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Thirteen-year-old Kiki’s a young novice witch
Who eagerly begs both her parents for trust.
It’s time that she left to go find her own niche
By herself for a year, as all young witches must.
 
With her black cat named Jiji, she flies on her broom
Over beautiful country to find a new town.
She locates a fine seaside city quite soon
And startles the citizens as she floats down.
 
At first she cannot find a good place to stay
Until bakery owner Osono permits
The girl to stay with her for some work each day
And helps her to find a profession that fits.
 
Her one skill is flying so she makes a job
Out of flying deliveries for a small fee.
Delivering loads for both sweetheart and snob,
She flies high above this large town by the sea.
 
Though some people seem rather cold to the lass,
That’s untrue for Tombo, a boy who’s impressed.
At first she dislikes him and gives only sass
But warms up to him at Osono’s behest.
 
When Kiki begins to just feel out of place
Around Tombo’s rich friends, she feels sad and dejected.
She turns down a blimp tour and leaves in disgrace
But finds that her magic’s no longer connected.
 
She doesn’t know why, but she simply can’t fly
And can’t understand Jiji’s cat conversation.
A woman who paints has the sense to imply
That this block may mean Kiki must find inspiration.
 
When Kiki is shocked to see Tombo in danger,
Hanging down from the blimp, which is out of control,
She grabs up a broom from a neighboring stranger
And finally flies, drawing deep from her soul.
 
The blimp crashes into a nearby clock tower,
And she seizes Tombo at just the last minute.
Her business “takes off” since she has back her power;
She likes this new town and her newfound place in it.
_______________________
 

I have very mixed feelings about Kiki’s Delivery Service, another lovely film from animation master Hayao Miyazaki. Witchcraft is not something I am fond of in movies, and I will say right now that there are no Harry Potter films on my list. I don’t mind films in which witchcraft is seen as evil, such as Hocus Pocus or Sleeping Beauty, but any attempt at normalizing or promoting it seems wrong to me. That being said, Kiki’s Delivery Service has much to like, and its good points outweigh the problematic foundation.

While there are references to other witches making potions or fortunetelling, Kiki’s only skill is flying on her broomstick, and this being her one talent makes her pretty innocuous, like Glinda the Good Witch or Wendy the Good Little Witch. On top of that, she is kind, friendly, helpful, and respectful of her elders, in sharp contrast to a thankless teenage girl to whom she delivers a grandmother’s gift. Plus, upon seeing this witch flying overhead, most people are more awe-struck than fearful, and witches are spoken of in a universally positive light, as if this is an alternate world where witches are on the level of fairies.

Kiki’s Delivery Service was Disney’s first dub of a Studio Ghibli film, and though some dialogue was added or changed, I think they did a good job providing the characters with distinct voices, with Kirsten Dunst as Kiki, Matthew Lawrence as Tombo, Tress MacNeille as Osono, and Phil Hartman in one of his last roles as Jiji. The animation is lovely, especially the expansive vistas seen from Kiki’s birds-eye view. The climax is also exciting, making this the third film this past week to feature a balloon-related finale. The story is light on plot but has enough charm and likable characters to make it entertaining, and it boasts a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

While Kiki’s ”inspiration” isn’t really made clear, her discussion with Ursula, the painter, about figuring out your unique reason for doing something can apply to any young person finding their place in the world. Kiki’s loss of her flight ability may even have influenced Peter Parker’s similar lack of inspiration in Spider-Man 2, which again is only resolved when he has someone to rescue.

While I have tried to downplay the magical elements of the film, the fact remains that I do not approve of this witchcraft subtext. Nevertheless, Kiki’s Delivery Service is just one of those movies that I can’t help but enjoy.

Best line: (Ursula to Kiki) “We each need to find our own inspiration, Kiki. Sometimes it’s not easy.”

 
Artistry: 7
Characters/Actors: 8
Entertainment: 6
Visual Effects: 7
Originality: 6
Watchability: 6
Other (witchcraft element): -5
 
TOTAL: 35 out of 60
 

Next: #267: Hercules

© 2014 S. G. Liput

 

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