Kiki's Delivery Service
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Kiki's Delivery Service

The level of special effects today is such that almost anything that can be imagined can be realistically depicted in a movie. while this afford the modern film maker an incredible amount of freedom in plying his trade there is still something amazing about the use of the more traditional form on fantasy expression; animation. This current generation has grown up in a world of computerized special effects that make major strides on practically a daily basis. For those of us fantasy fans with a few more years behind us we have witness impressive stylistic advancements in the art of animation. True, manual animation has been greatly enhanced by the use of computers but there remains something very special about a drawing that reaches the core of human experience. One of the most fascinating styles of animation around is anime. This Japanese export has become one of the most influential artistic forms to come around in decades. The fans of anime tend to be fiercely loyal to the genre and it is not unusual for them to possess a level of knowledge and understanding of the defining elements that is quite impressive. As with any genre there is a broad spectrum of just how the genre is implemented. For anime it can run the gamut from childlike fantasy, as seen here, to extremely adult fare. The subject of this consideration is the notable anime film ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’. It is a delightfully playful romp through a whimsical world of magic and adventure. It should not be a surprise that the American release of this movie comes through the Walt Disney studio. They have been bringing magic to animation since the 1930s and continue to blaze new trails into the future of the genre. This movie lands on the innocent side of the genre. If you are not currently a fan of anime this movie is the perfect way to introduces yourself to this unique art form.

The film was the sophomore directorial work of one of the great pioneers of anime, Hayao Miyazaki. He also penned the screenplay but unlike much of his other films the original source material came from another author, Eiko Kadono. While the novel covered a full year in the life of the protagonist while the film concentrates only on the summer. The novel is very rich in side plots and back stories but with a limited timed available in the film Miyazaki wisely extracted one of the more representative threads as the foundation and scope of his film. It is normally understood that changes have to be made when migrating a novel to a visual format like movies. Many directors make the mistake of trying to cram the entire book into a film. Miyazaki is a master class story teller in his own right and was able re craft the story to fit the allotted time yet retain the charm and themes necessary to remain respectful of the original work. Miyazaki has done a lot to formalize what is now generally considered the stylistic elements that would define anime first within Japan and ultimately on a global scale. One of Miyazaki’s most notable contributions is the use of a strong, determined female lead to drive the primary story line.

Kiki (English dub by Kirsten Dunst) has recently turned thirteen. That is always a monumental time for any girl but for Kiki it holds a special significance. She just happens to be a witch in training, daughter of the small town’s respected herbalist. When an apprentice Witch enters her teens it is time to leave the comfort of her childhood home and move for a year to a location where she established herself in the craft. Kiki boards her mother’s broom with her pet cat Jiji (English dub by Phil Hartman) and travels off to her awaiting adventure and new life. Kiki has a bit of trouble getting the hang of flying looking more like a pinball game than a professional Witch as she departs. Finally Kiki gets the hang of flying which is pretty much the only manifestation of her supernatural powers. She eventually ends up in a large city, quite different from the cozy town of her birth. After settling in with a baker and his family Kiki decides to put her broom skills to good use by starting her own rapid delivery service. Both Kiki and Jiji catch the eye of potential love interests; Kiki with Tombo (English dub by Matthew Lawrence) and the cat by a pretty feline named Lily. Kiki soon learns that life on her own is rougher than she could imagine. Her delivery business suffers from on setback after another until it adversely affects the girl’s outlook on life and eventually her powers. Kiki loses her magical abilities including her being able to speak to Jiji. Desponded Kiki has nowhere to turn until she is befriended by a young artist named Ursula, voiced in English by comedian Janeane Garofalo. Tombo is into aviation of the non-magical variety and gets in trouble with one of his flying machines. Kiki must find a way to put self doubts behind her and save the day.

As the father of a daughter I appreciate the anime of Miyazaki. The young women taking the lead in his stories are well constructed, realistic characters that provide excellent role models for young girls. In this story Kiki has to face isolation from family and the environment she grew up knowing. Once on her own she discovered that the most important lesson that needs to be learned is trusting yourself to rise to the occasion no matter how difficult that challenge may seem. This film is one of series of movies by Miyazaki originally released by Studio Ghibli dubbed into English around 2003 and marketed through Disney’s Buena Vista. This new release is brilliantly mastered and well worth adding to your collection. This is a joy for the entire family.

Posted 03/02/2010

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