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A Letter To Momo (Blu-ray Review)

Letter-To-MomoA Letter To Momo marks director Hiroyuki Okiura’s first film in eleven years.  It was a passion project for the man, spending seven years in its production with scripting, storyboards, directing and all sorts of planning.  The film made its debut in 2011 at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it wasn’t shown in the United States until March 2012 at the New York International Children’s Film Festival.  The film seemed to resonate with most critics and audiences alike globally.  A Letter To Momo was also spun off into its own series of manga comics shortly after it started showing in theaters and festivals back in 2011.  Oddly enough, its now 2014 and the film is finally coming here to Blu-ray.  So, I guess the wait is over for those who have been eager to see it.

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Film 

Momo and her mother are traveling to a new island home following the death of Momo’s father.  She and her mother move in her grandparents.  Momo struggles to fit in with the area and the her peers.  She is having trouble coping with her father’s death because they had an argument moments before he was killed.  Momo then finds a piece of paper with the handwriting from her father in his left belongings that simply reads “Dear Momo” and the rest blank.  She desperately thinks of what possibly her father was intending to communicate with her.  Along the way, Momo encounters 3 imps that are bound to oversee and protect her.

While it does wind up a bit in the fantastical element, for the most part, A Letter To Momo is very much in the drama department of Anime.  It does take its time to develop Momo, her mother, their surrounds and the the acclimation to her new life.  There’s plenty of depth established before we even get to the comical imp characters that help her through this journey.  And in that regard, it should be given credit for not just jumping to that by the time the first act ends.

When the film does hit that stride with the imps, it does become a bit more of a comedic affair as they try to show Momo her way of coping through life and pushing on.  This includes an outrageous moment where one of them farts at a boar and blows it like ten feet away.  To which Momo recounts that it was “awesome” or something like that.  These three imps are just as crazy as you’d imagine them and sort of feel like a bit of an Anime stereotype when it comes to their comic relief.  But, when the film does have to come back down to Earth it knows how to blend them in and balance the tone.

I’m not really an Anime fan, but I do think a good story translates no matter what medium or device is used to capture or tell it.  And A Letter To Momo really has a solid story of a young girl coming to grips with the death of her father while struggling to figure something she was never going to get an answer to (What exactly was that “Letter To Momo” going to be).  My biggest issue with the film is that its a big long and does feel like it drags at many points.  However, I think its basic story and some of the dramatic sequences and conflicts do shine through and make it worth the viewing.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail:  This transfer features a sharp and well accounted for transfer.  The animation moves smoothly and every detail is accounted for.  The colors are well represented and everything looks as it was intended.

Depth: This is pretty flat 2 dimensional anime.

Black Levels:  Blacks are solid and well translated.

Color Reproduction:  While this features a palette of toned down colors, its still very rich and bold.  Its almost feels of a gorgeous water coloring, even though its much more solid than that.

Flesh Tones:  N/A

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English, English Dubbed

Dynamics:  This is a nice loud and full track that accentuates sounds and such with perfection.  All the foley and effect work that goes into the animation is well represented and no sound goes unheard.

Low Frequency Extension: Crashing effects and some vocal work gets the assist from you sub.

Surround Sound Presentation: Some sounds get put in the rear speakers, but its mostly ambiance and score.  The right and left speakers are very active and have some great interplay and accurate volume placement.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Loud and clear.

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Extras 

A Letter To Momo comes with the DVD version of the film as well as some various character inserts.

The Making Of A Letter To Momo (HD, 38:14) – A pretty in depth look back and making this movie with the film’s director, creator and cast.

Foreign Trailers And TV Spots (HD, 5:47)

US Trailer (HD, 2:01)

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Summary 

A Letter To Momo was a bit long for me, but I still enjoyed it enough.  Viewers who are more into Anime than me may find it less that way than I did.  This release has a great audio and video presentation that should please everyone.  There aren’t a whole lot of extras, but I think getting an almost forty minute documentary on making the film makes up for not having a long list of featurettes and cover more than plenty.  This is a definite recommend if you’re a fan of the movie looking to pick it up.  And its not at a bad price for an overseas title.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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