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Info:

  • Audio Rating: N/A
  • Video Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 3 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 105
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Kiki's Delivery Service

Kiki's Delivery Service

By Jon Turner     May 02, 2003
Release Date: April 15, 2003



The Review!
Rating:
Video Quality: **** out of *****
Audio Qualty: ***** out of *****
Japanese Language Track: ***** out of *****
English Language Track: ***** out of *****
French Language Track: N/A
Packaging: ****1/2 out of *****
Menus: **** out of *****
Extras: **** out of *****
Content: ***** out of *****

Overall Rating: ****1/2 out of *****

Review:
Hayao Miyazaki's films are well known in Japan, but America has had
little exposure to its films. PRINCESS MONONOKE received an excellent DVD
release from Miramax three years ago, and just last year Fox Video released a
barebones version of MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, but other than these two films (as
well as THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO), the catalog of Miyazaki's films on DVD has
been rather skimpy. All of that is about to change, however, for Disney is
(finally!) bringing Miyazaki's titles to the U.S. on DVD -- especially now
that they have just been issued in Japan. And what better choices to start
out with rather than three of his most popular (and most requested) films
SPIRITED AWAY, KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE, and CASTLE IN THE SKY? This review
focuses on one of these three titles †KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE. I have a
special fondness for this wonderful movie before I knew about it, I used to
think Anime was nothing but sex and violence -- stuff for grown-ups only.
However, I take it back. And I owe it all to KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE, which
introduced me to Miyazaki's magical world as well. And the DVD presentation
is no less brilliant.

VIDEO QUALITY: **** out of *****
Given that I was so impressed with Disney's transfer of PRINCESS
MONONOKE, I expected nothing less than similar excellence for the rest of his
films. These expectations are almost completely fulfilled. Simply put, this
is a beautiful, clear, pristine transfer which (pardon the pun) feels as
though it could come straight out of a baker's oven... for the most part.
There are some instances, however, when the video quality suffers from minor
compression artifacts mostly in the darker scenes. These were not so
noticeable on CASTLE IN THE SKY or even on SPIRITED AWAY, but they're really
obvious on this transfer. Nevertheless, this is the one flaw in an otherwise
superb visual presentation. In addition, on the Japanese language track, the
credits and titles are identical to those on the original un-dubbed print ala
PRINCESS MONONOKE. Although there is at least one oddity on the visuals on
the English track, though. For some reason, the "Please Ring For Service"
sign was changed for the first VHS release, but here on the dubbed print it
still exists. The only other things in English (aside from the credits) are
the sign at the bakery and her ending letter. This oddity and the
compression artifacts make this the weakest of Disney's Miyazaki DVD
transfers, but the goods it still manages to deliver more than make up for
the minor flaws.

AUDIO QUALITY: ***** out of *****
The audio quality is equally excellent. Although the English dub is the
only track in 5.1, the other track I spot checked (the Japanese track)
sounded awful darn good to me. However, there is one minor complaint that I
have† in the English dub, just before the closing credits for the English
cast roll (after Kiki's letter), the music just fades out. That seems like a
shame considering I loved that bouncy end title song! Oh, well. The same
thing actually occurred in the Japanese R2 release (from reports that I've
read), so I guess I cannot complain much. Actually, there is little to
complain about in this department overall, for the audio has been once again
excellently mixed, and far superior to watching a VHS tape.

JAPANESE LANGUAGE TRACK: ***** out of *****
I only spot checked the Japanese language track, but it was definitely
different from the Disney dub (mostly in terms of the music and ad-libs from
Phil Hartman as Jiji), but what I heard sounded solidly mixed. Plus, the
original songs by Yumi Arai are included for the purists, so you can't go
wrong there. Too bad you can't switch the audio, however.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRACK: ***** out of *****
The movie was originally dubbed into English by Carl Macek of Streamline
Pictures, but Disney redubbed the movie for its initial release with an
all-star cast that did a truly excellent job with their roles.
Thirteen-year-old Kirsten Dunst is perfect as Kiki, eliciting just the right
touch of cuteness, spunkiness, independence, and poignancy to her role. The
other actors, which include Debbie Reynolds (Madame), Tress MacNeille - of
TINY TOONS and ANIMANIACS fame - (Osono), Janeane Garofolo (Ursula), and
Matthew Lawrence (Tombo), give similarly superb performances. Of the actors,
however, it is the late Phil Hartman's witty, sarcastic take on Jiji that
steals the show. He added in some new dialogue and proved to be so good at
his role that he actually expanded the character. This caused nay saying
from some purists, but it is hard to deny that Hartman's lines are hammy and
howlingly funny. I swear, I just cannot get enough laughs every time I hear
his lines. ("First, don't panic! Second, don't panic! And THIRD, did I
mention not to panic?!?") The opening and ending songs were replaced by two
gorgeous, rollicking numbers from Sydney Forest, but even they seem to suit
the story wonderfully. In fact, I find myself bouncing to them every time
they pop up over the opening and closing credits of the show.

