Hayao Miyazaki (director)
16 December 2021 (released)
19 December 2019
This delightful coming-of-age fantasy drama won various awards and rightly so. Focusing on the trials and tribulations of adolescent witch Kiki and her attempts to make it alone in the big city by means of offering a delivery service, there is much to cherish in this animated gem from 1989, brought to us by Studio Ghibli.
Kiki (voiced by Kirsten Dunst) is a 13-year old trainee witch surrounded by her loving family and neighbours, not to mention her beloved ‘familiar’ Jiji, a black cat (what else). Tradition demands that Kiki spends one year on her own in a town and so, on a full moon night, she leaves home for the faraway port city of Koriko in order to hone her craft. After a rather bumpy start she is put up by the sympathetic Osono, the heavily pregnant owner of the Gütiokipänjä Bakery who immediately understands that the young girl is a witch. Kiki and Jiji are allowed to stay in the dusty attic room of the building in exchange of helping out in the bakery, Kiki also plans on setting up her very own courier service, using her broomstick to deliver all sorts of goods, even pets. Unfortunately Kiki tends to be a bit on the clumsy side and during a wind-swept ride on her broomstick her first delivery goes somewhat pear-shaped when a stuffed toy cat (who looks exactly like Jiji) falls out of the courier bag and lands close-by a birds nest in the forest. When Kiki attempts to retrieve the toy some particularly aggressive birds – guarding the nest – make it impossible for her to reach the toy. Not wishing to jeopardize her first order – and her reputation – her own cat Jiji stands in as the item intended for delivery while Kiki flies back to the forest looking for the toy. By doing so she accidentally stumbles across a cottage in which a young woman, a painter named Ursula, has set up home and studio and befriends her.
As weeks pass by and Kiki slowly but surely gets better when it comes to tackling the deliveries of her orders not only does she meet some more peculiar people along the way but finds herself pursued by geeky, bespectacled Tombo who would like nothing more than to have Kiki as his… girlfriend. Initially offering him little more than disinterested glances, the well-meaning Osono plays matchmaker when she arranges for Kiki to deliver a package to Tombo. Finally the two hit it off and Tombo manages to impress Kiki with his very own invention, a propeller-charged bicycle. The good vibes are short-lived however when Tombo wants to introduce Kiki to some of his friends and she recognises a snobbish girl among the group with whom she had an earlier delivery encounter. Insecure, she returns to being the cold and distant Kiki who displays no interest in Tombo but the truth is that Kiki is confused about many aspects in her current life, as most teenagers are. What’s more, she seems to lose her ability to fly on a broomstick and to communicate with her cat Jiji (who in turn is romancing a pretty white cat from the neighbourhood). It takes a near-fatal disaster involving a Zeppelin plus Tombo and his friends to turn things around for Kiki and – adamant to save the boy’s life – she flies to his rescue in a cracking finale!
What stands out straight away is that all the characters don’t look Japanese but have ‘Westernized’ faces, likewise the town of Koriko is depicted as decidedly European in architecture while the voiceovers have American accents. Obviously the film was intended to appeal to a global audience and it paid off.
This 30th Anniversary Edition (in Dual Format) is choc-full with Bonus Features and makes for the perfect Christmas gift!