Whilst many have attempted and failed to deliver a coming of age story with sincerity as well as the charm it seems the masters of animation Studio Ghibli seem to have found that winning formula. Once again they show the world how it’s done with broomsticks, talking cats, deliveries, growing pains and been independent, step forward Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) the latest Studio Ghibli animation to be adapted to Blu-Ray (in a double play with The Grave Of The Fireflies).Proving Hayao Miyazaki’s animation is a timeless classic in animation legacy that would make the so called big boys of animation jealous with envy.
Based on Eiko Kadano‘s 1985 novel we meet Kiki a 13 year old teen witch determined to make it own her own despite been second rate at spells and poor at making potions. She moves to a new town with the aid of her broom she sets herself up as a courier service delivery, delivering everything from bread to pets.At first, her only company is her sarcastic talking cat Jiji she soon discovers she has more friends than she ever thought on her long road of self discovery.
Whilst Kiki’s Delivery Service may not have the array of mythical creatures or kindred spirits like in Spirited Away in the studio’s film nor is there a villainous character, if anything life itself is Kiki’s only enemy. With magic and everyday life living in unison, this make’s Kiki a more grounded realistic animation (1950’s Sweden) that is vibrant, electric and it’s probably the only Ghibli animation that resembles a Disney animation minus the over indulgent songs. If you are looking for fantasy elements Kiki herself been a witch, her potions, her talking cat provide that substance without forgetting this film is purely a coming of age tale.
Whilst the premise maybe light hearted giving the animation a nicely paced episodic feel breaking down each part of Kiki’s tribulations into nice equally entertaining parts. Miyazaki does continue his use of strong positive Female protagonists however with Kiki we do learn she is not picture perfect which opens the door for older, wiser stronger character, strong female role model such as Ursula (voice by Janine Garofalo) to guide Kiki. Some critics say Ursula brings a feminist element to the story and it’s probably why Kiki’s Delivery Service finds itself paired with The Grave Of The Fireflies both roughly similar targeted age groups both with a message that may not appeal to younger pre-teen audience but never looses the magic we associate with Studio Ghibli. As for Kiki been a feminist film, every child boy or girl needs a good strong positive role model and what Kiki does addresses some of that imbalance of lack of female role models in a film.
It’s taken myself over a year to finally appreciate the power of Blu-ray, the colour, the crisp detail are second to none. You really getting a real true feel of the film’s detail when we see Kiki flying her broomstick in and around her town, all thanks to Miyazaki’s passion for flying bringing more depth to the feature. I always say watch the film as it was meant to be watched in its original language but I know not everyone likes subtitles so this release comes with a dubbed version too. Kiki is voiced by then an unknown young Kirsten Dunst, the late Phil Hartmann (Troy McClure of The Simpsons fame) voicing the sardonic Jiji, Debbie Reynolds, Jeanine Garofalo, Matthew Lawrence too.
Kiki’s Delivery Service might provide and unique take on the coming of age tale but at no time does it lose track of what makes it essential Studio Ghibli. It’s a warm, sweet entertaining tale that still holds well against today’s modern Kids films which is credit to the films as it’s amazing 24 years old!
Animation, Adventure | Japan, 1989 | U | 1st July 2013 (UK) | Studiocanal | Dir.Hayao Miyazaki | Kirsten Dunst, Matthew Lawrence, Jeanine Garofalo, Debbie Reynolds, Phil Hartman |Buy: Double Play (Blu-ray + DVD)
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