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Kiki’s Delivery Service Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Kiki's Delivery Service CoverIt’s not easy becoming a teenager on top of being a witch.

What They Say:
Kiki is an enterprising young girl who must follow tradition to become a full-fledged witch. Venturing out with only her chatty black cat, Jiji, Kiki flies off for the adventure of a lifetime. Landing in a far-off city, she sets up a high-flying delivery service and begins a wonderful experience of independence and responsibility as she finds her place in the world.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is quite good overall as we get the original Japanese language track as well as the English and French language adaptations in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The feature is one that goes for a quieter approach overall, but it has some great swells to it in the appropriate areas the helps to raise it quite a lot. It’s a film that could make out a bit better with a 5.1 mix, but it’s designed so well here for the stereo mix and its more personal nature for the story that it’s very effective at what it does. The forward soundstage sways beautifully throughout with ambient effects and sounds while the music is pitch perfect in bringing it all to life. The film is one that definitely makes out well for its more restrained design and the overall effect is a very beautiful design.

Originally in theaters in 1989, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The feature is one that falls in line with most of the Ghibli films of the time and what we get here is a film that really comes to life with all of its detail even more visible than usual, colors that are richer and more nuanced and a fluidity to the animation that shines even more. I’ve always loved the look of this film in particular with what it does, and having owned it through multiple formats, this is really the best that it can be outside of a pristine theatrical presentation – and even then those are very hard to come by as the festival prints are quite dated at this point. The feature is solid and beautiful throughout and I’m hard pressed to find any real flaws when you get down to it.

The packaging for this combo release gives us a standard sized Blu-ray case with a slipcover over it that replicates the case artwork itself. The packaging is similar to other Ghibli releases with the blue border, the banner along the top and the raised aspects of the logos and the like, giving it a richer feeling. The logo sits near the top of the center and it provides the nod towards the name English language actors that participated in the film, which is no surprise. The artwork is great though as we get the beautiful visual of Kiki flying over the seaside city with Jiji on the broom and seagulls alongside that adds some pop to it. Overall, it’s a beautiful and detailed piece that really comes through well. The back cover is almost all business though as we mostly just get three images along the right that shows off different pieces of the film while the left breaks everything else done. We get the clean listing of the bonus features and a solid premise being covered as well. The technical specs are all word based, which always frustrates me a bit since it’s not a proper grid, and we get the usual array of production credits and the technical logos further along the bottom. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release is probably the weakest part of it for me as we basically get a soft off-white background where the right side has three visuals from the film while the left has a faded image of Kiki on her broom with Jiji and the logo next to her. The navigation is kept to the lower left with pink, of course, for the background wedge of it while the text is in black with the highlighted section being yellow. It’s not a bad menu as it’s quick to navigate and easy to access, but it’s definitely one of the simpler ways to design it when something like this should feel bright and alive, which the packaging does.

This release has one new extra to it and includes all the extras from the previous DVD release in their own section, which is kind of awkward. The new extra is a three minute or so piece that shows off the painting from within the film and talks about where it came from and how it ended up in the film while spending most of its time just looking at the detail of it.

THe original extras are all great things, from the original storyboards and trailers to the various behind the scenes pieces from both Japan and here. We also get the introduction that John Lasseter had done as he really championed these films being treated right. I also continue to really enjoy seeing the US created pieces that have the actors talking about the film and their involvement in it, which while simple in some ways, also gets us to see people who enjoy these projects that they may have been introduced to the first time with it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Everyone’s first Studio Ghibli experience is something that you remember for a whole lot of reasons. While I had seen the really edited down dub only Warriors of the Wind before I saw this film, Kiki’s Delivery Service was my first “pure” Ghibli experience – through a fansub picked up at a comic book convention in the early 1990’s. And it was a double header with Wings of Honneamise for me. The film was magical as I got to experience the film and what it represented, getting a look at Miyazaki’s love and flair for animating flying sequences as well as the kinds of characters that inhabit the worlds he delves into. From there, I went into other Ghibli films, but this one has remained as my top film of the catalog, which is why I’ve seen it through just about every format and several film festival showings as well because it’s a must for the big screen.

