Running Time: 103 mins
Reviewer: David Gillespie – Official HCF Artist
Having recently been the subject of a live action remake by Shimizu Takashi (director of The Grudge and Ju-On), the charming Kiki’s Delivery Service will be released at the beginning of July with the harrowing but brilliant Grave of the Fireflies. Apart from the Studio Ghibli link, I am a little curious why two such very different films would be released together? Both are so different in tone and subject matter, it’s like releasing ET : The Extraterrestrial and Xtro as a double feature because they both feature a boy and his relationship with an alien. Originally released in 1989 and the winner of the Animage Anime Grand Prix prize, Kiki’s Delivery Service is the first of the studio’s movies to be made in partnership with the Walt Disney Company.
The story follows an independent thirteen year old girl called Kiki who leaves her mother and father’s farm to gain her witch status. The initiation involves living independently for one year and discovering what her true witch talents are. With her cynical but loyal cat called Jiji by her side, they fly south on her broom to a busy, coastal city. On Kiki’s arrival the residents treat her with wonderment and soon after indifference. A friendly bakery owner and her shy husband agree to give the young witch lodgings in their connecting apartment with the agreement that she help around the shop when required. Kiki is also offered some extra work by a patron of the store that requires a birthday gift delivered to her petulant nephew. It seems that she might have stumbled on a potential business idea of using her flying skills for an extra fast, delivery service. Kiki attracts the attention of a local boy called Tombo. Excited by her flying abilities due to his hobby of aviation they soon build up a close bond. She also befriends a talented artist that helps her regain her confidence and ability to fly when her powers start to fade.
Apart from the fact that Kiki’s Delivery Service involves a flying witch that happens to own a wise-cracking, talking cat, there is little in the way of spell-casting or magic. There are also no villains, creatures, confrontations, love interest or resolution as to whether Kiki does or does not accomplish her goal of becoming a witch. The tale is more concerned with the insecurities of growing up, fitting in and facing new challenges. Kiki loses her self-belief after her initial excitement of settling in a new town is tainted due to bad luck and her own paranoia. However she regains her confidence and purpose in the community through inner strength and persistence. Director Miyazaki continues the theme of strong female characters overcoming the odds set against them (i.e. Spirited Away, Arrietty, Howl’s Moving Castle etc) in this enchanting tale.
The animation is of the high standard that has become expected of Studio Ghibli projects with lavish and beautifully detailed backgrounds. Voice work is solid on both the Japanese and English versions of the movie with Kirsten Dunst undertaking vocal duties for the young witch on the latter. The highlight of the film is the endearing central character Kiki and how she deals with each of the varied and fun deliveries that she is assigned with. The tale is both heart-warming and uplifting and suitable for children of all ages.
Extras: Feature Length Storyboards / Ursula’s Painting / Creating Kiki’s Delivery Service / Kiki & Jiji / Flying with Kiki & Beyond / Producer’s Perspective: Collaborating with Miyazaki / The Locations of Kiki / Beyond the Microphone / Original Japanese Theatrical Trailers / Studio Ghibli Trailer Reel