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Kiki’s Delivery Service Blu-ray/DVD Combo Anime Review

16 min read

Never underestimate a young witch … even when she loses confidence in herself.

What They Say:

From the legendary Studio Ghibli, creators of Spirted Away and Ponyo, and Academy Award winning director Hayao Miyazaki, comes the beloved coming-of-age story of a resourceful young witch who uses her broom to create a delivery service, only to lose her gift of flight in a moment of self-doubt.

It is a tradition for all young witches to leave their families on the night of a full moon and fly off into the wide world to learn their craft. When that night comes for Kiki, she embarks on a ne journey with her sarcastic black cat, Jiji, landing the next morning in a seaside village, where her unique skills make her am instant sensation. Don’t miss this delightfully imaginative and timeless story of a young girl finding her way in the world, featuring the voices of Kirsten Dunst, Jeaneane Garofalo, Phil Hartman, and Debbie Reynolds.

The Review:
Audio:

The audio display for this delightful release is available in English or Japanese subtitled DTS-HD 2.0 lossless codec or French subtitled Dolby Digital 2.0, and the wonderful fullness of this sound presentation helps to flesh out the film acoustically. We are enveloped through this embracing ambiance to propel the audience within a presentation which is wholly dependent upon each seiyus’ performance to carry their weight and allowing the audio surroundings to reflect a sense of everyday normalcy. It is a marvelous aural display as the subtly of this natural soundtrack allows the audience to submerge themselves within a world of magic and smothering civilization. While people begin to forget the simplicity of a child’s innocence and all the joy it brings, Kiki helps those she touches via her charming repartee and enamoring need to help anyone which brings the delight to this narrative. As such, there is a noticeable lack of music, using orchestral melodies only during emotional moments or to introduce and close the film. However even with this absence, the movie does not suffer, in fact it becomes more prevalent to the audience, allowing them to focus on the actors interpretation. It is their verbal renditions which communicate the characters’ feelings and as such, making the viewers all the more inclusive in the happenings and how they relate to each other. This interaction culminates by bringing about a fuller and richer film, projecting Kiki’s confidence and showing how one can find yourself through hardships and it is how you deal with those obstacles which shows us the truth within ourselves and how other see you as a person and an individual.

Normally I try to review a series or film by viewing in its original format, however this is one of the few exceptions in which I opted to watch it again in a secondary language track, namely English. The translation of this film is truly enticing with the use of familiar Hollywood voices, allowing each actor’s own personality to shine through into the character on the screen, especially the duo of Kiki voiced by Kirsten Dunst and Jiji by the impeccable stylings of the late great Phil Hartman of Saturday Night Live fame. To hear his snarky attitude reflected through this small witch’s familiar made their interactions all the more appealing, making you miss is talent all the more. It was nice to see the studio also add a posthumous dedication for him and his hard work, I only wish he could have been here to see the popularity of his little black cat.

Video:

It is hard to believe Kiki’s Delivery Service is almost three decades old, considering how well the studio was able to reformat the visuals into modern day standards. Viewers can watch this film in either standard DVD encoded MPEG-1/2 DVD media format with 720×480 anamorphic resolution or a Blu-ray remastered edition in 1080p using AVC codec for anamorphic playback, with both formats remaining in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. However even with the daunting task of having so much amazing animation for this film, the visuals are outstanding, for the most part. Since this movie was originally distributed in 1989, the video format is in keeping with standard definition of the time, which was 480p. As such, the playback is fine on the past generation disk, however when the studio tried to update the resolution for Blu-ray, they did run into some minor problems. While you can be dazzled by the individual elements composing onto a whole, there are times when you do see some digital artifacts of pixillated colors or components which appear out of focus when the scene moves to fast, but overall, these minor mistakes can be overlooked in favor of the film in its entirety.