SPANISH LANGUAGE TRACK: N/A
I haven't listened to the Spanish Language Track yet, so I cannot comment
on it.

PACKAGING: ****1/2 out of *****
Okay, I'll get the negatives out of the way first. First off, there
aren't any liner notes from Miyazaki himself, unlike SPIRITED AWAY.
Secondly, fans may find it irritating that the inside pamphlet only lists the
chapter stops, and the extras... not anything else. That said, the packaging
is bewitching (pun intended), with a lot of strong emphasis to commercialize
to fans the importance of Miyazaki. His name is mentioned on the back in the
description, Studio Ghibli is credited on the front cover, and the
illustrations are just beautiful.

MENUS: **** out of *****
There are a few ups and downs in this department. First off, the menus
are full-motion and beautiful, and the front loaded trailers of CASTLE IN THE
SKY and SPIRITED AWAY are easy to skip. Each option is transitioned by cuts
of reaction shots to Kiki flying, which is great for a while, but gets old
fast. Fans will have to (literally) dig their way through the Audio setup to
find the English literal subtitles, but it's there. There's been a lot of
speculation that the subtitles are inaccurate; this is because Macek's
original dubbed script was sent to Disney by Tokuma, who thought they had a
good translation. However, these matters are only trifle to the pickiest of
purists. Which leads us into the more disappointing aspects of the menus.
You cannot change the audio while you watch the film, but even worse, THERE
IS NO WAY TO CHANGE THE SUBTITLES WHILE YOU WATCH. Absolutely none! You've
got to select the subtitles on the menu for either dub. This is truly a
stinker for people who like to watch English dubs with the subtitled script
for comparison. Nevertheless, it is a major flaw in what are otherwise
decent menu selections.

EXTRAS: **** out of *****
This was the weakest section of the PRINCESS MONONOKE DVD, but here it is
exactly the opposite. Not as lengthy as the ones on SPIRITED AWAY, yet
approximately on the same level as those in CASTLE IN THE SKY. First off,
we've got a 50-second introduction from John Lasseter (the guy who directed
TOY STORY and several PIXAR films, and was the supervisor for the English dub
of SPIRITED AWAY) that isn't terribly informative about the film's background
(and reveals some spoilers!), but charming nevertheless. (It's also great to
see shots of him and his pal, Miyazaki!)

Then, we have probably my absolute favorite of the extras, the
"Behind-The-Microphone" featurette, a five-minute long documentary which
features interviews from Kirsten Dunst, the late Phil Hartman, Matthew
Lawrence, and Janeane Garofolo. As another bonus in this feature, we get to
see producer Toshio Suzuki nod in approval of Dunst's performance as Kiki.

Following that are ten minutes of Japanese trailers which were used to
advertise the film, all soft-subtitled. Miyazaki fans will have a blast with
this one.

On the second disc, there is the option of watching the movie in
storyboard format (similar to CASTLE IN THE SKY). In other words, you get to
see the same movie, but with storyboards in place of the finished film. The
only downside? You can't switch back to the film to make comparisons. Boo!
You can choose to watch it either in Japanese or English.

CONTENT: ***** out of *****
KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE may have been my first real exposure to Miyazaki,
but this happens to be the director's fifth film, which was the highest
grossing movie of its year in Japan. Adapted from a children's book by Eiko
Kadono (which has been recently released in America), the film is not a
typical good-versus-evil conflicted, dysfunctional story but a gentle,
character-driven tale with endearing characters, beautiful artistry, and a
strong, positive message about confidence and independence that are quite
encouraging for all, from the youngest of children to the oldest at heart.
(On a side note, it persuaded me to get some exercise! The "fat, fat,
FAT!!!" line did it for me.)

