Jun 5, 2014

Review: Majo no takkyûbin [Kiki's Delivery Service] (1989)

Calling Hayao Miyazaki the Japanese Walt Disney would be easy to do, but would be unfair to both men. Disney and Miyazaki have done incredible work but their career trajectories are pretty different and they operated in totally different time periods.

Walt Disney directed tons of animated shorts all the way until 1935 while also producing too. He transitioned into only producing but the impact that he had on the output of his company's movies can't be overstated. He was a risk-taker with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which popularized animated feature films. Everyone thought it would flop but in the end the complete opposite happened. Without Disney, there wouldn't be animated films like there are now. Maybe someone else would have shown up and tried to do the same thing but there's no way in knowing if it would have worked.

Hayao Miyazaki co-founded Studio Ghibli along with Isao Takahata in 1985 after having found success with Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. He was an animator earlier on in his career but moved on to directing, writing as well as some producing. He's "retired" many times but I hope the man finds a way to keep making movies forever. He's got some way of turning me into a kid every time I watch one of his movies.


Genre: animation, adventure, drama
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Produced by: Hayao Miyazaki, Morihisa Takagi, Yasuyoshi Tokuma, etc.
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Music by: Joe Hisaishi
Running time: 103 minutes
Production company: Nibariki, Nippon Television Network, Studio Ghibli, etc.
Distributed by: Toei Company, Gkids, Sonet Film, etc.
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Budget: ¥800,000,000
Box office: ¥2,170,000,000 (Japan)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Minami Takayama, Rei Sakuma, Keiko Toda, Minami Takayama, Kappei Yamaguchi, Kōichi Yamadera, Mieko Nobusawa, Kōichi Miura, Haruko Katō, Hiroko Seki, Yūko Kobayashi, Yuriko Fuchizaki, Mika Doi




Kiki's Delivery Service is set in a world where there are witches. Not mean, warty, cackling witches though. These are witches who find a certain skill they excel at like making potions or fortune telling and then become the resident witch of some town or village. When a young witch reaches the age of 13, she's meant to leave home for a year of training and establish herself. Kiki has reached this stage and she leaves home with her black cat Jiji to find a town they like and settle there. She finds the port city Koriko which she falls in love with. Despite the beautiful location, it won't be a walk in the park for Kiki as you can imagine.


Kiki's Delivery Service is about self-confidence. Can you imagine being a 13 year-old and having to go to a strange new place and make something of yourself? Even more distressing is that the townspeople of Koriko have modernized and moved on from archaic things like witches. Kiki goes through some moments of self-doubt which are all within reason given her age as well as the unimpressed townspeople.

Kiki is a wonderful character who's enthusiastic but like I said is flawed in her self-assurance. Not only does she have to deal with witch problems, but regular teenage girl problems as well! She gets the attention of a boy by the name of Tombo who's obsessed with aviation. It's a good thing she has the help of several characters who grow to deeply care about her.

The animation is absolutely stunning. There are some beautiful shots of Kiki and Tombo speeding down a curvy road on a bike as well as some scenes where Kiki is flying on her broom. Everything looks so seamless and I think it's the kind of animated movie you could call ageless in terms of its visual qualities. It's also backed up by a beautiful score from Studio Ghibli regular Joe Hisaishi.

Kiki's Delivery Service is the kind of movie that gets you invested into the characters. Their happiness is yours and their sadness is yours. Overall the humour is well controlled and sad bits don't devolve into melodrama. I just can't believe that Hayao Miyazaki can create such loveable people again and again. He's written a moving story and with such beautiful animation. I really don't think it's possible to dislike Kiki's Delivery Service. I could just watch it over and over again...

Just a note, I saw the movie with the original Japanese audio and English subtitles.I can't speak for the quality of the English dub but I've read that the third version which was released in 2010 is much improved over the previous two versions.



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