Hiroyuki Okiura’s beautiful hand-drawn anime A Letter to Momo puts a slightly more mature spin on the themes of Hayao Miyazaki’s beloved My Neighbor Totoro, both being tales of young girls relocated to the country during parental traumas, and who discover supernatural forces that help them come to terms with their grief.
Eleven year-old Momo (Karen Miyama) is obsessed with a letter her father started writing before he died at sea – he set down nothing more than the words “Dear Momo.”
She’s also haunted by the fact that her own last words to him were spoken in anger. Meanwhile, Momo’s mother Ikuko (Yuka) moves them to a small island, where the easily-spooked Momo discovers three mischief-making goblins that only she can see.
Being grotesques rather than furry animals, Momo’s goblins probably won’t become merchandising bonanzas like Totoro’s creatures — well, maybe the big-eyed Mame, who’s sort of an adorkable Gollum — but that’s fitting, since A Letter to Momo goes into darker places emotionally.
This is not to say that it’s inappropriate for children, as the tone is generally light, the bickering goblins make a boffo comedy team, and while there’s a recurring fart joke, it borders on classy. That’s the power of good anime.