it’s been a little while since I hosted a collaboration here, so I was really happy that Scott was up for working with me on Kiki’s Delivery Service – the famous Studio Ghibli adaptation of Eiko Kadono’s book (and top-grossing film in Japan for 1989).
If you’ve not had the chance to see this film, I hope we’re able to make you at the very least, curious enough to check it out!
Kiki’s Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyūbin) 1989
Ashley: Hey! Excited to start this collab, especially as it had definitely been a while since I’d seen Kiki’s Delivery Service and last time we worked together was on a mecha show, so this should be a fun contrast.
How long has it been for you? I wondered if you noticed different things about the movie this time around?
Scott: Hey Ashley! I’m excited too. It’s been way too long since the last time and I think this one will be a fun one to discuss.
Honestly, it’s been way too long for me. Over a decade and half I think. Ever since my high school marching band days when we watched films on these nice buses that have tv screens that we could watch movies from. Kiki was a staple for that.
To be honest, I can’t say that I really noticed anything particularly different. The screen I watched it on was small and with the length of time, it’s like watching Kiki’s Delivery Service for the first time.
How about you?
A: Cool, what a contrast from the bus tv and environment to a more controlled one at home 🙂
It’s been a few years for me and this time around I was reminded just how key Joe Hisaishi’s music is to the overall Studio Ghibli feel for me, how it really adds to the whimsy (or the drama in some of the flying scenes) but also the scene-setting.
I had also forgotten that Jiji is voiced by Rei Sakuma and her voice (and characterization) is obviously quite different to Phil Hartman’s, whom I had become really accustomed to. It’s an interesting contrast, especially in terms of their respective personalities in the original vs the dub – Hartman’s Jiji has a fair bit of that classic Disney sidekick comic-relief that’s not present in the Japanese release. I definitely love his performance but it was fun to see another side to Jiji.
S: Oh yeah, I agree with that feeling. The big question I have is if Joe Hisaishi didn’t do the OST for it, is it really a Ghibli film? I mean probably, but it wouldn’t feel the same.
I feel like there are always some localization changes like that in English versions of Ghibli films. Like, Princess Mononoke had a prologue narration while the Japanese version didn’t or how Spirited Away had San say “oh, it’s a bathhouse”, because that’s not a thing in the United States. So I suppose that going with that choice made sense for this film for western audiences.
So this film. Kiki is quite a film isn’t it?
A: Yes! I love coming of age films and so Kiki… automatically ticks a lot of boxes for me.
I also really like how much dramatic tension there is in seemingly small stakes, such as those that come from delivering items, retrieving items or making the switch with Jiji etc, which is contrasted with the emotional beats of her quest for acceptance, self-discovery and of course, the bigger, action-based stuff in the latter half of the film.
S: I love them too, honestly. A well done coming of age story are some of my favorite things. So relatable and can be applied to so many scenarios to keep it fresh and interesting.
As for digging into details, there are so many of them in the story that just add so much extra fluff into it for me too. So many good little bits of micro attention that just makes the film a lot better then the viewer would first expect. I feel like that coincides with Kiki establishing herself because every moment is a little bit of tension.
A: I feel the same with those small details, like the work on the pastries or the slow warming of Osono’s Husband toward Kiki, or the stunning backgrounds, especially when it comes to the buildings. I feel like it’d be easy to do a whole post just on the scenery 😀
If you had to pick a high point for that tension around Kiki’s growth, what would it be do you reckon?
S: Exactly and there are just so many little bits like that to make the world feel so organic. Just like the bus driver given the time to actually close the door because he drives off. So many small things like that which add up and make the experience just so grounded.
Oh, the moment of tension? I feel like its centered around Kiki’s relationship with Tombo hits a whole point. Probably where she questions her magic. Very much where all the tension in the staying in that city suddenly explodes. I could be wrong about that though…
A: Same again! In fact, the questioning of her magic always made me a bit sad. The crushing, somewhat comparatively dull adult world pushing its way in?
Maybe that’s a little negative of me – Kiki certainly finds plenty of fulfillment doing things adults do as well. Her sense of purpose and confidence from her independence, which is earned through all those non-magical things.
S: Isn’t questioning her magic so relatable though? She’s a little too early in her own life to think that was though. Especially comparing herself to her mom. Maybe she is growing up too fast by doing the usual witch tradition.
Yeah, I think her finding out she doesn’t need her magic to be around people or just live is a good way to carry this story. I think that her magic coming back from that understanding feels completely natural because of it.
A: It really is, definitely – and it suits the overall uplifting tone of the film too, huh?
So before we finish, I wanted to ask what or whether anything didn’t work so well for you?
S: I feel boring in saying in saying that I don’t have much against it? In some cases I just felt a bit rushed at some times? Some scenes didn’t have as much room to breathe as they could? That’s about it for me.
I really don’t have much to say against it. What about you?
A: For me I thought I was going to say that the film was a touch long… and yet, is that even true? Do I even have any actual criticisms – I don’t think I do, either 😀
It really feels like the Studio Ghibli team firing on all cylinders, creating a really fantastic adaptation, and visually, nailing the match of theme to visuals, of character to expression etc. So I’m like you – loved it, can’t really find anything to complain about!
And finally, huge thanks to Scott for joining me for another collaboration 🙂