The first Studio Ghibli movie to become a hit in America (thanks to a distribution deal with Disney), Kiki’s Delivery Service is the story of a young girl (Minami Takayama) who travels to a European town to be a witch. A bit like Suspiria.
Characterised by Hayao Miyazaki’s fondness for flight and feminism, this 1989 fantasy finds him on gentle, kid-friendly form. A big influence on this year’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower, this is a movie that young girls can identify with, witch or otherwise. Kiki’s magic is used to symbolise her coming of age, a metaphor obvious to anyone other than the Concerned Women of America (last heard from in Netflix’s GLOW), who called for a boycott of Disney over their supposed promotion of witchcraft. Hell hath no fury like a woman concerned.
With Ghibli’s humour and melancholy balanced more confidently than Kiki on her broomstick, Kiki’s Delivery Service is a good-natured picture about friendship and independence. Kiki’s wonderfully textured, hybrid-European world is one of kind people, talking cats (Rei Sakuma) and sometimes sadness. It’s testament to Miyazaki’s compassion as a filmmaker that he deals so sensitively with depression and loneliness in a family film. And unlike the headache-inducing overproduction of Inside Out, he employs a lovingly hand-drawn, fluid animation style which reflects the idea that “everything changes, bit by bit.”
More charming than Harry Potter and more commendable than Amazon, Kiki’s Delivery Service is worth staying in for.