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Thursday, 12 April 2018

Retro Review: Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)

Kiki's Delivery Service 
Genre: Animated Fantasy

Plot: A young witch, on her mandatory year of independent life, finds fitting into a new community difficult, whilst she supports herself by running an air courier service 

'Which Witch Is Which?'

The release of Kiki's Delivery Service in 1989 came out during a time when Studio Ghibli was still an unknown quantity in the animation world outside of Japan, the company's founder Miyazaki was unheard of and the film was overshadowed by Disney's The Little Mermaid. Thus, it didn't quite fully attain the commercial success that film had achieved, over time, Kiki's Delivery Service has become one of the most cherished animated films of all-time. 

The film sees Kiki, a 13-year-old witch who leaves home & working at Good Cooking Pan Bakery for one year in order to independently support herself and to earn a living, with the use of her special abilities. It's a standard teenage tale where Kiki learns a few lessons, makes mistakes, learns from them and encountering some hurdles and overcoming them. 

Much like with Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli's other works, it is mainly concerned with emphasising the struggles and hardships the characters face, who are predominately human and in dealing with the human experience, without the need of gimmicks and special effects.

But with Kiki's Delivery Service, it's an enlightening telling of the 'migrant experience': from moving to a new place, settling in and trying to find one's feet and learning, being independent and in becoming a better person along the way.

The voice acting in the U.S version was good, although with the late Phil Hartman as Jiji the cat, I can give and take with him. Just about with his almost monotone delivery, and usually, I don't take to his style of humour. Young Kirsten Dunst was effective as the title character. 

It definitely has that European, Parisian feel to it that makes it more accessible, as well as universal. It also oozes charm in places with nice character designs. However, in rewatching this, it didn't quite blow me away as My Neighbour Totoro did and lacked depth at times. As much as the simplicity is there - like with all of Studio Ghibli movies - it drifted away, and suddenly, I lost concentration and as nice and pleasant as it felt, the story was rather stagnant & wasn't as deep and enticing. But the last 40 mins were good and the side characters were very pleasant and not grating. I liked Tombo, yet with him and the rest of the characters, they seem to be not so well developed and they never make the desired impact on the film. 

For a coming- of- age tale also, I also felt Kiki's transition and progression throughout her journey wasn't as thorough and challenging as it should have been. Despite these niggling issues, Kiki's Delivery Service was still, all right. 

Final Verdict:

Not as rousing and compelling as My Neighbour Totoro for me personally, yet this is more lightweight and lively, courtesy of Gigi the cat and it has some nice touches. I guess it makes up for the lack of heart that My Neighbour Totoro has in abundance, yet still, there just wasn't one particular or crucial scene or moment that ultimately made this extremely satisfying. There was little to almost no emotional attachment towards the characters. 

I just wished the story was a tad more challenging and whilst it is a nice film to wind down with and in terms of Ghibli movies for people new to Studio Ghibli a nice one to start with, Kiki's Delivery Service is not one I'd hold to account as the exemplary or 'ultimate' Ghibli film. 


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