Kiki’s Delivery Service
Upon the advice of my readers, I watched the subtitled instead of dubbed version, and I agree, Phil Hartman as the voice of the cat would have been too distracting. Although I’ve only seen a couple of Miyazaki films, I could already identify his common themes here: spirited young woman unsure of her skills meets neighbor boy fascinated by her strength and with unusual interest of his own. When confused or disheartened, kind-hearted elderly people encountered by chance tell reassuring stories. An appreciation of nature restores the soul, and creative people are to be valued.
It was, as advertised, the story of a spunky young witch who goes to find her place in the world. However, it left me with many more questions than answers. First, for a Japanese cartoon, I was surprised by how European the city was, with the winding streets and buses and bakery. The IMDB trivia page explains some of the background, which is a help.
I wondered why Kiki needed to go out on her own, leaving her loving and supportive parents, if all she was going to do was find a replacement mother, in the form of the pregnant (symbolism!) bakery owner. The baker gives her a room, feeds her, gives her minimal chores, and takes care of her while she’s sick. Where’s the self-reliance?
I found the homage to the Hindenburg disaster in a film otherwise suitable for children, to the extent of including the caption “Oh, the humanity!” when the dirigible catastrophe happens, a bit disturbing. Certainly, animation isn’t only for kids, but this film, with its young girl heroine in its otherwise comfortable structure, will certainly attract them as viewers. At this point, though, they probably won’t recognize the reference.
I’m left unsure at the end exactly why Kiki started losing her powers. I know she needed to overcome her crisis of faith, which is when the movie adopted a more typical adventure structure, but was a definite reason ever given? All I remember is the artist’s advice to keep on doing what you need to be doing and struggle through, but that isn’t an explanation, just a prescription.
And by the end, I was thoroughly sick of seeing Kiki’s bloomers.
All in all, the lovely flying scenes will stay with me, but I can’t call the viewing a success. There’s still Spirited Away, though.