A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Letter to Momo is an anime film about an 11-year-old girl who moves from Tokyo to a small Japanese island with her mother after her father is killed (it's talked about but not shown). It's in Japanese with English subtitles, which means it's a better fit for kids who are already strong readers (unless you're up for reading it all aloud!). Plus, younger kids might find the imps that live in Momo's attic a little scary: They first appear as shadows and then fully drawn figures that only Momo can see. There's a harrowing scene at the end of the movie involving an army of imps that forms a shield over Momo when she races to get a doctor for her asthmatic mother during a typhoon.
What's the story?
After the death of her father, 11-year-old Momo (voiced by Karen Miyama) and her mother move from Tokyo to the small island of Shio, Japan. There, Momo encounters three strange shadows that live in the attic. They transform into imps (goblins) visiting from "above." She traps them in this world, and they soon become mischievous playmates. Meanwhile, Momo is tormented by her last encounter with her father and what he meant to write in his last letter to her after the words "Dear Momo." Can these strange creatures help her discover what her father meant to tell her?
Is it any good?
A LETTER TO MOMO is a beautifully drawn animated film from Japan with English subtitles. In her new island home, Momo -- an independent, melancholy girl who's grieving both the death of her father and the life she knew in Tokyo -- finds a picture book with drawings of strange creatures, which aren't like anything you'd see in a mainstream American animated film. One looks like a goblin, another like a man or fairy, and the third like a wrestler with gold teeth and a permanent smile.
Fans of director Hiroyuki Okiura's Jin-Roh: Wolf Brigade will find something very different here. Momo is a quiet, funny film about loss and grief. Although it's set in modern times, the kids don't have cell phones or technology. They swim and ride bikes and help their parents. There's no pop culture, just old-fashioned living. Younger kids may have a hard time with the movie's slower pace and the subtitles, but it gets better and better until the final exciting scene, which includes an army of magical creatures and a typhoon.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how A Letter to Momo compares to more mainstream animated movies. Aside from the subtitles, what sets it apart? Do you prefer this style of movie or the Hollywood fare?
Momo’s last interaction with her father was a poor one, and she regrets not being nicer to him during their last encounter. Do you ever think about the consequences of how you treat people?
Momo doesn’t tell her mother about the creatures she has befriended. Kids: Would you keep such a secret from your parents?
Kids: How is Momo’s life in Japan different than yours? Are there similarities?
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