When you see the opening sequence of Kiki laying within a vast open field, you cannot but stare in disbelief, pondering how long it took to animate this pasture, with the detailed flora rustling in the breeze. It is this gentleness of the images which makes the mind wander, then follow in excitement as we watch the amazing adventures of this young girl progress from countryside and past the sea until she finally arrives in her new home. Every location is a star unto itself, essential to the movement of the movie as much as the actors are to telling of the tale. This is the foundation for Studio Ghibli, no element is unimportant, even if they only appear for a few seconds or less within the film. Panoramic vistas serve to magnify the passing of events, from the tranquil nature of Kiki’s village in the northwest of Koriko to a magnificent view of her flying over pastoral scenery all until we reach the sea. It is this magnificently depicted composition which entices us to continue, with a dazzling array of colors breathing life into each rich composition, being the essence of the movie. Though we may gloss over the generality of natural settings and seascapes, it is not until Kiki arrives in her new home do the artists make their true talents known, encapsulating the richness of a Swedish medieval village into rich joy through the screen. It is amazing to see how they have merged the past with the present – old fashioned colored tile roofs, cobblestone streets and yet, you still see the influences of cars and television aerial antennas dotted across the area. But then the impossibility of thinking all of these components have been painstakingly hand drawn and painted upon individual animation cels, it is this thought that makes the audacity of the film seem ever more wondrous in the reach and scope as to how long it took to complete, all for the enjoyment of the audience.

Packaging:
The case packaging is the first thing a buyer notices about this product and thus, it should project the proper attitude for this film, with GKIDS doing a great job in creating an appealing mood. You cannot but smile seeing a welcoming image from the movie plastered upon the front of this disk combination’s cardboard sleeve: Kiki and Gigi flying across a majestic aerial view of their new home, a rich blue sea, warm green meadows and houses dotted with red roofs jutting from the mainland, with white seagulls flying in front, together they all invoke the happiness of the story. And while the same delightful display is repeated on all important media within and upon the interior Blu-ray disk case, it not until we open the box do we see a new vista of imagination with the central anchoring point of the movie – Ursula’s Painting. Although its importance is a bit muted by viewing it through neon blue plastic, its impact still makes an impression to the viewer, allowing us to wonder how it plays a part as we make a choice between the two disk formats held within. However even as that choice may be essential, it is the exclusive information booklet held within which leaves an impact the purchaser, allowing us to absorb insight and wisdom from the Studio Ghibli Producer Toshio Suzuki and the master himself Hayao Miyazaki. Their thoughts and reasoning into creating Kiki’s Delivery Service are enlightening, allowing us to understand how ideas developed into such a beloved and now classic movie.

Menu:
GKIDS once again makes a favorable impression upon the viewer once they load a disk by displaying the same joyous image we were presented from the welcoming presentation case – Kiki and Jiji flying happily over their home. However this time it is a bit strange to see this portrayal since the studio missed restoring a small portion near the menu bar, making it appear as if there is a storm front coming in from the lower right quarter of the screen. This discrepancy gives us a grainy disgrace for both Blu-ray and DVD formats, even when this presentation is a supposed to be a digitally remastered edition. While it would normally not be a problem for most people, once you become absorbed within the many delights held throughout this opening menu, each dark pixillated artifact becomes magnified with every second spent gazing at this embarrassment. Although we still have standard menu selections etched along the lower screen, emblazoned in white appropriately within Kiki’s red ribbon, GKIDS once again made a tactical error with an absence of any musical accompaniment to make our choice less boring. To stare at this aforementioned screen in silence may not be bad, but with each minute spent musing as to which of the many bonus features you wish to view, it only makes the wait all the more strenuous and tedious.

Extras:
This bonus selection has some of the best choices I have ever seen for any anime presentation, and this is all thanks to Studio Ghibli’s need to please their audience. While we may be satisfied with obligatory movie trailers, this is where the collection diverges from the norm and presents the viewer with a range of programs concerning behind the scenes documentaries about the film. Although most may be only a few minutes in length and contain interviews with Miyazaki-sensei about various aspects of the movie, which in retrospect seem gleamed from a longer conversation, they all contribute to an understanding of how much work was put into creating a diverse world for Kiki’s Delivery Service. However even within this diverse assemblage of information, there are still a few gems which shine through all the exhilaration and prove to be ones which you must watch for a greater insight into this masterpiece.

