Studio Ghibli animations excel at showcasing the hard work of a large group of animators, every film they make is nothing short of wonderful. Their storylines are fascinating, uniquely charming and otherwise happy to plod along at any pace they see fit. They expect the audience to just follow along with its cute and infatuating storytelling experience, and Kiki’s Delivery Service fits that mould extremely well. A charming little story about our eponymous hero heading off in the hopes of completing a year’s worth of independent witch training.
As touched upon in the opening, the animation and stylistic choices of Kiki’s Delivery Service are truly outstanding. They’re a hallmark of quality, a beacon of hope among the computer rendering used by modern animation. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with computer animation, but the hand-crafted experience and dedication you can see from Kiki’s Delivery Service add a great deal to the film. On the whole, this style makes the film feel cute and comfortable, a light piece of animation that provides great ease of access to as many audiences as possible.
Kiki’s Delivery Service has a few issues surrounding the subplots it looks to cram into its running time. Some are unnecessary, while others are much more cliché and representative of more vanilla storytelling elements. Its archetypal structure goes against the previous experiences I’ve had with Ghibli movies of late, but Kiki’s Delivery Service serves a purpose as an entry point to those unsure of whether or not the unique stylings are to their liking. Bringing about contemporary and relevant plot points that filter out the harrowing content found in Grave of the Fireflies or the joyous optimism of Ponyo brings Kiki’s Delivery Service into a position of hosting quintessential tropes of the studio alongside a much more simplistic plot.
Expectedly great direction from director Hayao Miyazaki makes sure of Kiki’s Delivery Service’s artistic merits and storytelling powers. He pools together these engaging pieces into a somewhat meritable film. My only issue really comes from the supporting characters throughout, who really don’t serve many purposes outside of giving Kiki something to do or avoid. They’re one dimensional, caricatures of storytelling that are there to serve a moot point, or to highlight an idea that could’ve been handled with much more interest or engaging tones. The character of Tombo, in particular, is a useless and annoying character, one that derails the film more often than not. At times it feels like Kiki’s Delivery Service loses its direction somewhat, straying away from the track of a film about a witch struggling to conform to a new city and instead of diving head first into a light romantic strand.
Thankfully this can be side-lined somewhat thanks to the typically enjoyable leading performance, which for better or worse, doesn’t head down the familiar path I had expected an underdog character to follow. Kiki is a memorable character trapped in a film that doesn’t entirely know what to do with her. For someone training to be a witch, she delivers an abundance of baked goods and doesn’t exactly do much more than fly around on a broomstick and talk to her cat. Still, what do I know about witchcraft, the film is rather entertaining in the few pieces of downtime we receive; we get to use this time more often than not to contemplate the beautiful animation. The breathers we receive throughout are adequate, introducing new supporting characters when our minds aren’t focused on new and exciting storytelling opportunities.
Just about as charming as you’d expect from Ghibli, Kiki’s Delivery Service has no trouble in delivering a wholly good time, if not a little rough around the edges. A serviceable piece of film that, as expected, highlights the mesmerising efforts of a group of animators. With a much less interesting story than I’d first expected, Kiki’s Delivery Service is certainly a movie worth watching, but not one that will exactly leave a lasting impression upon its audience.