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Anime Info

Creator: Hayao Miyazaki, Eiko Kadono
Genre: Fantasy
Length: Movie (1:43)
Purchase: Here

A Studio Ghibli Production Released in the United States by Walt Disney

Summary

+ One of the most beautifully animated films
+ Kiki is believable as a teenage girl
+ Kiki deals with similar issues faced by adolescents

+/– The subtitles for the Japanese language track of the DVD are based on an earlier non Disney dub-script for the film. As a result subtitles sometimes appear when no one is speaking.

Overview

Kiki's Delivery Service is a charming and enjoyable film. Although it may seem old fashioned compared to the pop culture laden CGI eye candy being produced in American animation studios; Miyazaki's artistry gives it a timelessness that may cause it to be remembered for years after films like Shrek and Over the Hedge are forgotten.

Public Rating

Our Rating

Score of 4 out of 5
4 out of 5 · Highly Recommended

Kiki's Delivery Service Review

Written by: Frank B. Chavez III on 11/21/2006

Introduction

Although previous US releases of Studio Ghibli films, such as the notorious butchering of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds, had been disappointing, in 1997 Studio Ghibli signed a deal with Disney to release their films in the United States. In 1998, the 1989 anime Kiki's Delivery Service became the first Studio Ghibli film distributed by Walt Disney. The successful release eventually lead to Disney releases of a number of Studio Ghibli's films including the popular films My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away. Based on a story by author Eiko Kadono, Kiki's Delivery Service tells the story of 13 year-old Kiki as she learns to live independently as a witch.

Review

Fantasy films dealing with witches in training will unfortunately be compared to the Harry Potter series. Made in 1989, about eight years before the first Harry Potter novel was published, Kiki's Delivery Service couldn't be more different from the adventures of JK Rowling's bespectacled junior wizard. Besides being lighter in tone, Kiki's Delivery Service is less of an epic adventure and more of a personal journey about learning independence. In the universe of Harry Potter, wizards and witches live a life separate from non-magical human beings. Existing in a self-segregated world, they attend their own schools; they have their own government, and even have their own sports. The magical world and our own only interact in extreme cases such as magical accidents or the machinations of evil wizards such as Lord Voldemort. With the exception of being able to fly on broomsticks and displaying some powers similar to those depicted in Harry Potter, the witches in Kiki's Delivery Service are more akin to the traditional witch of history - women attuned to the mystery and forces of nature and practicing skills such as herbal medicine and fortune telling. Unlike Harry Potter, witches in Kiki's world seem fully integrated into ordinary society - Kiki's mother is even married to a completely ordinary salary man. Also unlike Harry Potter, their seems to be little in the way of formal training or schooling for witches, they seem to be taught the magical arts early on by a relative such as their mother and then later practice and study on their own. Set in an alternate Europe of the 1950s if World War II had never happened, the film begins as Kiki, having reached the age of 13, leaves home to study on her own in the big city.

Show More When she arrives in the city, the naïve Kiki finds it difficult settling in and finding her niche in the urban environment. She is accosted by a police officer for nearly causing an accident with her flying, followed after by a boy with a crush on her, and can't even find a room for rent. Despairing, Kiki gazes longingly at the ocean outside a small bakery. When Osono, the bakery owner rushes out after a customer who has forgotten her baby's pacifier, Kiki volunteers to fly after the woman and return the pacifier. Impressed, Osono takes in Kiki and when Kiki decides she wants to start a delivery service, Osono signs up as Kiki's first account. After a rough patch settling in, Kiki actually takes out her first delivery the first full day she's in town. As in his other films, Hayao Miyazaki revels in the scenes of flight. Kiki routinely flies higher than airplanes as she makes her deliveries and is often joined by birds, in an early scene geese fly in formation around her broom and even warn her about an on coming wind gust.. Miyazaki manages to give the flight scenes a believability lacking in the Harry Potter movies - in many flight scenes in Harry Potter it is too obvious that actor Daniel Radcliff has been replaced by CGI effects. Kiki looks and acts like a real girl on a real broom and is affected by real weather.

