Kiki's Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyuubin)

Matt Brown (Editor in Chief) — December 18th, 2003
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Mr. Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli have been dazzling audiences for almost 20 years now with lovable characters and increasingly elaborate plots. The early days of Ghibli were of a simpler nature, for the most part, and Kiki's Delivery Service is probably the most straightforward of them all. It is a story about having appreciation for yourself and others. Like other Ghibli offerings, this film is a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

Kiki's Delivery Service (the Japanese title is Majo no Takkyuubin, meaning "witch's express home delivery") begins with young witch Kiki leaving her home as training - to become a full-fledged witch. The tradition requires that she live on her own in a new town that has no witch, for a year. She finds a bustling coastal town and decides to make it her home. Soon after, she secures a temporary residence and starts up Kiki's Flying Delivery Service. The remainder of the film follows her struggles as she figures out what her abilities are.

The first thing to notice about this film is that Kiki's black cat Jiji is funny. Really funny. His dry sarcasm matches perfectly with her lofty cheerfulness. Most of the other characters are straight out of the Book of Ordinary, with the possible exception of an artist named Ursula (who is voiced by the same actor as Kiki, incidentally). Kiki meets Ursula during one of her delivery runs, and Ursula reveals herself to be a been-there-done-that version of Kiki, in a way. Kiki's conversations with Jiji and with Ursula are what drive the film, primarily.

The film's visuals are best when Kiki is in the air. Ursula shares a lot in common with Kiki.

While Kiki's Delivery Service is mostly lighthearted and humorous, it has its serious moments as well. Kiki spends time pondering over what her true abilities are, and she always worries over the fact that she doesn't have any nice clothes to wear. Overall, the story is simple, fun, and sweet, with a couple pinches of reality sprinkled in.

The character designs for Kiki's Delivery Service are fairly ordinary if you're used to looking at Ghibli characters. Kiki wears a plain black dress, but the large red bow in her hair ups the cuteness factor. Jiji is all eyes; that is, his fur is so dark that it's hard to see anything else but the eyes. One thing I always have to give Ghibli props for is that they're not afraid to represent people of all shapes and sizes in their works. Ursula is a skinny woman, but has plump arms and legs. Osono (a baker's wife that Kiki stays with and does work for) is incredibly pretty, but very large since she's carrying a baby. And Tombo (who is interested in Kiki) is a nerdy skin-and-bones kid who wears big glasses. The fact that they're so different adds a lot of realism to the work. While we're on the topic of visuals, there isn't much to say about the film's backgrounds and animation except that they're as gorgeous as always.

The film's music (by Joe Hisaishi) has somewhat of an antiquated feel, matching the setting well. The song that sticks out the most is a lovely waltz that is played in several scenes. Being a big fan of waltzes, I enjoyed the film's music quite a bit. The ending song is a pleasant folk song, titled Yasashisa ni Tsutsumaretara (If I'm enveloped in kindness).

Kiki's Delivery Service is easy to understand, easy to enjoy, and easy to recommend for anyone craving a lighthearted and/or family film. The American release by Disney is fairly nice, with a dub featuring Kirsten Dunst and Phil Hartman that is fairly good (though the dub script leaves some to be desired, especially where Jiji is concerned). Unfortunately for those who prefer the Japanese track, it is accompanied by dubtitles (that don't even match the current dub) instead of subtitles, and so is largely inaccurate in several scenes. Even more unfortunate is the fact that these dubtitles appear on all of the Disney DVD releases for the movie. It's no reason to avoid such a good film, though. Go see it.

Distributor: Disney
Creator: Hayao Miyazaki / Studio Ghibli
Released: 1989

Plot: B+
Character Design: A
Animation Quality: A
Music: A
Overall: A