Kiki's Delivery Service
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Rating: Highly recommended
IMDB Synopsis: A young witch, on her mandatory year of independent life, finds fitting into a new community difficult while she supports herself by running an air courier service.
This review contains spoilers
I am a fan of Hayao Miyazaki and the works of Studio Ghibli. And this film is not an exception to that fandom. I have just finished watching Kiki's Delivery Service for the first time and, as I expected, I was very pleased. Hayao Miyazaki is, in my humble opinion, one of, if not the, most exceptionally talented animation directors of our time. His films reach into us and bring out the best and brightest, as well as, sometimes, the darker and more terrifying parts of ourselves.
Kiki's Delivery Service shows the director, and the rest of his incredibly talented crew, near the top of their game. To me it's the subtle touches in the film that really set it apart.
For instance, the fluttering of the hair on characters throughout. The way that Barsa, childishly, makes swooshing noises while sitting upon Kiki's Broom Stick. One instance in particular surprised me, while Kiki was walking through the city, shopping, and a few girls are center-framed and their conversation about how cute a boy is, can be heard. The way that these background characters are animated suggests that they might bump into Kiki and become prominent characters, but instead they simply pass her by, and the film continues.
The subtle, extra, touches go a long way, and do not go un-noticed by film goers. And it brings an all together more immersive experience.
Kiki is also a shining example of how Ghibli films can make you greatly enjoy the company of the characters on screen. Whether it be the title witch-in-training herself, and her struggles to find her place in this big world. Tombo, the boy who is head over heels for Kiki, when he first sees her and realizes she's a witch. Or Jiji the worrisome, complaining black cat.
The animation is, as expected, outstanding. The visuals are bright and colorful. And there's always a lot going on on-screen. For instance during the finale dirigible crashing sequence, as if a police car falling off and into a pool isn't enough to look at, they also add a solitary person still in the pool, being pushed to the side by the waves created. As mentioned, the color scheme helps to pull you in, whether it be bright and beautiful day scenes, or dark rain pounded storm scenes, you're always engaged.
I watched the film with the English dub (I know, boo), however it's done pretty well considering. To the best of my knowledge, and memory, Ghibli English dubs seem to have a lot of talent behind the microphone. For example this film has Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man trilogy,) as Kiki, the late Phil Hartman (Saturday Night Live, Simpsons) as Jiji, Tress MacNeille (Simpsons, Futurama) as Osono, the caring shop owner who allows Kiki to live within her shop. So, thankfully, watching this film with the English dub is actually quite pleasant.
To me there's so much more going on than just the main plot of Kiki trying to find her place and the later plot point that she seems to be losing her powers. Whether it be the love that Tombo seems to hold for Kiki, and his initial failed attempts to express it. Or that almost immediately after Kiki expressed that her love for flying has dwindled since she made a career out of it, her powers start to give out. The strong, albeit quickly noted, emotions that rise when Kiki can no longer communicate with Jiji. Or the fact that Barsa seems unsure of whether to be terrified or entertained while watching the tragic events with the dirigible unfold in front of her on television.
Also the fact that besides one or two very minor exceptions, the film remains child friendly throughout. With animated films nowadays often delving into darker territories or subtly slipping in adult humor amongst the childish events, it's refreshing to take a gander at a film like this that represents, mostly the best of humankind. In my poor dark mind, hitchhiking can only lead to dark and terrifying things, because I've watched too many horror movies to think otherwise. But thankfully this film depicts the activity as being safe and even friendly.
Perhaps I'm delving way too far into things.
To me it's these smaller, often unexplored, details that make the film stand out amongst the crowd of other animated features. That along with the instantly recognizable style of animation.
With loveable characters, brilliant animation and a great story, along with pleasant pacing, comes an extremely solid review of highly recommended.