"Kiki's Delivery Service" is one of those animated films that I would want to live in. A film that's calming, peaceful, filled with all kinds of pleasant characters, and has a world that just is lovely to look at. There are a lot of films by Studio Ghibli and director Hayao Miyazaki that fall under that criteria and this is among my favorites from the studio. Every time I watch this film, all my troubles seem to be swept away like any great film, and it's one whose appeal just clicks with every viewing. It's such a pleasant animated film and it's one that I really love so much.
It is accustomed for witches to leave their families when they turn thirteen and set off into the world to find their skills and passion. One such witch is named Kiki (Minami Takayama). After turning thirteen and on a night of a full moon, she sets off from her parents on her flying broomstick along with her pet cat Jiji (Rei Sakuma) to become a witch trainee and find her true passion and skills. When she settles into a large seaside town named Koriko, she then meets a friendly baker named Osono (Keiko Toda) who lets her a room above her bakery in agreement to help her out. As Kiki feels she's good at flying, she decides to set up a delivery service in the city with the help of Osono, and from there, she encounters many friendly characters through her deliveries including a young boy named Tombo (Kappei Yamaguchi), an artist in the forest named Ursula (Minami Takayama), and even an elderly woman and her assistant named Madame and Barsa (Haruko Kato and Hiroko Seki) while hoping to make people happy with her new job.
This is yet another delightful animated film from Studio Ghibli that I just love watching every time. Much like "My Neighbor Totoro", this film once again shows Hayao Miyazaki trying his hand at the slice of life films compared to his previous large adventure films. However, where this film differs from "Totoro" is mainly how the story is presented. "Totoro" felt like a film where I was watching ordinary people's lives with a hint of magic thrown in while this film does feel like a series of sequences stitched together to make a story, which makes sense considering it's based on a book by Eiko Kadono, and it works very well and has a lot of influence. I think a lot of animated films have used this film as a template for making a slice of life film and it's a great one for influence. While I do think the opening scene is a bit rushed as we don't get a lot of time with Kiki's parents or her life at her childhood home before she sets off, the rest of the film is paced wonderfully as we see Kiki trying to adjust to her new life, her new job, and even trying to overcome the troubles of burn out and feeling stressed about life. I was really able to connect with the latter part a lot as I've been feeling rather stuck and not as up to speed as I used to be and I think Miyazaki presents it so perfectly here. Kiki has a lot put on her before she comes to a point where she realizes that she's overwhelmed and can't fly on her broom like she used to and it felt a lot like what would happen when an artist comes into a block and just can't paint or a writer not being able to put the right words onto paper. There is also a lot of fun set pieces in the film as well with one of my favorites being one where Kiki loses a cat doll she's delivering to a young boy and uses Jiji as a decoy to retrieve it before the family finds out. It was pretty funny and creative and even subverts some cliches that would often be used in other animated films. This leads me into wanting to talk about the animation which I found once again so beautiful to watch.
I think what stands out the most to me in this film is the flying scenes. Flying is something that is common in Miyazaki's films which mainly came from his father owning an airplane shop during the Second World War and this film has some of my favorite uses of flying. The scenes where Kiki is flying on her broom feel so natural and seamless and had some really dynamic and peaceful shots, particularly during the opening as Kiki is flying on her flight towards a new city. I'm especially astonished by some of the animated foregrounds and background used during these scenes considering they were animated by hand without the help of computers. Speaking of the backgrounds, I really love the look of the town in particular for this film. It was apparently modeled after a Scandinavian town and I really feel it captures the look and feels of towns like Stockholm and Oslo perfectly. Miyazaki has stated that he wanted to make the town feel like it was in a world where World War I never happened and it certainly helps give the film a timeless look. It reminded me a lot of the European towns that recovered after World War II and were happier again. This leads me into talking about the characters which were easily my favorite part of the film. Kiki was a protagonist that I really identified with. Watching her adjust to the new town while trying to keep her head up was really inspirational and I especially connected with her during the aforementioned scenes where she struggled with burnout. It really made her character a lot stronger than before and more than just a happy-go-lucky character who was constantly filled with joy. The other character she works off of is fun too with Jiji being a sassy cat that can be helpful while sometimes a bit snooty, Osono being a kind motherly figure that can help out Kiki even when she's in her last few months of pregnancy, and the people she encounters like Tombo who can be annoying and overbearing but still has a good heart and is friendly to Kiki, and the customers she encounters like Ursula, Madame, and Barsa who help motivate Kiki and reward her for her good deeds. It's just lovely to see.
And lovely is a great term to describe "Kiki's Delivery Service". The story is peaceful and filled with charm, the animation is beautiful and is richly designed, and the characters are all terrific and have so much kindness to them. This is such an endearing film from Studio Ghibli that is a film I really highly recommend watching if you haven't already. If anything, it really shows just how much of a legend Hayao Miyazaki is and it's an animated film that really flies to great heights and will continue to do so into the future.