This month’s entry in GKIDS’ Studio Ghibli Fest 2017 was Hayao Miyazaki’s delightful 1989 film Kiki’s Delivery Service. Sadly, I missed seeing it on the big screen on July 24 due to a pesky summer cold so I had to do a Studio Ghibli Fest 2017 “Home Edition” and watch the film on DVD.
The story follows a teenage witch named Kiki and her cat Jiji. In the film’s mythos, when witches turn 13 years old, they leave home for a year, pick a new place to live, and learn to get by on their own. On Kiki’s 13th birthday, she leaves her loving family as planned and ends up picking the beautiful but unfriendly port city of Koriko. Kiki is plagued with adolescent insecurities and must find her way–both in figuring out what to do for a living (shockingly, she starts a delivery service) and in determining how she really feels about herself and her place in the world.
This is another breezy, beautiful fantasy film from Studio Ghibli, not unlike My Neighbor Totoro. However, Kiki’s dilemma about what to think about herself drives home an interesting and important truth. When Kiki doubts herself and feels confused and, dare I say, depressed, she loses her witch powers (which are primarily the ability to fly on a broom and to be able to speak with Jiji the cat). Kiki also has to cope with the challenges of living in a new city and dealing with a whole set of mean teenage girls and a gentleman caller, too. It’s not until, with the help of a kind mentor, she decides to believe in herself and what she is capable of when her powers start to return to her. This can be applied to all of us–the criticality of believing in our uniqueness and in our abilities, regardless of what others think, in order for us to do what we are meant to do.
Again, the trademark Studio Ghibli animation is stunningly beautiful. The music is also provided by Miyazaki favorite Joe Hisaishi and it’s terrific. Because I watched it at home, the DVD I have is the 1998 English dub which was overseen by John Lasseter and released by Walt Disney Home Entertainment. Kirsten Dunst voices Kiki and the late Phil Hartman voices Jiji (there was an “In Memory” title card dedicated to him during the end credits, so this clearly was one of Phil Harman’s final projects before his untimely death). This dub is terrific, although I would have much rather watched the sub version on the big screen.
GKIDS recently announced that they will be releasing new versions of most of the Studio Ghibli catalog in North America beginning this fall, so I am excited to start building up my Studio Ghibli collection, particularly with the original Japanese vocal tracks.
Revisiting Kiki’s Delivery Service was just what the doctor ordered. Here’s the tweet I sent out the night I watched the film.
Make sure to check out my friend Rachel Wagner’s podcast on her YouTube channel about Kiki’s Delivery Service. I hope to be able to join in for her upcoming Studio Ghibli Fest podcast in August which will be all about Castle in the Sky, next month’s Studio Ghibli Fest 2017 screening happening August 27 and 28. See the Fathom Events website for a list of participating theaters and to buy tickets.