Blu-Ray Review: Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989. Dir, Hayao Myazaki)

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Simply put Kiki’s Delivery Service (based on the 1985 novel by Eiko Kadono) is a G-rated movie about a 13-year old witch in training, now for a 45-year old man like myself, who nevertheless loves anime, was pretty much under the assumption this was going to be a hard watch, but as usual the quick assumptions I make about movies I’m about to review tend to always be wrong and you can certainly count this movie as one of them.

The rich and detailed animation helped and I knew in the first five minutes this movie would quite possibly be a keeper, and I kept thinking the entire time, I can’t believe I’m actually interested to see what happens to this Kiki (voiced bvy Kirsten Dunst) and her pet cat (aka familiar), Jiji (voiced by Phil Hartman).

It’s a fairly straightforward story that starts right off as we see this Kiki getting ready to leave home. Ritual dicatets every witch who reaches her 13th birthday must leave home for a year to train. Kiki has decided to choose this night to leave even though she wasn’t expected to until after the weekend. She dressed in the customary black dress, which she hates, and urged to take her mother’s broom rather than the one she made herself. She reluctantly agrees, so with her backpack, her radio and Jiji she hops on and takes off into the night.

Regarding her talking cat, she’s the only one who can understand what he says, which is why it’s being voiced by an actor; it meows like a normal cat, though, for other people who aren’t witches and have the “cat whisperer” talent; it wasn’t until the final act that I understood this. Anyhow, Jiji asks her where they’re going, and quickly replies, “South,” she wants to see the ocean.

It also wasn’t until she found a city to settle in that I began to notice this movie isn’t taking place in modern times. It appears to be the 40s or 50s and the city she’s in reminded me an awful lot of Paris.

For a movie about a witch Kiki really doesn’t do anything witchy except fly on her broom and “cat whisper,” she casts nor learns no spells, but just moves away to this “Paris-like” city and becomes a very efficient delivery service for this bakery. People see she’s a witch and no one seems to have a problem with it. I was cool with that. But for a simple plotted tale I was still fascinated to see how she coped with living alone in this city and handling a job.

She eventually meets this boy named, Tombo (voiced by Matthew Lawrence), who one day she likes the next day she hates, most of it has to do with his snobby friends. It’s in the final act we finally get some peril, but before that Kiki suddenly loses her powers, and the first sign of this when she can’t understand her cat, and then she tries to fly on her broom and can’t.

It’s explained later by a character she previously met, Ursula, she just needs to find inspiration, and purpose, and then maybe she’ll get her powers back; she gets it all right when Tombo’s fascination with a local blimp gets him into potentially lethal circumstances, of course nothing involving death is going to happen, it’s G-rated, I mean, I knew that, but still felt some subtle pangs of anxiousness as Kiki grabs a janitor’s broom and flies off to rescue him.

Back on November 18th Disney finally released a blu-ray version in a DVD/Blu-ray combo.

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 French: Dolby Digital—English, English SDH, and French.

Extra features are as follows:

  • Original Japanese Storyboards
  • Creating Kiki’s Delivery Service
  • Kiki & Jiji
  • Flying with Kiki & Beyond
  • Producer’s Perspective: Collaborating with Miyazaki
  • The Locations of Kiki
  • Scoring Miyazaki
  • Behind the Microphone
  • Introduction By John Lasseter
  • Ursula’s Painting
  • Original Japanese Trailers & TV Spots

The only extra feature the DVD has is the ‘Introduction By John Lasseter,’ all the rest are only accessible on the blu-ray.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a major fan of Disney, simply because their movies are too on the money to whom their demographic is and that’s kids. The only movies so far Disney has created that entertained me that does not involve musical numbers and talking animals is The Incredibles (2004), and the recently review I did for Maleficent (2014); I suspect the upcoming Big Hero 6 (2014) might be the third Disney movie that’ll entertain me, but I loved Kiki’s Delivery Service even though it initially appeared to be a typical Disney movie just done anime-style from Hayao Miyazaki.

Obviously I was wrong about this because Miyazaki isn’t Disney and because of that the movie was layered with adult substance that ended up appealing to me probably on some subconscious level, even though consciously I kept questioning why am I so interested to see what happens to this girl?

Anyhow, I recommend it to all anime lovers, to all Myazaki lovers, and to all who already think it’s probably just some lame G-rated flick about a girl; well, yeah, it is but it’s also so much more. Seek it out.

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