Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Writers: Eiko Kadono, Hayao Miyazaki
Production: Kiki’s Delivery Service Production Committee, Nibariki, Nippon Television Network (NTV), Studio Ghibli, Tokuma Shoten, Yamato Transport
Distributor: Optimum Home Entertainment, StudioCanal
Platform: Viewed in the Cinema and on Blu-ray, with Japanese Audio and English Subtitles Both Times
Release Date: Out Now!
Oh, I adore this movie. All the Studio Ghibli productions I’ve seen have a signature charm to them, but something about Kiki’s Delivery Service has an extra warmth that’s just a delight to watch. You’ve probably heard others give many platitudes to this film before, but hopefully this review can offer some original thoughts!
The set-up is straightforward; Kiki (Minami Takayama) is a young witch-in-training, and at the age of 13, is setting out with her brilliantly witty talking cat Jiji (Rei Sakuma) to spend a year training in an outside town. It’s a tradition all witches partake in, and the world is used to their presence. No dark magic or fantastical wars here – there’s a slice-of-life feel, as we follow Kiki on her coming-of-age journey. Witches are shown to have differing areas of expertise; Kiki herself has a natural (if rough-around-the-edges!) talent for flying.
Speaking of, Kiki sets off on her broom, flying from the idyllic rural fields of home to a more populated seaside town where she decides to stay. That flight sequence is itself a highlight, mixing in the opening credits with beautiful vistas and the uplifting music of Kiki’s radio. In general, this film’s a treat for the eyes and ears. Animation is smooth and expressive, whilst the colours are wonderfully rich throughout – and the soundtrack manages to combine both the quaint town feel with a modern, magical sensibility.
Which brings me onto the noticeable animation details. The little things, like how Kiki often improvises her flying (showing her inexperience), makes everything feel more authentic. Kiki herself is instantly endearing – her youthful determination to prove herself is easy to root for. Little things, like always lifting heavy packages by herself or trying to pick up too many logs and dropping one on the way, are further examples of the small details I appreciate so much. Furthermore, her outfit of a one-piece black dress and red hair bow is simple, but ingeniously recognisable.
There’s an affecting character arc, as Kiki notably battles various anxieties as she attempts to find her place within the town. At first, Kiki struggles to fit in, but soon discovers that her airborne mobility is ideal for a delivery service, and her efforts to establish herself bring various degrees of success. This, and her interactions with local kids such as the immediately-infatuated Tombo (Kappei Yamaguchi), are the basis for much of the film. It sounds small-scale, but escalates in a well-paced manner, and I like how the characterisation takes the focus.
Kiki’s Delivery Service is my favourite Studio Ghibli movie. It has distinctive characters, heartwarming stories, and vibrant animation, combining this all into a focused result where no frame feels wasted. It’s one of those quintessential movies-for-all-ages that soothes the soul and leaves you with a smile on your face, without ever treating the audience as anything less than intelligent. If you haven’t seen this film yet, do yourself a favour and fix that – and if you have? Well… Watch it again anyway!