Kiki's Delivery Service is like Spirited Away in tone; rather than being an epic adventure like Nausicaa or Castle in the Sky, its story is built up of episodic crises related to Kiki's deliveries. With each successive delivery, Kiki learns a little more about living independently. Kiki's first delivery goes awry when; flying over the forest, Kiki looses control of her broom and crashes into some trees. When she recovers from her crash, she discovers, much to her chagrin, that the toy cat she has be engaged to deliver has fallen out of the bird cage she was carrying it in and disappeared into the woods. While her cat, Jiji pretends to be the stuffed toy, Kiki goes looking for the real toy in the woods. Her search leads her to the home of Ursula, an artist who lives by herself in the woods painting the wildlife. Ursula is, like Kiki, a teenager living on her own. She is a few years older and further along the same path as Kiki. Kiki helps the artist clean her floors and the artist repairs the damage done to the toy cat by the crows. Kiki manages to recover Jiji and put the toy in his place.

Show More
The next day, helping around the bakery, Kiki suffers agonizing boredom as she waits for delivery orders to phone in. Tombo, the bespectacled youth who has had a crush on Kiki since she arrived in town invites her to a party at his aviation club. Oddly, Kiki accepts the invitation although she had previously snubbed his advances as rude. At the same time a pair of delivery orders come in and Kiki struggles to make both of them and get to her party on time. The first delivery is too heavy and Kiki strains with it but it goes off without incident. On the second delivery she helps her elderly customer bake a casserole and deliver it. While the casserole is baking, Kiki helps with chores around the house; she looks at the clock and thinks she has enough time to finish before the party but alarmingly the old woman's clock runs ten minutes slow, Kiki rushes off with her delivery but ends up flying through a sudden rainstorm. Flying home soaking wet, she decides against the party and goes straight to bed. Having put her delivery ahead of her safety, Kiki wakes up the next day, with an awful cold.

When she gets over her cold, Orsono sends Kiki on a bakery delivery and Kiki is surprised that her customer turns out to be Tombo. Miyazaki's ever present fascination with flight appears again when Tombo reveals that he has been converting his bicycle into the motor for a human powered fling machine. Kiki and Tombo ride this contraption to the seashore to see a dirigible that has just arrived in their community. Tombo and Kiki have a fun time together but when Tombo's friends show up, Kiki is reminded that she is an outsider. She can't overcome these feelings storms off by herself. Returning to her apartment she realizes she can't understand Jiji or fly anymore and she becomes depressed.

Her depression begins to alleviate when she is visited by Ursula the artist. Kiki and Ursula take a mini-vacation together at Ursula's cabin. Ursula reveals that she has been training as an artist most of her life and that she has had periods where she was unable to paint just as Kiki is unable to fly. Ursula believes that flying, like art, is a spiritual endeavor that requires inspiration. Ursula has found inspiration in Kiki and she tells Kiki that in time her powers will come back, when she discovers the reason she wants to fly. Returning home, Kiki is given a cake by the old woman she had earlier helped with chores. Watching the news on TV, Kiki may have found her inspiration to return to the air when she sees Tombo in reports about the visiting dirigible - high winds have ripped the airship from its moorings and it is drifting out of control with poor Tombo hanging for dear life from one of the chords. Kiki is the only one who can save him, but only if she looks deep inside herself and finds to inspiration to fly again.

Conclusion

Kiki's Delivery Service Although it may unfairly be compared to Harry Potter, Kiki's Delivery Service is a sweet and charming film. Eschewing epic adventure, the film tells a smaller more personal story about learning to live independently, trusting your abilities, and finding the inspiration and reasons to do the things you do. The film is beautifully animated in lovingly hand drawn animation and each character from Jiji the cat through plane crazy Tombo is unique each with their own personality and mannerisms. And although older anime fans looking for over-the-top action-adventure may not like it, Kiki's Delivery Service is the perfect family film to show children dealing with the issues that Kiki faces.

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