Kiki's Delivery Service in a nutshell: a 13 year old witch leaves home and sets up a delivery service in a seaside town, and umm... delivers stuff. It's not an action-packed, high octane thriller, but it IS well paced and the delivery challenges Kiki faces - which were I to name them, may seem rather dull - are exciting. The whole "coming of age" scenario is easy to relate to (even retrospectively), and the whole wonder of discovery and independence that this film oozes is helped by the beautiful artwork of the film.
Negatives? Well it's a single DVD release with minimal special features - just the full-length storyboards which are of debateable appeal, though worth ducking into for a look sometime. The subtitles are a bone of contention here - only "English for the hearing impaired" is available, despite the box claiming there to be both plain and hard of hearing english subtitles. In fact, this is actually true - plain English subtitles exist on the DVD, but you can only have them if you're watching the storyboards! The subtitles are of debateable quality in translation terms. I personally get the sense that they relate more to the English dub than the Japanese voices, yet certain bits of dialogue added (as Disney feel they must) into the English Dub are not subtitled.
Yet, I couldn't possibly give this film less than the full 5 stars. KDS is a film for just about everyone. The relative lack of action will inevitably put some off, but it is still well paced and I defy anyone to claim that they didn't still enjoy it after watching it. Most importantly (even speaking as an Anime fan) I can guarantee that the fact that this is anime will not get in the way of your enjoyment of the film. Regardless of the fact that anime is needlessly shunned by the UK mainstream, KDS isn't overtly Japanese in its style or presentation. I don't doubt that only a Japanese studio could come up with something as sublime as this film, but the setting, characters, artwork and messages are far more appealing to a Western audience than the vast majority of anime.
If you're looking at this film off the back of another Ghibli production - Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke or even Grave of the Fireflies or Castle in the Sky, you'll find more of the magic and artistic integrity that you found in those films. If you're young, old, male or female, you will inevitably enjoy this film, though an audience of serial killers or male teenagers would probably not be so interested... But then, I personally like to imagine that every stereotypical monosyllabic pubescent guy has a pink-sleeved, U-Rated and sugary sweet Kiki DVD stashed away where their peer-group can't see.
But although Kiki finds the city she'd always imagined she'd live in the world has moved forwards and this new place is bigger and less friendly than her old hometown. Feeling out of place she eventually comes across Osono a woman kind enough to give her a chance and Kiki sets up a delivery service to earn her way.
It's a good lighthearted film that could have a few meanings if you looked at it in that way, it's about growing up basically and it's a message that you must persevere and always have belief in yourself.
The artwork is fabulous, the usual Studio Ghibli standard and the soundtrack can get catchy after you've watched this a few times. The bonus's aren't much but the second disk (if it's included in this package) has complete storyboards from the film playing as the film goes on (as in we have all the talking and background music but the images we see are the storyboard sketches).
It's a good harmless film for everyone, and everyone should see it!
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