just my personal taste though.

Esp loved the animation of the Seto Inland Sea (although I thought Tamayura animation of the same to be prettier)....
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Old 2012-11-23, 12:04   Link #16
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http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news...-film-at-apsas

That's a rather impressive achievement given the other movies competing against it.
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Old 2012-11-23, 12:09   Link #17
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http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news...-film-at-apsas

That's a rather impressive achievement given the other movies competing against it.
Oh wow ... I thought it was good but did not think it was that good!

Still - kudos to the folks involved and a "Yatta!" to them!
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Old 2012-12-04, 10:44   Link #18
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This is the first Japanese win in this category (Best Animated Film) since Makoto Shinkai's 5 Centimeters Per Second took home the honour in 2007.
Well, I'll be damned. It's almost as though the good folk in Brisbane read what I wrote above. Noticed this late, but belated congratulations to Hiroyuki Okiura and Production I.G all the same. The award is well-deserved.
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Old 2012-12-07, 13:20   Link #19
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I'd love to see this.
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