Kiki's Delivery Service

Kiki's Delivery Service ★★★★★

Hadn't seen this in probably 6+ years and completely forgot what a masterpiece it is. Probably only bested by the director’s own Spirited Away as the best coming-of-age movie ever made in my eyes, a wonderfully loose string of moments both beautiful and melancholy, but all of them equally true. Despite Kiki only being 13 years of age, at 17 I don't think I've ever related to this character more - this is not a movie about what it feels like to be a young teenager, this is a movie about what it feels like to be a young adult: The harsh disconnect between what you expect from the world and what you get from it, the dizzying shifts between emotional highs and lows, the confusion of being thrown unprepared into a world of work and financial obligations, the random intrusions of chaos when you need them least, and the constant struggle against exhaustion and burnout. That’s a pretty perfect description of my life at this point. Maybe that just shows my immaturity but I can't help but feeling that though this is a lovely film for children to watch, it's not really a children's film, in the strictest sense of that word.

I'm not sure I could add much else to the discussion about a film as widely beloved as this one. As most of Miyazaki's films are, it is an experience of constant bliss, even when it is stressful or sad. Seeing this in HD in a cinema for the first time was a predictably revelatory experience – pure cell-animation bliss. The scenes of Kiki on her broom are some of the most joyous and strangely physical depictions of flight in cinema history. Also, this was my first time seeing this with the original Japanese soundtrack, and, not to be an annoying purist, (if you have a preference for dubs live your life) I cannot tell you how much I prefer it. The dub with Kirsten Dunst infamously slightly fucks up the point of the ending with Jiji being able to speak again, which is indescribably lame, and also changes the truly banging opening and closing songs with songs sung in English, which is even lamer still. So that’s one mark against the dub. But I also think I just prefer the performances in Japanese. I remember Kirsten Dunst being fine, and as a child I greatly enjoyed Phil Hartman’s (RIP) performance as Jiji, but having now seen the film with the character’s original squeakier, more childlike voice, I just think he’s so much funnier. Speaking of which, I had forgotten how hilarious the film is. Every time Kiki minorly screws up, or Jiji does basically anything, (the scene with the dog is so perfect) I was killing myself to an extent that I was probably actively annoying everyone else in the cinema.

This is just such a wonderful film, and while I feel I have entirely failed to capture its magic in this review, I did just want to have a public written record of my adoration for it. It is a film made of nothing but extremely kind and nice vibes, even when it is sad. It is so psychologically astute yet so breezy and delightful; it is a perfect object, a cinematic miracle of the highest order. I think this might actually be my second favourite Miyazaki after all.

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