Welcome to what is a first for me: blogging about an animated film. Being a fan of all things film, I especially enjoy movies of the animated genre because I have discovered that no matter a person's age these types of movies bring people together. The movie I will be taking about is a type of animation I have developed quite a love for though not really a type but the country from which originates is the most beautiful I have ever seen: Japan. I have learned to enjoy plenty of Japanese anime since I have gotten older but the animation that has come out of this country that I enjoy the most has been brought to us by Studio Ghibli. In the past I have stated that I have only three favorite directors but I am now correcting myself: I have four favorites and Hayao Miyazaki is my number four. When it comes to animation directing, Miyazaki really is a genius and I enjoy his films immensely including today's film: Kiki's Delivery Service.
In Japan this film was released in 1989 and the English dubbed version was released in 1998 with an all-star voice cast that includes Kirsten Dunst, Janeane Garofalo, Debbie Reynolds, Matthew Lawrence and the late Phil Hartman. I have never tackled how to rate voice acting when I usually talk about a film's cast but we will get to that later first of course as always...
What's The Plot?
Kiki is not any average 13 year old growing up in Japan (face it are any Japanese teens normal in anime?) she just happens to be a witch. She fits the stereotype of flying on a broom and having a black cat but even her cat isn't ordinary as he can talk and Jiji always has something sarcastic to say. Since she has now reached the age when witches can live on their own for a year, Kiki leaves her small village and heads of to the bigger cities of Japan.
Reaching the seaport town of Koriko, it seems our little witch is not any different than other 13 year old girls her age as she must deal with her own insecurities and other adolescent worries such as popularity and acceptance among her peers and dealing with boys or one boy in particular named Tombo who is obsessed with flying and gets on Kiki's last nerve from time to time. To support herself, Kiki starts working at a local bakery run by the very pregnant but pleasant Osono and her silent husband and uses her ability to fly to start delivering baked goods throughout the city (but you probably already knew that from the title right?) Being on her own and far from home, can Kiki keep up her studies to be the best witch she can be or will the pressure of wanting to just be a normal teenage girl end up affecting her magic?
It's a relatively simple plot found in most anime geared towards girls but Kiki's Delivery Service is also enjoyable for a male audience thanks to characters like Tombo and of course in the English dub, Jiji voiced by Phil Hartman. Qualities that bring in the audience not based on gender are of course the beautiful animation of not just the people but the backgrounds of the town of Koriko. Miyazaki and his animation team visited Stockholm, Sweden to give the town more of an eastern European look which the book (yes this was based on a book and adapted by Hayao Miyazaki himself) is set outside of Japan in a non-described or named European town. You can see the influence Stockholm the animators as the town does have that old world look to it but also combines the beauty of Japan and even 1950s or 1960s America.
Now I have watched Kiki's Delivery Service with the Japanese language track and enjoyed it but when it comes to discussing the characters I will be using the English actors since that is the version more people will probably watch or have seen that come across this blog post. Kirsten Dunst voices Kiki and I think she does a pretty good job because she does have a very young and energetic voice and I have always loved Kirsten Dunst because she handles drama and comedy quite well. Being about 15-16 when she voiced Kiki, Kirsten Dunst was still a teenager and I think that helps being closer to the character's age to bring out the real emotions that girls in their teen years can relate to. Janeane Garofalo voices the character Ursula, a young painter that Kiki meets and well I enjoy her very much because unless you know who it is you are pleasantly surprised by how mature and calm you can find her voice when you don't picture the Queen of Snark behind it.
Matthew Lawrence as Tombo is cute and somewhat annoying which means as an actor Matthew is doing his job and like Kirsten he has a young and energetic voice which fits the character. Matthew was about 17-18 voicing Tombo so also still a teenager and not too much of a stretch to relate to the character just through the actor's voice. Debbie Reynolds voices another character, one of Kiki's customers, and voice acting superstar Tress MacNeille provides the voice for Osono. Saving him for last, I absolutely love Phil Hartman as Jiji with his normal quick-wit, sarcastic style that was smarmy when needed to be but still smooth and charming in a loveable kind of way. His voice over on Kiki's Delivery Service was his last movie role before his untimely and tragic death and I won't spoil it for you but when you don't get to hear his voice anymore it is truly a very sad moment if you were truly a fan of his acting.
|We still miss you, Mr. Hartman|
I could talk more in depth about Kiki's Delivery Service but I feel I would spoil it for you and when it comes to animated films, you need to see them and hear the voice acting to truly enjoy it. I hope you give Kiki's Delivery Service a chance and if not still try to check out as much Studio Ghibli or Hayao Miyazaki films you chance upon. It should be worth noting that I may be bringing up more of these films anyway so why not try and beat me to the punch maybe?
NEXT BLOG: We leave behind animation but we still maintain a world of fantasy and talk about a film from my childhood that I wish to share with you all: The Polar Bear King