Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Predator was the manliest movie I have seen in a long time. As much as I appreciate a nice, distinctly masculine movie, I think too much testosterone can upset a guy’s hormonal balance. For that reason (and because the friends I was with reached this consensus) I opted for the Miyazaki Hayao classic Kiki’s Delivery Service (魔女の宅急便 Majo no Takkyūbin, literally “Witch’s Delivery Service”).
Kiki’s Delivery Service followed the titular witch as she leaves her home to train her magic abilities in town. As she spends more time in town and starts a delivery service using her ability to fly in order to support herself, Kiki learns as much about herself as she does about being a witch.
Kiki’s Delivery Service is the exact flip-side to the other Studio Ghibli classic Grave of the Fireflies in that Kiki’s Delivery Service is very much a quintessential feel-good movie. With exceptions, not a selfish thought crossed the minds of the characters, particularly in the case of Kiki herself and of Osono, the baker who let Kiki live in her attic.
As Kiki’s Delivery Service is a movie about self-discovery as opposed to a larger conflict, it let itself be completely driven by the characters; other Miyazaki movies like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind tended to have their plots drive their characters. With that in mind, it was just a pleasure to see Kiki interact with the world around her (especially with the boy Tombo) as she made her way through this pseudo-European town while making it a better place for everyone else. The pseudo-European town was very much like one (that was not Paris) that you would expect to find in France, and both this and Laputa: Castle in the Sky demonstrated that Miyazaki had at least some affinity for Europe of yester-year, much like how Cowboy Bebop was a manifestation of Watanabe Shinichiro’s love of American culture.
In creating this universe, you can really tell the folks at Ghibli were really pushing the envelope as far as what they could animate given the existing technology of 1989. Needless to say, given that it is a Ghibli production, the animation is absolutely gorgeous. While even Ghibli learned to use computer-assisted animation in later films like Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service showed the capability the Ghibli animators had even without such technology. Combine it with what I think was Joe Hisaishi’s best score, and you have a true visual and acoustic treat.
If I had to say anything negative of this movie, it would be that it is very sugary. As we all know, too much sugar is bad for you. However, if you just came off Grave of the Fireflies, then Kiki’s Delivery Service is precisely the feel-good chaser to watch afterward.