A heartwarming tale of overcoming adversity and finding one's place in the world.
What They Say
Kiki is an enterprising young girl who must follow tradition to become a full-fledged witch. Venturing out with only her chatty black cat, Jiji, Kiki flies off for the adventure of a lifetime. Landing in a far-off city, she sets up a high-flying delivery service and begins a wonderful experience of independence and responsibility as she finds her place in the world.
For this release, I listened to the English dub, which is offered in 2.0. There are also Japanese and French tracks also in 2.0, and subtitle tracks for English and French. Though it is a 2.0 setup, the mix is pretty basic, as the sounds and dialogue stay mostly centered on the two channels. There is a bit of directionality when it comes to sounds, but it is minor. This is not a big issue with a movie intended to be quiet as this one is, so I will not complain too much.
It should be noted, however, that there have been some subtle alterations to the English audio track that was used in previous releases. Fans will note that there are some additions to the English script from the original Japanese in order to fill in "gaps": i.e. areas where Miyazaki left silence for effect, at times the English dub filled them with conversation or sound effects. This edition has removed most of those additions, along with reverting to the original Japanese opening and closing songs and music. That is a particular shame, as I rather enjoyed Sydney Forest's "Soaring" (op) and "Gonna Fly" (ed), but this edition is the closest the English version has ever been to the original Japanese version. Miyazaki might have approved all of the changes that Disney originally made, but purists should be happy with all of the reversions.
For the most part, the video is nice. It is free of technical problems, but as may be expected for a movie from the 1989, it is a bit old looking. There are some noticeable instances of dirt and scratches, and the colors are a little faded. In general, I did not find this to be a huge problem, but it is worth noting.
Pretty basic packaging here. The two discs come in a single size amaray case with a card slip sleeve that has all the same images and information as the cover sleeve. The front has an image of Kiki and Jiji flying over the city. The back has a summary, some technical details and a few screen shots.
This release has a really neat menu. In the background is a sketch of Kiki with Jiji on her shoulder, looking like a watercolor on parchment. Next to her are three "windows" of animated footage showing parts of various scenes. Some of the soothing music from the feature plays in the background, looping at two minutes so it doesn't get old. The menu feels quiet, which matches the feel of the movie very well.
There are some nice extras here, but nothing truly special. The first is a storyboard version of the feature with full audio. It is neat to watch, but gets old quickly. Then there are a series of short interviews with Miyazaki about various aspects of the creation and development of the movie. Finally, there is a feature called "Enter the Lands." Selecting this takes you to a visual representation of a world that has sections reserved for all of Miyazaki's movies. Clicking on the Kiki section gives you a quiz to see which character from the movie you are, while selecting any of the other sections gives you a trailer for that movie. It is a neat idea, but I was a little disappointed in it after hearing about it. It was not as deep as I might have liked it to be. There is also a lithograph provided inside of the cover image.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kiki's Delivery Service, the first Studio Ghibli movie localized by Disney back in 1997, was Hayao Miyazaki's fourth movie for the studio and follows on his tradition set by My Neighbor Totoro for imaginative children's movies full of magic and wonder. This movie has been rereleased with My Neighbor Totoro and Castle in the Sky in conjunction with the home release of Ponyo on the Sea. While I am a fan of all of Miyazaki's work, I am especially high on his children's movies, and Kiki's Delivery Service is no exception.
Kiki is a young witch-in-training who is facing a serious time in her life. Like all 13 year old witches, she is expected to leave home and train on her own for a year in order to cultivate the skills that come naturally to her. At first she is excited to be going, but she quickly learns that life on one's own can be tough if unprepared.
The main problem is that Kiki does not have any skills she is particularly good at. She has not picked up the knack for potions like her mother, she is a serviceable""though not spectacular""flyer, and even her overall magic level does not seem to be particularly strong. She does, however, have determination.
So one night when the moon is full, Kiki leaves home with her talking black cat, Jiji, ultimately to settle in the city of Koriko (not actually mentioned by name in the movie""this is the name the original novel gave the city). At first, Kiki feels lost as the city is far larger than the small village where she grew up, and the people in Koriko, while not unfriendly, are certainly unhelpful. She cannot seem to do anything right, and cannot even find a place to stay as the hotels will not allow her to stay without an adult.
But before she manages to lose all heart, she has a fateful encounter. Randomly wandering the streets in dejection, she passes a bakery whose pregnant owner is trying to catch up to a mother and potentially upset child who dropped a pacifier. Kiki offers to help the owner, and flies down the hill to deliver it. In return, she is given a note for the owner.
Upon returning to the bakery, the owner""Osono""offers Kiki some refreshment in repayment and listens to Kiki's story. After hearing her plight, Osono offers Kiki the use of an empty apartment above the bakery in exchange for some part-time help, which Kiki gladly accepts.
But the fateful encounter has another side benefit; seeing Kiki deliver the pacifier give Osono an idea, and thus "Kiki's Flying Delivery Service' is born. This allows Kiki to make enough money to continue her training and offers her the ability to meet plenty of new people. But while things look great on the surface, she continues to be riddled with doubts, which only intensify when her magic begins to fade.
Kiki's Delivery Service is a wonderful coming-of-age tale whose main message is self-acceptance. For all of her outward exuberance, Kiki struggles with her role in life. As a witch-in-training, she is expected to be independent, but she is unprepared to handle all of the change in her life. She does have the companionship of Jiji to help her along""voiced wonderfully by Phil Hartman in the English Dub in his last role""but even that fades in time.
As with Miyazaki's other children's movies, there is no true external conflict in Kiki's Delivery Service. Everybody who gets to know Kiki helps as much as they can even at times when she might otherwise try them. Even Tombo, whose fascination with flight draws him to Kiki and whom Kiki spurns rudely at every opportunity, is patient with her and continues to offer a hand of friendship.
Instead, the conflict is within Kiki herself: finding and accepting her place in society and life. When the movie begins, Kiki is as confused and unsure of herself as any thirteen year old girl might be. But with the help of everybody else in her life""Osono, Tombo, Ursula, etc.""Kiki slowly figures out what it takes to make her happy and the type of person she wants to be.
Interestingly, whether intended or not, Kiki's Delivery Service also has an interesting twist on Miyazaki's well documented environmentalism. Like My Neighbor Totoro, there are no overt messages in this movie suggesting Miyazaki's stance on environmentalism, but in Totoro, there is a definite theme that for the children to find their magic and guardian spirit, they needed to get away from the city and into the country. With Kiki, the reverse is almost true; Kiki grows up in the country but quickly decides on settling in a city when she has the opportunity. At first, she encounters problems""not the least of which is the loss of her magic""but once she settles and finds herself, she also finds that living in the city is where she is happiest. Considering this movie was based on a book, I doubt that Miyazaki gave it much thought, but considering that the theme runs quite a bit in his other works, it is interesting to think about.
Kiki's Delivery Service is a magical movie, no pun intended. Miyazaki's ability to create pleasant and non-threatening worlds for his characters to navigate is on full display, and it is as much a joy to watch here as it is in his other movies. Kiki's struggles are quite natural, even though she is a witch-in-training, and this is easily a movie that children and adults should find entertaining. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, French 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, World of Ghibli, Enter the Lands, Behind the Studio, Storyboard Presentation of the Movie, Introduction by John Lasseter
Magnavox 37MF337B 37" LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection upconverted to 1080p, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System