Film Review: 'Kiki's Delivery Service' (1989)

This one has my heart for all eternity.

Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

This was my very first anime film, having seen it at four-years-old. To this day, after multiple viewings, it’s still my favourite – of Miyazaki’s films anyway, as I haven’t seen very many anime films by other animators.

And I don’t think I’m just being nostalgia-blinded here. The thing that sets this particular film apart from the others is, quite frankly, its relaxed and practically plotless nature. The only thing you need to know is that Kiki is a witch in-training who moves to a new city to find a job, so that she could acquire a new skill that would help her complete her training.

I’m serious. Plot-wise, that’s really it. And honestly, I find it rather effective. It allows for flexibility in terms of structure and tone. All this movie is about, in a nutshell, is Kiki living her life. It’s filled with many moments — almost all of which are self-contained — in the sense that there will be characters that appear and situations that happen for those moments, and will never be addressed again in any way.

I like it that way, because it’s true to real life. There will be things that happen, which will probably never be explored further or ever resurface again. It’s all a mystery, and you often have to ask yourself whether it’s worth getting worked up over. Maybe certain moments are meant to have an affect on you at that point in your life and don’t really go anywhere after that, in order for something else to turn up entirely. In the film, Kiki is just sort of left with her feelings about what happens afterwards, not bringing anything up to anyone. A lot of people keep to themselves most of the time (I know I do), to let their thoughts and feelings sink in. Especially when something unfavourable happens, they’d rather confide in themselves to get over it – and that is precisely what Kiki does.

Kiki, overall, is an enjoyable teen character. She’s energetic, determined, kind, and curious, though she also has her quiet moments, and can be a little clumsy, but all that adds to her charm. While she is friendly and sweet, she can also get frustrated and rambunctious. It’s very accurate to how many teenage girls are, though she’s a touch more mature than the average teen girl. I like that her feline companion, Gigi, balances her out with his sassy personality, especially when she gets a little out of control.

The relationships she forms with various other characters during her training are very endearing. There will especially be times when you’re rooting for her because of how compassionate she is towards these people. And of course, the blossoming friendship/puppy love between her and Tombo is super cute.

Finally, let's talk about the animation and voice acting. The art style is classic Miyazaki, and the colours are vibrantly soothing. The animation has a lot of weight to it, especially whenever Kiki takes to the skies on her broomstick. You really feel as though you’re airborne with her, from soaring high in the sky to pitfalls (she’s still learning, after all). 

Additionally, the angles are really cool and do look admittedly complicated. There’s a lot of what I like to call “sprout” animation in Miyazaki films that I always thought was interesting (for an example, pay attention to Kiki’s broomstick before takeoff). As for the voice acting, while I’ve only ever seen the dub, I think the voices match the characters’ personalities well.

For all the hype I’m giving this movie, however, I’d be lying if I said that everyone will necessarily enjoy it. Everyone I’ve talked to likes it, but there might be some who do or will find it boring. I still recommend it, though. You don’t always need a concrete end goal, a linear plot, or really even a complicated story. Sometimes, you just need to sit back and relax. 

See it for yourself, and come to your own conclusion. 

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Film Review: 'Kiki's Delivery Service' (1989)