June 05, 2003

Kiki's Delivery Service, by Miyazaki Hayao

The Miyazaki film festival continued last Friday night with Kiki's Delivery Service. I was both impressed and disappointed. But first, a word about the story.

Kiki is a thirteen-year-old girl whose mother is a witch (a word which should probably be translated as "village healer who happens to be able to fly on a broom"). She's been raised to be a witch herself, and has just embarked on her training. Quite literally--a witch begins her training by flying off on her broom, by herself, and finding a witch-less village or town, where she must survive on her own for a full year. It's clear from the beginning that Kiki's going to have some trouble; she likes the idea of being a witch but hasn't paid much attention to the skills needed. She can fly on a broom, but that's about it. Being as spunky and resourceful as all Miyazaki heroines, she starts an airborne delivery service to make ends meet. She also meets a variety of people, some she gets on with, and some she doesn't, and does a mess of growing.

I was impressed, as always, by the quality of the artwork and animation. The town Kiki settles in is a beautiful place, and the flying sequences are breathtaking and hilarious by turns--Kiki has a way of ricocheting from trees and buildings as she gets started. He does rain remarkably well, too.

I'm equally impressed by Miyazaki's storytelling skills and his pacing. It's a heartwarming story, well-told, and I enjoyed watching it.

So why am I disappointed?

For a movie about flying on a broomstick it was a little...pedestrian. It has none of the action or gee-whiz moments of Castle in the Sky; despite being about a witch, it has none of the magic of Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro. Not once did I feel transported somewhere else, as I did with the others.

To be fair, I had fairly exalted expectations when I put the DVD in the player. And I really can't fault the movie, either; it's exactly what it's supposed to be, and what it's supposed to be is simply different than the other ones. It's not about a human being in Faerie; rather (to the extent that childhood is a different country than adulthood, and a large town a different country than a small village) it's about a resident of Faerie having to make her way in the Mortal Lands. It's not Kiki's fault that I'm used to living there all of the time.

Posted by Will Duquette at June 5, 2003 12:15 PM