Kiki's Delivery Service
(Majo no Takkyubin) (1989)
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * * ½

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Synopsis & Analysis
Hayao Miyazaki's Kiki's Delivery Service is an enchanting work of art. In his account of a thirteen year old witch who must, according to custom, live on her own for a year, Miyazaki has created a charming and engaging story of childhood, without ever giving way to any false sentimentality.


Kiki herself is a delightful girl, especially since she is not perfect. She is affectionate, generous, and kind, but she also has moments of insecurity, jealousy, and foolishness. Miyazaki demonstrates in his depiction of her his unique ability to capture the personalities of young girls. I cannot think of another film maker who has been as successful in such portrayals. The director has certainly succeeded in his creation of Kiki.

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As is the case in My Neighbor Totoro, there is no antagonist in Kiki's Delivery Service against whom the heroine must fight. Having settled in her new town and decided to make use of her ability to fly on a broom by setting up a delivery service, Kiki is presented with a series of adventures once she has actually begun making deliveries. Generally, however, her only opponent is bad weather. At one point, a strong wind causes her to have an accident and fall awry of a murder of crows. Later, she misses a party because of a rainstorm. Towards the end of the movie, she rescues a boy she has befriended when a gale carries away a dirigible to which he is clinging. While such adventures may sound boring to some, they are not. Each is exciting and entertaining. Several are made particularly enjoyable by the presence of the people with whom Kiki interacts. The viewer is shown how she helps a lonely elderly woman, how she herself is helped and taught by a young artist, how she develops feelings of affection for the boy she has befriended, and so on. Her relationships with each of these persons add charm and complexity to her story.


What is more, the animation used in Kiki's Delivery Service is always lovely, although this is hardly surprising given Miyazaki's tremendous skills. Kiki herself is attractively drawn, and so are most of the other main characters. Kiki's black cat, Jiji, surprisingly, is not made excessively saccharine, as is often the case with such characters. Instead, he is made likeable without being too cute. A few of the minor characters are, however, a little too adorable, though never distractingly so. Even the film's backgrounds are rendered in lavish detail. The town in which Kiki dwells, which resembles an idealized early Twentieth Century European city, is, admittedly, somewhat candy coated, but it is so beautifully drawn that this sweetness is never bothersome.


The film is, I should add, as enjoyable in English as it is in Japanese. The English voice actors in the Disney dub all give good performance. Phil Hartman's portrayal of Jiji is especially enjoyable.


Kiki's Delivery Service really is a well made, charming film.


Review by Keith Allen

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