July 17, 2003

Kiki's Delivery Service -- The English Version

Just this evening I watched Miyazaki's Kiki's Delivery Service for the second time. The first time I watched it with the Japanese soundtrack and English subtitles, as Ian Hamet had recommended; so this time I watched it in English.

It feels like an entirely different movie, and frankly I didn't enjoy it nearly as much. This is due mostly to the voice actors for Kiki herself, and for her black cat, Jiji. I can't quite put my finger on what's wrong with Kiki's voice; I guess sometimes it seemed like she was reading, rather than acting.

Jiji, on the other hand, I detested. In Japanese, Jiji is the voice of caution. He's a bit of a scaredy cat, but he clearly wants what's best for Kiki. In the English version, he has a big brash voice that's completely at odds with his scaredy-cat appearance, and he sounds like he's being contrary just for the hell of it. And he's bored with it, in the bargain.

The visuals, however, remain delightful, and the other characters were not voiced so badly.

I did note one major difference in the dialogue--actually, there may have been quite a few, but there was only one I noticed for sure. Kiki and a friend of hers, an artist, are hitchhiking to the artist's cabin. As a truck goes by in a cloud of dust, the driver hollers out "Ursula!" And the artist says, "Come on, I know this guy."

In Japanese (or, at least, in the subtitles), those two lines do not exist.

Posted by Will Duquette at July 17, 2003 08:45 PM

Ian said:

Well, I'm sorry you didn't like it as much, but glad you watched it in Japanese first.

Jiji was voiced by Phil Hartman in English, and yes, the character is very different in his rendering. Kiki was voiced by a young Kirsten Dunst, and I agree that her performance isn't as good as the original voice actress's.

Some people don't mind dubbed animation, but I generally prefer the original performances.

This is why the English dub of Totoro such a gem. Though the voices are different (especially Dad), and some extra dialogue is added, the spirit is exactly the same. That's rare.

Word is that Disney is releasing another three Studio Ghibli films in November or December. The titles I heard mentioned were Nausicaa, Porco Rosso, and Only Yesterday — that last was directed by Takahata Isao, not Miyazaki, and though it's different from Miyazaki's work, it's quite wonderful.

Will Duquette said:

I was really surprised, because the voice-acting in the others I've seen has been so good.

I'm looking forward to seeing the ones coming out this Fall!