Title: Kiki's Delivery Service
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Genre(s): children, family, coming of age
Recommended audience: 7 and up
U.S. distributor: Disney
Where to watch: Official DVDs
Countries/Regions of Popularity: Japan, South Korea, Russia, France and Thailand.
Synopsis: As part of her training, a young witch named Kiki leaves home to live alone for one year. She eventually settles in the port city of Koriko and starts a delivery business (using her broomstick as a transportation vehicle). Kiki's upright personality and small-town persona make it difficult for her to fit in. Can she overcome her struggles and find purpose in the chaotic city life?
Story: In regards to plot development, Kiki's Delivery Service is the most straightforward of Hayao Miyazaki's movies. We have here a young girl from a small town moving into the city and discovering the harsh realities of life. If we removed her meager ability to fly a broomstick, what is left is a slice-of-life story aimed at kids and young adolescents. Not surprisingly, the movie enjoyed mainstream appeal in the United States with high home video sales and a feature in the popular film review show Siskel and Ebert. In comparison, Miyazaki's classics like Princess Mononoke earned cult status in the U.S. but were not commercially successful. Spirited Away is the exception.
Animation/Direction: Beautiful visuals are one thing the movie is not lacking. Each scene is gorgeously animated and the character designs are superb. Miyazaki's deft touches are clearly present in every aspect of the movie. Even if you disliked the plot, it is worth the price of admission just to watch the movie for the animation alone.
Music: This is another area where the movie excels. Under the direction of master composer Joe Hisaishi, the liveliness of Kiki's world comes alive. Every mood and every emotion are perfectly captured by the music. Miyazaki and Hisaishi spared no expense to create a masterpiece. It should be noted that Disney replaced the original Japanese opening and ending themes with its own songs, written exclusively for the U.S. audience.
Final Comment: Kiki's Delivery Service is not a typical Hayao Miyazaki's movie, lacking a purposeful plot and adept character developments. Despite being a movie about a witch, magical elements are far and few between. The ability to fly a broomstick and to talk to a pet cat is more mundane than inventive. Despite its flaws, the movie is beautifully animated in true Miyazaki's fashion. Kiki's Delivery Service is a good introduction to Japanese animation.
Verdict: One thumb up!