It's about 13-year old Kiki, an adorable witch-in-training, who, on one
moonlit night, leaves her hometown to seek her independence and fortune.
She's accompanied by her wisecracking and hilarious pet black cat, Jiji, and
a little wobbly when it comes to takeoffs and landings while maneuvering her
broomstick. Kiki arrives at a luxurious town by the ocean where she
eventually finds work at a bakery run by the generous Osono and her silent,
gruff husband. There, she starts a high-flying delivery service which opens
up many new relationships for the budding witch -- including a friendly
painter, Ursula, a kind old woman, Madame, and a boy named Tombo, who dreams
of flying. Of the three, Kiki initially mistakes Tombo's friendly overtures
as a case of mockery or rudeness and cold-shoulders him, but she apologizes
when the young witch later discovers that he really is a nice guy interested
in her as a person. (The following text should be highlighted) At the risk
of giving a spoiler, she flies to his rescue at the film's climax when he
becomes trapped on a runaway dirigible. (This sequence was not included in
the original book.) (End of highlighter)

The above synopsis may sound dull, but KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE certainly
is not. It is a joy to watch from start to finish as we see Kiki slowly grow
up and learn to have faith in herself, especially when her powers begin to
fade away toward the end of the movie (also not in the book). It's
engrossing enough to keep one's attention and there are a number of
tear-jerking moments that make it more than just a movie. This is a
characteristic you'll only be able to find in Miyazaki, and KIKI'S DELIVERY
SERVICE "delivers" a wonderful movie which shows that movies don't have to be
about overcoming evil or action-packed or angst-ridden to be entertaining.

But that's not all to KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE; there's a lot more to it
than just a message about growing up, and yes, the magic within us all. The
animation is absolutely beautiful and imaginative, with a delightful European
look to the characters and the setting. (Interestingly, Miyazaki's animators
went on a trip to Europe to do some of this artwork.) Joe Hisaishi's music
is also delightfully European, tuneful, and perfectly accompanies the story
of Kiki's quest for adulthood. (Some parts of the music were changed
somewhat for the English dub of KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE made by Disney - as
mentioned above - but whatever changes they made, aside from the opening and
ending songs, they do not really take anything away from the movie.)

The humor in the film doesn't come just from Jiji's doings or wisecracks
(and he is hardly the typical animal sidekick; he acts as a friend to Kiki,
and serves a great purpose in the story), but from anything else in the movie
that is supposed to be funny. There are plenty of scenes like this, too,
such as Osono's husband stumbling over a table, and Jiji having to stand in
for a stuffed cat Kiki unfortunately loses on her first job -- where a great
hound is nearby! There is also a hilarious moment in this already funny
scene when the little boy's (who is getting the cat) mother calls to her son
to turn off the TV, but he doesn't respond. Finally, she yells "TURN OFF THE
TV!!!!!" and he does so. A wonderful laugh, of course, but at the same time
we are reminded of similar events happening with parents and young
starry-eyed children who don't respond to the first call.

Some critics complained that the film was longer than it needed to be,
but I see nothing wrong with the movie being 104 minutes long. When a film
like this is so enjoyable, the length is the least important issue about the
film.

As part of their distribution deal with Studio Ghibli, Disney chose KIKI
as their first release. It proved to be a very successful release when it
was released to video on September of 1998; it sold over a million copies in
the US - a record for any Anime video. But since then, the movie has been
out of print, and there was never a DVD release. Now, however, fans can
rejoice, because the film is now available once again for a new generation to
discover.

OVERALL RATING: ****1/2 out of *****
Although this release isn't without its occasional drawbacks, Disney
still did an excellent job with this DVD release of KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE.
There are some shortcomings, yes, but everything else about this release
literally delivers. I highly recommend it to all.




Review Equipment
TEAC AG-V8520 Audio/Video Surround Receiver, Samsung TV, Phillips DVD711 Player, and Acoustic Speakers

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