Blu-ray Review: Kiki's Delivery Service | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, September 19th, 2020  

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Studio: GKIDS

Oct 17, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

When she reaches 13 years of age, a young witch must leave her family behind and travel to a new city, where she’ll devote herself to honing her magical skills in a year’s worth of self-training. That time has come for Kiki, who climbs on her broom with a packed lunch and her talking cat, Jiji, and sets off to a bustling coastal city.  She’s the first witch the town has seen in generations, but establishing herself there is harder than she’d anticipated. Fortunately, she meets the kind, expectant owner of a bake shop, who employs her as extra help in exchange for a room. She also helps Kiki start her small business: a package delivery service which – given Kiki can zip about the skies on her broom – quickly takes off. (Pun unintended.)

Hayao Miyazaki’s third feature for Studio Ghibli, 1989’s Kiki’s Delivery Service, is one of his best and most magical. While it doesn’t match the grandeur of Princess Mononoke or Nausicaä, or the visionary, surreal imagery of Spirited Away, it’s hard to find a more all-around delightful film in the Ghibli library. After My Neighbor Totoro, there isn’t one more charming than Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Kiki is set in an intentionally vague setting: the seaside town’s architecture was culled from Ireland, France, Italy, Germany, and even San Francisco. The time period, too, is just as much a mystery: the cars and technology pin it somewhere in the mid-Century. (Miyazaki explains in one of the disc’s many video featurettes that he tried to imagine what the 1950s might have looked like had WWII never happened.) This quaint, semi-fantastical setting is somewhat grounded by the people of Kiki’s new town, most of whom have never seen a witch before but are never the least bit surprised by her sudden appearance or ability to fly. Magic in Kiki is almost treated as if it were mundane, and that’s a lot of fun.

More than a fantasy adventure, Kiki’s Delivery Service is a coming-of-age tale. Miyazaki based Kiki on his producer’s preteen daughter, and she’s portrayed in a believable manner; Kiki is at that difficult age where she teeters constantly brazen overconfidence and frustrating self-doubt. It’s an age that many parents fear, but it’s handled gracefully in Kiki’s Delivery Service. As shown through his filmography, few directors – in animation, in particular – portray youth in as realistic of fashions as he does.

Along with Totoro and Ponyo, Kiki is one of the most kiddie-appropriate films in this wave of Studio Ghibli re-releases from GKIDS. All are great movies for both adults and (older) children, but there’s little in Kiki that could frighten the younger ones. (The same can’t be said for something like Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away.) The set comes packed with both a DVD and Blu-ray of the film, Japanese and English audio tracks, and a long list of featurettes. Kiki’s Delivery Service gets our high recommendation; that’s something we’ll be saying for a lot of these Ghibli discs, but Kiki’s is even higher than most.


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