The film works off of a simple storyline as it introduces us to thirteen year old Kiki, a young girl whose mother is a witch. Kiki’s following tradition, a tradition she’s excited about, where she has to leave home to go to some other city without a witch and make a go at an existence for a year in order to hone her special skills and figure out her witchcraft trade. While her parents aren’t exactly thrilled that she’s suddenly chose to go now instead of a few weeks from now as planned, they’re supportive of it as it’s a good tradition that has served witches well for a long time. Kiki’s enthusiasm is thoroughly engaging to watch, though you know she’ll face hardships and challenges that will dampen it over time. But as the film is simply a story about growing up and facing the world and what it represents, it’s a natural way to work it all.

Kiki, along with her black cat named Jiji, take broom in hand and have the kind of first blush magical experience of travel, where they meet another witch from a small town before settling into a seaside city further along. Kiki’s lived in the countryside for so long that being in the bustle of a city, where a zeppelin is being shown off as well, has her feeling like this is the most modern of cities. Though it’s a culture shock in some ways, especially with all the people about, it’s wonderful to see how well she fits in overall, even with her minor trouble with the police along the way due to them not being familiar with witches and her own awkwardness in handling city life. What Kiki does quickly though is to make several very good friends, though some she doesn’t recognize for some time as being a true friend, such as the flying fanatic Tombo, a boy her own age.

Kiki’s real luck comes in meeting a woman named Osono who, along with her husband Fukuo, run a bakery. Osono’s pregnant and Kiki shows some good spirit right from the start when they meet by helping out a customer and that has Osono offering her a place to crash for helping out in the shop while Kiki figures out her business. That business, of course, is a flying delivery service on her broom since flying is pretty much her own witch skill that she shows throughout the film. Watching as Kiki goes through the joy of setting this up, getting her first customers and interacting with the shows her innocence and purity in a great way. But she also sees the more human side of the world, within the context of this world, where there are recipients who don’t care for what’s delivered for them and uncaring people as well. It’s not harsh, for for such a simple and sweet soul as Kiki, she finds herself getting involved in the situations a bit more than she should. But it also gets her to make new friends. The hardest one she has to deal with though is Tombo, as he’s really fascinated by her flying ability and wants to spend time with her because he likes her for who she is, but she’s really unsure about him for a good while.

The challenges of the film are decent throughout, though I admit that when things get bad for Kiki as her magic begins to disappear, it felt like something that didn’t quite fit into the film in a way. As her situation gets problematic, she loses her ability to understand Jiji and then loses her ability to fly, which sends her into a real tailspin. You know it will all get resolved, but watching her go through the sullen phase after realizing what happened was painful, if only because it plays to the main theme of the film about what it’s like to grow up and figure out who you are. The allegory, for me at least, is all about the changes we go through from being a child to not a child, but not an adult. It’s a confusing and chaotic time with these incredible highs, which Kiki experiences, but also those seemingly bottomless lows where it feels like the end of the world. Of course, most adults also know that these feelings never go away, we just become better at managing it. So watching such a sweet person as Kiki go through it and seeing the changes in her, to lose that innocence, can be heart wrenching as she finally grabs hold of love at the end, accepting that as a part of growing up.

In Summary:
It’s probably been about twenty-five years since I first saw Kiki’s Delivery Service and it’s just as magical for me as the that first time. There’s a beauty in the simplicity of the film while it works through the story of a witch finding her way, a young girl becoming a young woman and the change into adolescence. This release, obviously, is one that I’ve looked forward to for a long time since I essentially stopped importing Ghibli releases since they do make their way here. Disney has done a solid job here, though I’m speaking primarily of my viewing it in Japanese. There may some small issues that are more meaningful to others that can be problematic, particularly with the dub, but for me this film has lost none of its magic and it simply looks and sounds fantastic here. Revisiting it once again has me on top of the world and wanting to share it with everyone, a feeling the few shows truly produce. Very highly recommended.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, French DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Introduction by John Lasseter, Ursula’s Painting, Creating Kiki’s Delivery Service, Producer’s Perspective: Collaborating with Miyazaki, Scoring Miyazaki, Behind the Microphone, The Locations of Kiki’s Delivery Service, Kiki & Jiji, Flying with Kiki & Beyond, Original Japanese Storyboards, Original Japanese Trailers

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: A-

Released By: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Release Date: November 18th, 2014
MSRP: $36.99
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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