While most of the video discussions may be interesting, the show called The Locations of Kiki’s Delivery Service delivers some of the most fascinating views of how the Studio Ghibli team transformed real life sights into scenery for the film. However even with this revelation, it cannot top the true treasure of the bonus section, which is the full length storyboards for the movie itself. Although some production companies may endeavor to piecemeal this for their own features, Miyazaki-sensei himself drew most of the individual pictures which exactly follows the entirety of this wondrous film, from beginning to end. And if this wasn’t enough, they also included the entire movie soundtrack with every Japanese seiyūs reproducing their performances for this sketch based artist walkthrough of the presentation. This is one time I wished for two copies of the Blu-ray and accompanying televisions, all to watch both versions in a side by side comparison, allowing full enjoyment of seeing the differentiation between roughs and the final product – that truly would have been a delightful treat.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
It has always been tradition young witches leave home when they turn thirteen, to take on the world as they begin training a year abroad, all to strive for their own specialities. While Kiki herself may not know which field she wishes to pursue, she is still determined to chase her dream and leave on the next full moon – which is tonight. Even as she dashes through the house advising her parents of a sudden change in plans, they themselves are shocked by this declaration, and rush to inform neighbors and friends of their child’s unexpected trip. Although they may accept the decision, it does not mean they still cannot treat her like a little girl, lavishing upon their only daughter a customary new black dress to join her bright red hair ribbon. As she hurries to pack for the journey, stuffing as much as she can within a pastel pink satchel, a joyous laugh escapes her lips as her father allows taking his portable radio, only to twirl the child over his head like he did so long ago – Kiki has grown up too fast.

Night has come too soon and it is time for Kiki to leave, even as the town gathers at her home and the other children barrage their friend with questions out of curiosity. But as the cool night breeze blows through the trees and tiny bells ring to sound this departure, her mother has one more gift – her personal broom. While her daughter may have crafted a new one for the trip, it is only with insistence does she finally give in and begrudgingly accept this welcomed possession, allowing for reliance, practicality and safety to overrule pride. Sternly mounting the trusted instrument with her faithful black cat familiar Jiji by her side, cheers from the crowd accompany her as a magical gale begins to form beneath their feet and thrusts the young witch skyward, barely missing and brushing by trees as they surge toward the coast and new adventures. With tears and smiles on all the gathered faces, everyone carefully listens as the tintinnabulation slowly fades in the wind, knowing this will be the last time they will hear this indicator of Kiki’s flight training for a long time to come.

It is not with sadness but a big grin by which the young girl leave home behind, happily drifting in the air, listening to her father’s radio as witch and cat watch the pastoral scenery quickly pass below them. Not knowing where she wants to go, Jiji inquires with his friend as to their destination – her only response being she wants to see the ocean. But as soon as they fly further inland, a sudden summer storm engulfs the pair, wind and biting rain pelting from every direction. Trying not to panic, they take a much needed rest stop within a livestock train, only to wake up the next morning amid laughter as munching cows eat up their impromptu mattress of straw. Now fully rested, Kiki glides toward the nearby shoreline as they follow the train tracks, an upbeat attitude overcoming any sadness from the night before, with the sight of a friendly seaside city greeting them on the horizon.

Confident and full of hope, the novice witch serenely surveys the busy port below them, fishing boats bringing in the day’s catch, quizzically looking up to see a black dress flapping in the calm morning breeze as its owner waves cheerfully in greeting. Her heart now full of hope, Kiki stares down at a scene she has never seen before – that of a bustling city with sights and sounds in stark contrast to the calmness of her home village. Still confident these people will treat her with kindness, the young girl swoops into the chaotic streets, not knowing traffic does not yield to a broomstick, with cacophonous horns the only greeting she has once barely avoiding several near tragic accidents. Coming in for an unsteady landing, the poor child still does not understand why this place is so different from what she knew, only now realizing the rules are different after a policeman chides her for reckless behavior. It is only after a convenient cry for help does she manage to escape this encounter and wanders into a nearby alley to leave this frightening event.

The peaceful side streets slowly calm her frayed nerves and are reminiscent of home, but it is not long before a new problem arouses her interest – a concerned pregnant woman is shouting at something on a lower terrace. Quickly making her way to the balcony Kiki and sees the person of interest, a woman pushing a stroller and the rotund lady next to her is waving a missing pacifier. Voicing her concern of what will happen once the baby awakens, she calmly opens the nearby bakery door and informs the people inside she will be back after returning the much needed toy. Seeing a chance to help, the happy girl asks if she can take it instead after seeing how much this poor woman is straining to make it down the steep cobblestone roadway. With no objections, Kiki takes the teether, leaps upon the nearby ledge with Jiji on her shoulder, climbs aboard her broomstick … and jumps off. With an obvious gasp of surprise, the shopkeeper watches in fascination as she sees the young girl slowly drift into the distance toward her intended target, with no concern of falling off and every intention of making her important delivery.

