Another day, another Ghibli anime for Blu-Ray. This time we’re going back to 1989, when Hayao Miyazaki took inspiration from a novel by Eiko Kadono, and decided stereotypical broomstick wielding witches with black cats, evil plots and spine-chilling cackles were yesterday’s news. Take away the schemes and cauldrons, and you’re left with Kiki’s Delivery Service, a charming tale about a young girl who sets out, broom in hand, on a quest to find herself.
Before JK Rowling invented Quidditch, we most commonly associated broomsticks with the Wicked Witch of the West. At the time of Kiki’s Delivery Service‘ original release in Japan though, more and more writers were seeing the potential for a change in perception. Thus examples like Mildred Hubble from The Worst Witch were created, appealing to young girls on the brink of puberty. That is the target audience. Ghibli fans of all ages and genders will appreciate this sweet animation, but I wouldn’t say boys were in mind during the creative process.
In the spirit of The Worst Witch and Wicked (the prequel to The Wizard of Oz about Elphaba’s transition from outcast to misunderstood villain), Kiki is not mean spirited like we’ve come to expect witches to be. In fact, she’s just a young girl required to leave home for a mandatory year all witches are expected to complete, to establish her independence and find her use for the world. It’s a scary and exciting prospect, and she soon realises fitting into a new community is more difficult than expected. That is, until she puts her flying skills to good use and opens her own courier service.
I’d be lying if I said I was unfamiliar with Japanese anime. Even before I was critiquing films I had a love for Studio Ghibli, which means I’m one of those people who find the English dubs a little jarring. I don’t necessarily want to listen to a young Kirsten Dunst portray Kiki, instead choosing to turn on the English subtitles and listen to the original cast. Even the biggest anime fan can admit the dub on Kiki’s Delivery Service is very well done though. Awkward phrasing and pauses are limited, and the actors sound like the characters they are voicing. I just wish they wouldn’t Americanise the language too much. I feel like some of the intended magic gets lost in translation that way.
Or maybe I’m being too picky. Coming of age is one of the genres the US does very well, so it was always going to translate from Japan to the west smoothly, especially when you consider every girl goes through the same transition period. Watching as an adult, I found myself reminiscing as I watched Kiki flounder in front of her crush, and more than once wished I’d had a broomstick back in the day, to fly me away from the mortification that being thirteen is.
It would take a pretty sheltered and heartless person not to sympathise with her struggle to make a life for herself, but I think what I liked the most about Kiki’s Delivery Service, was the fact that Ghibli were teaching kids the value of hard work, while parents learn it’s okay for young adults to find their footing without guidance, be it in our world or one where witches whoosh overhead and no one bats an eyelid. The message is perhaps even more relevant in 2013 when you consider how scared we are to let them out of the front gate.
Released on Blu-Ray disk for the first time, the disk includes extras that keep you entertained long after the film has finished. Buy Kiki’s Delivery Service here now!