Anime Film Review: Kiki’s Delivery Service

Kiki’s Delivery Service is the fourth theatrical anime film released by Studio Ghibli, and it was directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The film was based off a novel written by Eiko Kadono; however, unlike the novel, only what happens during the summer is covered in the film.

Kiki’s Delivery Service
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Minami Takayama, Rei Sakuma, and Kappei Yamaguchi
Run Time: 102 minutes
Rated: G

Kiki’s Delivery Service was also the first film released under the Disney / Studio Ghibli deal. The dubbed version of the film was recorded in 1997, and features Kirsten Dunst as Kiki and Phil Hartman as Jiji; this was Phil Hartman’s last voice-over work before his death. The English dub made its debut in the United States at the Seattle International Film Festival on May 23, 1998; this was followed by a release on home video in the United States on September 1, 1998.

The film tells the story of Kiki, a 13-year-old witch in training. In the tradition of witches, Kiki leaves home to spend a year alone in a new town to establish herself as a witch. With her black cat, Jiji, Kiki decides to settle in the seaside city of Koriko. At first, Kiki has a hard time adjusting to life in the city; but after being taken in by a baker and his wife, Kiki establishes a delivery service, which allows her to take advantage of her flying abilities. Kiki has to endure some setbacks, which include slow business, misplaced merchandise, illness, and rude customers.

However, Kiki has also managed to catch the eye of Tombo, a young man who has an interest in aviation and is intrigued by Kiki and her ability to fly on a broom. At first, Kiki rebuffs Tombo’s attempts at friendship, but she eventually becomes friends with him.

As time goes on, Kiki discovers her powers are starting to diminish. Within a short time, she loses her ability to fly altogether. Thanks to Ursula, a young artist Kiki befriended in the forest while she tried to make her first delivery, Kiki learns how to overcome the obstacles that keep her from believing in herself and her abilities. When Tombo is lifted into the air as part of a dirigible accident, Kiki needs to find the inspiration she needs to regain her flying abilities and save her friend.

Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli produced a film that tells a wonderful “coming of age” tale of a girl trying to find her place in the world, as well as trying to discover her self-confidence. Kiki’s Delivery Service is a family-friendly anime film, which can be enjoyed by children and parents alike. Kids will enjoy the story and the antics that Kiki gets into. Teenagers will be able to relate to the struggles Kiki has with growing up, and adults will remember what it was like to go through those struggles at that age.

The animation is top-notch, and it really complements the story that Miyazaki is trying to tell in the film. Some of the sequences with Kiki flying on her broom look pretty impressive.

When Disney released Kiki’s Delivery Service on DVD, it was released as a two-disc set. The first disc in the set includes three bonus features. The first one is an introduction to the film done by John Lasseter from Pixar; however, since this already appears at the beginning of the film, I’m not entirely sure including it as a separate entity is really worth it as a special feature.

Next is “Behind the Microphones,” which has interviews and recording footage of Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman, Matthew Lawrence, and Janeane Garofolo. This is a decent “behind the scenes” feature; however, it’s kind of awkward seeing Phil Hartman in it, since I know that he’s no longer living.

The third bonus feature has the original Japanese trailers for the film. This feature runs for about 10 minutes, and they all play as one continuous piece. Unfortunately, the audio quality on the trailers is not as good as one would expect. The only thought I had on that was perhaps these trailers weren’t preserved as well as they could have been.

The second disc contains the film in a storyboard version. Once again, I will say that I just don’t understand the appeal of watching the full film in a storyboard version.

After watching the movie, I believe that Kiki’s Delivery Service should be in the home video collection of anyone who is a fan of Hayao Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli, as well as in the collection of viewers who appreciate well-told “coming of age” stories.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Kiki’s Delivery Service that my husband purchased for me as a gift.

Additional reviews of Studio Ghibli films:

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