KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE
Review by Ed Nguyen
Minami Takayama, Rei Sakuma, Keiko Toda, Kappei Yamaguchi 10
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: "The World of Ghibli", John Lasseter introduction, storyboards
Length: 105 minutes
Release Date: March 2, 20
are still times when I feel sad, but all in all, I sure love this town."
the past twenty years, Japan's Studio Ghibli has been discreetly churning out
arguably the finest traditional cel-animated films around.
Many of those films have been directed by the studio's co-founder, Hayao
Miyazaki, and they rank among the most commercially successful movies in
Japanese cinema, animated or not. In
fact, Miyazaki has frequently been described as Japan's answer to Walt Disney.
So, it is perhaps not a coincidence then that the Disney company, after
acquiring the U.S. distribution rights to many Studio Ghibli films, has released
Miyazaki's last two celebrated films, Princess Mononoke and Spirited
Away, here in America. In the
spring of 2003, Disney also got around to releasing two of Miyazaki's earlier
films onto DVD - Castle in the Sky and Kiki's
Delivery Service. The release
of these films on DVD coincided with that for Spirited
Away, and all three are superb examples of Miyazaki at his best.
secret of a Miyazaki film is that at its core, it always contains a
heart-warming, family-friendly tale. While
current American animated films typically seem lost in their generic scripts of
contemporary gags, forced comic relief, and flashy but meandering action
sequences, the Miyazaki films favor a more low-key approach that emphasizes the
stories and their characters. Even when situated in a fantasy setting, Miyazaki's
characters react realistically and honestly.
Such is the case in Kiki's Delivery
Service (1989), Miyazaki's glowing tale of the passage from childhood into
on a book by Eiko Kadono, Kiki's Delivery
Service follows the misadventures of Kiki, a young girl who also just
happens to be a little, teenaged witch. Kiki
has recently reached the milestone of her thirteenth birthday.
It is her rite of passage, and in accordance with family traditions, Kiki
must now journey into the world for one year of training to hone her craft.
It will be a period of self-discovery, of learning to be self-reliant.
approaching day of departure thrills Kiki.
As the film first introduces her, she is lying casually on a grassy
meadow, listening intently to the daily weather forecasts on a radio.
When she hears the prediction of clear and calm skies on the night of the
full moon, Kiki knows that her day has finally arrived.
is excited at the prospect of exploring the world on her own, yet she is
frightened by it as well. Her
reactions are typical of a young girl's as she wonders about what she will find
and how other people may react to her. Donning
a witch's traditional black robe before her mirror, Kiki sighs because the robe
isn't very pretty. Before departing
home, she asks her father for one last hug and one last spin.
These touching little scenes help to define Kiki's nature.
In fact, Miyazaki has filled his film with many simple gestures - a
daydreaming stroll, a wayward glance, tiny curtsies to strangers, which quietly
help to establish Kiki's personality. Kiki
is believable as a real character, a young girl with her self-doubts but also
with her soaring hopes, and not just as another generic, cookie-cutter animated
the fateful evening, Kiki flies away into the twilight sky.
Her little black cat, Jiji, is her only companion, but Kiki is traveling
with the best wishes of her proud parents and her friends back home.
Coincidentally, Jiji is not just an adorable pet but also a wise friend,
offering Kiki friendly words of advice from time to time.
travels eventually bring her to a quaint, coastal town.
It is the very picture of Ye Olde English Village, complete with
cobblestone alleyways, bakeries, and even a bell tower in the town center.
The cars have a very antiquated appearance to them as well.
However, witches are apparently not so unusual in this world, so Kiki's
arrival by broomstick does little more than raise a few eyebrows.
In this new town, people are simply indifferent to her.
In addition, Kiki is even admonished by a policeman for haphazardly
flying around and nearly receives a traffic ticket!
It is not quite the good first impression that Kiki wanted to give her
Kiki continues to wander the town (by foot, now) and puzzles over what to do
next, she has the good fortune to encounter a kindred spirit in Osono, a
warm-hearted baker woman. Osono
likes Kiki's bright and cheerful outlook and offers her an attic room in which
to stay. Osono is Kiki's first
friend in her new town, although Kiki will eventually win over many more with
her bubbly personality.
a witch, though, Kiki doesn't have any particularly special skills.
