“Kiki’s Delivery Service” stars Minami Takayama, Rei Sakuma, Keiko Toda, and Kappei Yamaguchi. Released on July 29, 1989, the film is about a young witch who moves to a new town and uses her flying ability to run a delivery business.
The film is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who also directed films such as Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away. It is based on the 1985 novel of the same name by Eiko Kadono. The next film in my list of classic Studio Ghibli reviews is, of course, another animated classic that I remembered watching when I was little. There have been plenty of coming-of-age stories that reflect on the challenges that people went through as they grow older, but what if one of them is actually a witch? It sounds pretty bizarre on paper, but that idea managed to win over critics and audiences alike upon its release. The film also became the first Studio Ghibli film to be released under the partnership between Disney and Studio Ghibli in 1998, with the English cast including Spider-Man star Kirsten Dunst as Kiki, comedian Phil Hartman as Jiji, her feline companion, and Matthew Lawrence as Tombo. So, what made the film soar above expectations during its original release, and how exactly did I feel after viewing it for the first time on the big screen? Let’s find out. For this review, I will once again be looking at the original Japanese dub of the film.
As I said before, the story is a simple coming-of-age story about a witch named Kiki (Takayama) who sets off on her own to a new town in order to earn a living. However, it does involve a lot of themes that a lot of people, including myself, can really relate to, such as adolescence, independence, and confidence. The story offers a few misadventures or challenges that Kiki has to face while living in a new city by herself, like running a delivery service and losing her flying powers during the film’s climax, but they all serve a purpose in establishing its themes, and they work perfectly. This is probably one of the most relatable and thought-provoking stories that Miyazaki has created because there are a lot of adolescents who are also going through that phase themselves, especially my older sister when she moved out of the house a couple of years ago. What’s even better is that they added some fantasy elements into the story for the kids to enjoy while also keeping it more grounded for the mature fans of animation. The Japanese voice cast was wonderful in terms of bringing their splendid characters to life, especially Takayama as Kiki. As a reviewer, I found Kiki to be a remarkable and well-written character for a reason. Yes, she is a witch that can fly on her broom, but in terms of of the challenges she’s facing in the film, she is also described as a vulnerable and independent person just like us, and I thought they did a really good job in developing that type of character. Kiki’s feline companion, Jiji, was also a good character in terms of providing the right amount of comic relief. For the Japanese version, the filmmakers classified Jiji as a female cat in the form of Rei Sakuma, while for the English version, they described Jiji as a male cat in the form of Phil Hartman in the Disney dub and Kerrigan Mahan in the 1990 Streamline English dub. Gender swap in an anime, ladies and gentlemen. The animation still remains as one of Studio Ghibli’s stronger aspects, and looking back at it now, it still looks amazing after 28 years of release. From its gorgeous sceneries to Kiki’s flight sequences, the animation did wonders in providing a brilliant experience while also showcasing plenty of depth in the characters themselves. Like My Neighbor Totoro, Joe Hisaishi’s musical score in “Kiki’s Delivery Service” has a sense of innocence and wonder that is unique to listen to, and it still sounds great today.
Overall, “Kiki’s Delivery Service” is a splendid delivery that’ll cater to young kids, adolescents, and adult fans of animation. The story and the characters were well-written and thought-provoking, the animation looks great as always, and the score is wonderful to listen to. It does sound like I’m sugarcoating it a bit, but I got to be honest with you, I still had a lot of fun watching this film again, especially on the big screen. It was charming, funny, and best of all, relatable. A highly recommended film to die-hard fans of Studio Ghibli and to those who enjoy watching Japanese animation.