Once the charming girl promptly returns and all of the shoppers have been take care of, the woman named Osono gives thanks and small token of appreciation. Not wanting to accept charity, the owner of Gutiokpan Bakery warns off any rejection and reminds Kiki that she did a job, and therefore she needs to be paid. Graciously accepting the coins, the obviously weary woman escorts her back into the kitchen and offers a cup of coffee, thus opening a new line of communication. Stating her stunned disbelief after seeing the young witch leap off the balcony, Osono asks what would be her next task for the evening, to which Kiki states she needs to find a place to stay. Happily declaring they have an attic room she could use, the girl wishes to pay for rent, but is promptly denied any reimbursement, as long as she helps around in the store.

As a new morning begins, Kiki is up bright and early, cheerfully helping in the kitchen and assisting customers at the store front. Once the breakfast rush is over, Osono asks if she has any plans, to which the girl states she wants to find a way to help people and also something to aid in her witch training. Since her only talent is flying, Kiki is unsure what she can do in such a busy city, allowing the owner to state the obvious solution, reminding both of their first meeting. Why not start her own delivery service? After all, there are places which are too isolated to reach by car and the narrow streets are far too convoluted to allow any vehicle to reach in a timely manner – so flying would be the best choice. Delighted by this simple answer, Kiki cries out in joy and gives Osono a big hug, surprising the woman and opening up new possibilities and adventures for both the young witch and her spirited cat.

In Summary:

Kiki’s Delivery Service is one of my favorite coming of age movies. The thought of having to leave a loving home at thirteen must seem frightening, after all, most girls her age would be more interested in other things like meeting boys. However the sense of an ingrained heritage is at the heart of the film, the tradition of mother passing down old ways to her daughter, the discipline of being a witch, all in the face of a modernized world where most people would not believe or think these people still existed. This in itself is charming, watching how Kiki wants or at times needs to hold onto those values, even in times when those same strengths threaten to isolate her from others own her age, and also make her feel vulnerable when those same aspects which define her are lost due to lack confidence.

And yet Miyazaki-sensei composes a film which weaves all of these factors into a intricate tapestry of heartfelt emotion and tenderness, all while keeping in mind this is a young girl who at times wants to rebel against those same values. You cannot but smile when Kiki, while donned in her traditional black dress but still wearing a childlike bright red ribbon, takes longing glances in the dress shop to see herself in other clothes or shoes. But when Tombo and his friends are introduced, every time she sees them and their different life style, it makes her feel jealous or out of place. It is this encroachment of new into old ways which rattles her to the core – she loves being a witch but also wants to be a modern girl, but can she have both?

However when she has those doubts, this little witch looses all which defines her character and falls back into the innocence of a young girl. While independence and the strength of valuing her mother’s teachings may project Kiki as being strong, it is the shyness of avoiding strangers which still shows her being a child, and these two elements seem to contradict each other, giving her a false sense of hope and courage. When she begins to accept both sides and realizes that being vulnerable does not lead to failure, it is only then when she draws her greatest strength.

Tradition does not have to be lost to a modernization, in fact it can coexist in harmony by showing both sides have their own strengths and weaknesses which can balance each other out to a level playing field. Kiki is a modern girl who wants to live in both worlds, and while she may have her doubts at times, it is the strength of spirit and belief in friends which carry her forward … onto a brighter and happier future.

Features: Exclusive Booklet, Feature Length Storyboards, Behind the Microphone, Creating Kiki’s Delivery Service, Kiki & Jiji, Flying with Kiki & Beyond, Producer’s Prospective: Collaborating with Miyazaki, The Locations of Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ursula’s Painting & Original Theatrical Trailers

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

Released By: GKIDS
Release Date: October 17th, 2017
MSRP: $34.95
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment: Sharp LC-42LB261U 42” LED HDTV & Microsoft Xbox One S Blu-ray player via HDMI connection


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