Her only real talent is flying, even if she has a penchant for crashing
into trees. Nevertheless, Kiki is
nothing if not optimistic. Soon
after settling in Osono's attic, she announces how she will approach her
training - with the help of her broomstick, Kiki will start up her own delivery
remainder of the film is devoted to Kiki's comic misadventures in delivery, with
the suspense arising from seeing if Kiki can fly safely and deliver a package in
time (and intact). Thanks to her
delivery service and her sweet-heartedness, Kiki soon makes many new friends.
She meets a young, female artist who lives in the woods, searching for
the inspiration for her next painting. She
meets an old-fashioned grandmother who, as all grandmothers do, loves to bake
cakes and pies for other people. And
most amusingly, Kiki even meets a young admirer, Tombo, who finally wins her
over in a series of amusing, meet-cute encounters.
this, we see the key difference between a typical Miyazaki film and other
animated films. There are no good
guy-bad guy confrontations in this film and essentially no real action, either.
Much of this film is instead devoted to scenes which build relationships
and camaraderie. Kiki's Delivery Service
is truly a celebration of the gradual emergence of self-confidence as well as
the importance of developing good friendships.
These may hardly seem usual themes around which to build a such a popular
animated film, but Kiki's Delivery Service
is always entertaining and never condescending, a fine tribute to Miyazaki's
great skill as a story-teller.
understands that the essence of any good film, not just an animated one, lies in
its ability to move us in an honest and real manner.
Once upon a time, animators at the Disney studios knew this, too; perhaps
they are now re-learning it from Miyazaki.
In fact, one of Disney's recent efforts, Lilo
'n' Stitch, made a surprisingly good effort to emulate the spirit of a
Miyazaki film, offering many tender and sweet moments between the film's two
sisters (before Lilo 'n' Stitch eventually devolved into a typically Disney
action-comedy with lasers and spaceships and fuzzy aliens).
is ironic that while the Disney company no longer routinely produces the best
animated features around, it still distributes the finest in CGI animated films
(from Pixar, a Disney subsidiary) and now in traditional cel-animation (from
Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli). For
a good introduction to Miyazaki's films, check out Kiki's Delivery Service, a wonderful childhood tale about growing
up, but more importantly, about true friendship.
Video *** 1/2
Disney put a lot of care into the transfer for Kiki's Delivery Service, and the results are very pleasing indeed. The film is shown in an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 format. Images are clear, and the colors are bright and chipper. The colors do rarely fluctuate a little, but this is merely an attribute of the traditional cel animation of the film and not a quality of the transfer itself. The animation itself is quite excellent, perhaps not quite up to the best Disney standards but certainly superior to most other anime films. The level of detail is generally solid, with only a few scenes appearing mildly soft. Best of all, the terrible compression defects which marred the trailers are absent here, so the movie looks quite good.
originally had a Dolby stereo soundtrack, but it has been upgraded to 5.1
surround sound for this DVD. Better
yet, there are now three such available 5.1 tracks (in English, Spanish, and in
the original Japanese). The
Japanese track is very charming, and the original voice actors do a great job.
The English track features the voices of Kirsten Dunst as Kiki and Phil
Hartman as Jiji. I should point out
that in comparing the English and Japanese tracks, I noticed many alterations in
the dialogue, which at times might be completely unrelated between the two
tracks! Consequently, the nature
and tone of the film is considerably different in the English version (I cannot
speak for the Spanish version), making Kiki's
Delivery Service fundamentally a new experience when switching from the
original Japanese track to the English one.
The English track may be a well-produced one, but purists might
ultimately prefer the original track because it best preserves the natural
inflection and humor of the Japanese dialogue in the film.
music is also a delight. From the
Ye Ye pop tune that Kiki listens to while riding her broomstick, to the film's
breezy, light-hearted theme, this score sets a wonderfully cheerful atmosphere
for the film, painting a portrait of youth and innocence.
Unfortunately, the English dubbed version substitutes a couple of dull
pop tunes for the superior Japanese ones that appear in the original opening and
closing credits. Given the muddy,
visual appearance of these English sequences as well, I again recommend that
viewers just watch the original Japanese version!
Kiki's Delivery Service arrives as a double DVD set. The first DVD starts off with an introduction by Pixar maestro John Lasseter. It also has a new interactive experience called "The World of Ghibli" which takes you inside the lands and characters in the story as well as behind the studio for documentaries, interviews and more.
second DVD contains only one feature, but it is a huge storyboard section that
runs 102 minutes and covers the entire film from start to finish!
Wow. Viewers have the option
here of listening to either the Japanese or the English audio track with the
storyboards. This long feature
fortunately have chapter stops, too, so viewers need not fast forward through
long stretches to arrive at a particular scene of interest.