This lovingly restored version of one of Studio Ghibli’s earlier efforts, Kiki’s Delivery Service (魔女の宅急便, Majo No Takkyūbin) is an excellent reason to watch one of their lesser-known but much-loved animations.
Kiki is a 13-year old witch who decides that the time has come to see if she can make it on her own in the outside world. She relocates with her cat Jiji to a bigger town and, after some initial setbacks, sets up a flying delivery service.
Kiki’s Delivery Service is a very charming film indeed. It’s more obviously skewed towards a younger audience than some of the later films with which Miyazaki would make his name. But, like Spirited Away, it’s the journey of a girl to find her own way without the help of her parents.
Kiki’s an excitable, likeable heroine whose determination and optimism is infectious, rather than irritating. While any chance of syrupy sentimentality is undercut by the sarcastic Jiji, there’s also a core of emotional honesty that has always set Studio Ghibli films apart from their counterparts.
The sequences of Kiki flying are beautifully rendered and the escapism element is bolstered by the film’s strong central message.
Kiki is attempting to find her own way in the world but, by placing herself under so much pressure, she loses sight of what it is about magic that she loves. The message is drawn clearly by the artist that Kiki befriends, but it’s never hammered home, and that is typical of the Studio Ghibli formula. Nothing is ever forced, nothing is ever hurried, everything moves at its own pace.
The best of the bonus features are the very brief but surprisingly informative interviews with Miyazaki and his producer. They discuss how the look of the film was based on an idea of a Fifties Europe where World War II never happened, specifically the Swedish city of Visby, and how Miyazaki had to consult a colleague with a daughter about how to write teenage girls.
It might not have the emotional complexity of the studio’s most impressive achievements, but Kiki’s Delivery Service is a tremendously sweet and entertaining coming of age story that is a must for Studio Ghibli fans.