Director: Hayao Miyazaki
The Film: First thing’s first, I want to thank Marcey for sending me this movie to re-watch, it really means a lot to me!
By now, it’s no surprise that Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli is wonderful due to their consistent work on anime films that span multiple genres and that it’s is a pleasure to see it’s work being recognised by other film cultures around the world. I can clearly remember when I saw my first Ghibli film, “Spirited Away” and being utterly enchanted by it… and get this, I was 23 years old. I sincerely hadn’t felt that way since I was a wee sprite. After this introduction I was hooked on Ghibili as I would assume many others who had seen that movie and been blown away. When I discovered “Kiki’s Delivery Service” I knew I was going to be spell-bound again and after re-watching it again 7 years later, that remains so.
Kiki is an eager, sweet 13 year old witch who, according to witch culture in this world, has reached the age to leave home and apply all of the skills she has learned in the world. Despite her intelligence, curiosity and good will, she is tremendously insecure and unsure of her position in the world even though her loquacious cat Jiji offers her unflinching moral support. Settling in a small coastal town, Kiki decides to apply her skills as a high-flying courier for a bakery run by a couple and establishes a series of relationships with the townspeople including to the plucky elderly woman Ursula. And then, she mysteriously loses her powers. Oh dear.
This movie for all intents and purposes, is a coming of age story that is accessible to everybody because while it is set against a background of magic, surprisingly relevant social commentary and wildly imaginative events, all of us can relate to how it feels to be unsure of ourselves and how we fit in the enormous puzzle that is life and finding our courage to overcome obstacles. Even if you are not a huge fan of animation or anime, “Kiki’s Delivery Service” will appeal to that part of you that went through the same thing Kiki goes through for the duration, and it will inspire if not delectate you.
For those of you who know and love Ghibli, the animation is as colourful and fertile as you would expect because so much thought was put into not only the design of the characters, but also the world they live in from the cobblestones of quaint townships to arcane residences of spell-binders. For those of you who are not entirely familiar, what I just said above doesn’t do it justice- it really is more pleasant to witness a magic trick than it is to hear about it, and this is no exception. However, the most endearing part of the movie are undoubtedly the main characters and how they are portrayed. Kiki herself, despite her youth and inexperience will not irritate the audience because she is the avatar for the feelings that we have felt- when she makes a mistake, you can’t hate her for it, in fact, it makes you appreciate her more because the characters that we can relate to the most are the ones that are flawed. Then you have Tombo, a boy who starts out as stand-offish as you can imagine when he identifies Kiki as a witch, but then he comes to not only respect the things that she can do with her magic and the awesomeness of her flying broom, but also her as a person. There is a slight hint of romance, but it comes across more as sincere puppy love than anything sordid and it works aces. Their whole relationship is natural however strange at first and there is a huge sense of optimism that compliments the nature of the film in general.
Is there anything to hate about it? I personally don’t believe there is. However, I will say that in the cross-continental translation of the film from Japanese to English, the character of Kiki may come off as a little spoiled to begin with, whereas in the original version, she was more selfless. But in saying that, Kiki is 13, and whether you are a witch or not, you can’t say you were always a paragon of self-regulation… I know as a Western white girl I wasn’t. And sure, there are some folks out there who will feel as if the morals of the story are a little too heavy-handed and the over-all story seems a little too saccharine, but Studio Ghibli does not make vanity projects or actively over-indulge itself on splendour alone. It tells stories to it’s audience, stories that they make to capture the minds and hearts of the audience, young or old, and who in their heart of hearts does not love a good story that comes with a message of hope and assurance? If you don’t then you might be a sociopath.
“Kiki’s Delivery Service” has stood the test of time very well and after reading quite a lot of inter-age testimony on the Internet, it will not fade into obscurity or discontent any time soon. With it’s quality and good will, it stands out as one of Studio Ghibli’s finest and undoubtedly will be enjoyed by anybody, young or seasoned who loves a little magic sprinkled into their life…yes, even you. 😉
The Australian Blu-ray
The film and it’s extras on this hi-def blu-ray are top notch and are filled with interesting material to tells you about what happened behind the scenes of production. Note; This is the Australian release and thus, features may vary internationally.
Storyboards: Self explanatory but it’s nice to see the pictures that would soon come into motion.
Ursula’s Painting: A series of musical montages of pictures in the film by Ursula.
Creating Kiki’s Delivery Service: the collaborative process of making the movie.
Kiki and Jiji: Briefly but affectionately discusses the interplay between the young witch and her steadfast feline.
Flying With Kiki And Beyond: Involves various stills and shots of Kiki flying.
Producer’s Perspective: Collaboration with Miyazaki- A nice affectionate look at the producer Toshio Suzuki and his relationship with the director.
Locations of Kiki: Spanning 30 minutes, we have a closer look at the world of Kiki and it’s inspiration (the village that Kiki resides in was inspired by Stockholm!
Behind the microphone: We get a nice little piece of insight regarding the voice actors of the American dub, that is to say Kirsten Dunst, Janeane Garafolo and Phil Hartman (RIP).
Trailers for the film in English and Japanese as well as several other promotion trailers for Ghibli. Keep an eye out for ’em!
Review written by Bea Harper
Thanks to Ben from MadMan for his support.