I’ve had a bit of a revival of Studio Ghibli movies recently, not that I ever stopped liking them, but while my nephew’s been visiting and we’ve just been playing computer games, it’s something nice and easy to have on TV at the same time.
It backfires a bit though as my attention tends to disappear from my game and I just watch the movie, but I suppose that’s a testament to the power of Ghibli.
“Kiki’s delivery service” was one of the earliest Ghibli movies, and one that consolidated its growing audience with something a bit more accessible than its predecessors. “My neighbour Totoro” is pitched to the very young I think (though it’s enjoyable for all ages), and “Grave of the fireflies” is certainly not aimed as a fun family film.
Based on a Japanese children’s story, “Majo no Takkyūbin”, it’s the tale of Kiki, a 13-year-old witch whose rite of passage is to find a new place to live and make a living out of her supernatural skills. It was never made clear quite what Kiki’s calling was, but she makes use of her ability to fly a broomstick to set up a delivery service, having been taken in by a friendly couple who run a bakery.
As with some of Ghibli’s movies, it often feels like there isn’t a particular story in the conventional sense, just the setup. She makes friends along the way and cheerfully learns the value of hard work. It doesn’t feel like she needs to learn a lot, she’s polite and good-natured, even if she gets a little snotty with poor Tombo, a flying-obsessed kid who is fascinated by Kiki.
Not to say the film isn’t eventful. Kiki has to cope with setbacks, and the film ends with a spectacular set-piece. But it’s a nice easy film to watch, and doesn’t feel the need to get too heavy. Having recently suffered the shouty Chihiro in on the English dub of “Spirited Away“, Kirsten Dunst’s Kiki is a lot easier to listen to. Her companion cat Jiji voiced by the late Phil Hartman is a bit too sneery and complains a lot, particularly at the start, which does kill the mood of Kiki’s trip to the new city a bit.
But as an entry-level anime it’s definitely a good one to start with, nothing will cause much of a culture shock as witches are fairly ordinary folklore I think. Very easy to watch anyway.