Jul 8, 2011

[Movies] Kiki's Delivery Service / Majo no Takkyūbin (1989)

Kiki's Delivery Service / Majo no Takkyūbin (1989)The love that my partner and I share for Studio Ghibli has resulted in our following the Tumblr blog Studio Ghibli Gifs, since Tumblr just LOVES generating more animated GIFs than all the LiveJournal userpic makers ever did. And who wouldn't be able to love little snippets from your favorite Studio Ghibli films in a meme-ready form?

A the same time, following the site act as a constant reminder for me about the Ghibli movies that I have yet to see. Given enough interesting images from a particular movie, I find my curiosity reaching breaking point, and thus I schedule a viewing session with the boyfriend, since he has a great and nearly complete collection of their movies. Don't you just love it when the man you love has the ability to introduce you to something as magically fantastic as Studio Ghibli? Yes, this is but one of the many reasons that I love him.

But I digress.

The images associated with this movie had me really curious and so a few weeks ago we finally sat down to watch this movie. Studio Ghibli movies always require one's full attention. This is mainly because (1) my partner and I agree that they're best viewed in the original Japanese with English subs versus the dubbed versions and (2) there's just so much love that goes into these movies that it helps to focus in order to appreciate the level of detail. Simply amazing, especially for predominantly hand-drawn movies.

Kiki's Delivery Service / Majo no Takkyūbin (which literally means Witch's Delivery Service) is a 1989 Studio Ghibli animated movie. It was directed by Hayao Miyazaki as based on a book by Eiko Kadono. This movie was also the first to be released under Studio Ghibli's partnership with Disney.

The protagonist in this movie is Kiki (Minami Takayama / Kirsten Dunst), a 13 year old girl who is still a witch-in-training. Once witches reach this age, they're expected to find another town where they will live on their own and survive for a year as they hone their craft. Kiki eventually finds her way to the fictional city of Koriko, which is a much larger than her home town. Her only companion is her familiar, a cat named Jiji (Rei Sakamura / Phil Hartman), with whom she is able to engage in full conversations. Her only other magical skill at this time is her ability to fly on her broom (with some clumsy moments still).

In Kiki's Delivery Service, the protagonist Ki...Image via WikipediaIn Koriko she has a few awkward run-ins with the law until she starts to find people that are willing to help her out. Her biggest supporter ends up being a baker named Osono (Keiko Toda / Tress MacNeille) with the help of her husband the baker (Kōichi Yamadera / Brad Garrett). She eventually starts a delivery service where she flies people's packages to their intended destinations via the use of her broom.

In her life in the town she meets a number of different people including Tombo (Kappei Yamaguchi / Matthew Lawrence), a young boy obsessed with aviation and flying in general, and Ursula (Minami Takayama / Jeneane Garofalo), a painter who lives all alone in the forest. As she goes about her new business, she suddenly finds herself unable to fly and also loses her ability to understand her cat, Jiji. Thus Kiki must figure out what's going on with her powers while still trying to make a life for herself in the city.

Like many other Ghibli movies, the story of Kiki's Delivery Service clearly focuses on a conflict of self, if we analyze things in traditional story terms. There are no external threats to be dealt with for the most part and thus it's down to Kiki figuring out where she stands in life. Thus it makes for an interesting alternative coming-of-age story that works for both young girls and boys alike.

I really liked how this story was approached in a direct and steady manner. We are never made to go through some convulted explanation of why there are witches in this world or what the level of technology is. Instead we just jump right into things and we as viewers just have to accept the fact that Kiki is a witch (and so is her mother) and that Jiji is a talking cat, at least as far as Kiki is concerned. And the whole living alone for a year requirement may seem a bit harsh, but the story clearly addresses how young girls are more than capable of handling themselves.

The animation quality remains top notch and I loved how they captured movement in this movie. Kiki's flying is meant to be clumsy and inconsistent while Jiji has all the usual grace and flexibility of any real life cat. Tombo has his little flying machines (a continued Ghibli obsession of sorts) and I love Madame (Haruko Katō / Debbie Reynolds) and her quirky and young-at-heart housekeeper, Bertha (Hiroko Seki / Edie McClurg). While Bertha may look like your classic Ghibli crone, the way she behaves makes her a completely different character that feels just as real given the skilled animators.

I've only seen the original Japanese version and I can't quite imagine getting into the Disney-dubbed version given the actors they selected. While I enjoyed Phil Hartman on Saturday Night Live, I guess I find it hard to associate him with Jiji. I might get around to watching that version at some point in the future, but for now I'm happy with how things have progress for now.

Kiki's Delivery Service is a light, easy-going adventure beautifully brought to life by Studio Ghibli. It gets 4 quirky delivery tasks Kiki has to accomplish out of a possible 5.



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