Film #113: Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

Kiki-kiki-kikis-delivery-service-27960951-1280-1024aka: 魔女の宅急便 (Majo no takkyūbin)
director: Hayao Miyazaki
language: Japanese
length: 102 minutes
watched on: 27 February 2014

It’s been a few months since I watched any Ghibli, but as I probably mentioned on this blog when I watched Howl’s Moving Castle, one of the goals in the back of my mind is to keep rewatching the rest, and perhaps finally catch up on Grave of the Fireflies. Also, if the statistics for the past few years are to be believed, I always have a lull in film-watching during February, and didn’t even watch any last February as I was concentrating on reading, so this year I wanted to alter that trend.

Kiki was never my favourite Ghibli movie, but all of Miyazaki’s hallmarks are there – beautiful backgrounds, female protagonist, magical story, etc. I had forgotten the basic storyline of this movie before I watched it again – basically, Kiki is a young witch, who, by tradition, has to go off in search of a far away land in order to train herself to be a witch, at the age of 13. She ends up choosing a relatively modern city, where witches haven’t lived for a long time, and setting up a delivery service. She’s instantly noticed by Tombo, a boy who hangs out with a gang of other teenagers and reminds me of Tintin, who is obsessed with building his own flying machines. He ends up persistently pursuing her, and she realizes he’s not that bad after all, although his friends are not the nicest. However, depression sets in after a while as things become too much for Kiki, in her day and age far too young to be leaving home, and she finds herself unable to fly or cope with her situation.

That particular theme is probably familiar to any of us who’ve ever left home. Things aren’t always easy, and sometimes we have to take a break. And the way Kiki’s life changes over the course of the movie is familiar to me. It may change, but that doesn’t mean it get’s worse.

Kiki’s world is in a strange anachronistic mishmash of different European countries. People seem to write in English, but talk in Japanese, and there are hints of German or Italian culture here and there. There are cars and telephones, but also electric ovens, which seem to me to occupy different eras. The name of the bakery where Kiki works is printed in a faux German style, but is clearly actually Japanese.

It’s one of Miyazaki’s most famous works, anyway, and I’ve heard it’s been made into a live-action movie now, although from what I remember, the actors playing Kiki and Tombo are clearly way over 13. I’d be mildly interested in seeing that, perhaps, but even after rewatching it it’s not my favourite Miyazaki movie. I much prefer his other ones like Totoro or Spirited Away.

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