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Review – Anime – Kiki’s Delivery Service

NOTE: This Review was originally posted to Anime Boredom

While not the second Miyazaki film I’ve watched, it’s the second I paid enough attention to that I could make some sort of judgment on it. While taking Japanese in High School we watched Totoro in pure Japanese (without Subtitles). I’ve vaguely paid attention to Princess Mononoki when it came on Cartoon Network a few months ago. I greatly enjoyed Spirited Away when I found it at a garage sale for 3 dollars. Recently at work we aired Kiki’s Delivery Service. I was kind of stuck monitoring some equipment repairs when we aired it so I made a point to watch it. I’d been meaning to see more of Miyazaki’s films after Spirited Away.

I can’t say I’m really much of an anime fan. Most of the series and movies I actually do enjoy are severely outdated. What I do enjoy though is a good story that’s not full out lame pseudo jokes or pointless love triangles that go nowhere for 500 episodes. That is what I see in these films. It would seem someone else sees this too since Disney has opted to dub) several Miyazaki films into English. Did I mention I hate subtitles?

Enough rambling intro then, let’s cut to the meat of this review. Kiki’s delivery service is a fairly simple film about a young beginner witch trying to make her way in the world. The time period for this film is roughly mid 1900s judging by the setting. It takes place mostly in a relatively nondescript European town. The first thing that comes off as a bit off is Kiki’s young age of thirteen to be setting out to live on her own. Honestly this and the fact that Osono (the baker woman) so quickly and readily trusts this young stranger almost immediately are my only two real complaints with the plot.

Anyway, Kiki takes up residence with Osono after helping the baker out and she starts up Kiki’s Flying Delivery Service. Despite that Kiki is a witch, her only real witch-like power seems to be the ability ot fly a broom. Well, she can also talk to her cat Jiji. She is not the type of witch to eat young children or throw fireballs at small dogs and scarecrows it seems. She doesn’t use any sort of magic to produce food or do chores either.

Which brings us to the general theme of the movie. It takes hard work to succeed and one shouldn’t give up even when you’re down. The themes in this film are actually very similar to those of Spirited Away (the other Miyazaki film I’ve reviewed). The primary difference is that this movie has less random confusing points than Spirited Away. I’d be inclined to say this film is superior to the other except it’s less visually impressive over all. The wonder and randomness in Spirited Away certainly helped add to the “epic” appeal. Some of that feel is lost in this almost down to earth film. Other than her ability to Fly, Kiki’s pretty much just an ordinary delivery girl.

Fortunately, there’s Jiji to help spice things up. Jiji has two important entertainment functions in the movie. First he gets to serve as a decoy stuffed cat at the hands of a rather bratty child and his dog. Second he gains a love interest in the form of a snooty cat.

The snooty cat actually serves a significant plot use at one point involving Jiji and Kiki’s relationship that isn’t real clear at first. I’ll have to pass on giving away too much more detail though as I’d rather not give an exposition of the entire plot. The film does build up to a fitting climax however.

And then it ends. It ends very abruptly and unexpectedly. Almost too abruptly. As soon as the climax is resolved it just sort of cuts away to a random series of Kiki doing things, presumably to demonstrate her happy life afterwards. A bit more would have been really REALLY nice.

To wrap things up then. The film is all around really good. I’d recommend watching it to anyone, especially anyone wanting to know what good anime really is. Other then the chopped off end there’s nothing to truly complain about. I don’t really use any sort of rating’s system but if they’d have given us even 5 minutes more final exposition to properly wrap this film up I’d be inclined to give it a perfect score.

Review – Anime – Spirited Away

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The first time I watched Spirited Away, I came away with a so-so opinion of the film. On one hand, the animation was rather amazing and stylized, the story seemed to have some good moral messages going, it was generally entertaining; on the other hand, it was just plain weird.

It probably didn’t help that I was distracted and only half paying attention to the film. It’s still quite a surreal experience, but things tend to mesh a bit better on the second or third viewing.

The core plot follows Chihiro/Sen, a young girl, as she works her way through the bathhouse of the spirit world to save her parents. Along the way Sen learns how to live up to her fears, shows us how to appreciate others for who they are, not what they have, and generally how to keep focused on what’s right. Ok, yeah, that description comes off a little cheesy. I like to think of it as a very Japanese Alice and Wonderland. Like Alice, Sen enters her wonderland through a very large “rabbit hole” and things get really rolling along after characters eat some food that’s not quite what it’s thought to be.

One problem I have with this film is the ending. The whole story doesn’t really build up to any sort of definite ending. The events are mostly related and do lead to the expected conclusion, but something just doesn’t quite mesh. The finale comes almost out of nowhere and is fairly anti-climactic.

I suppose the cause of this effect is the large number of dominant subplots. One might really consider this to simply be a collection of smaller plots, all tied together by the bathhouse environment. On one level we have Sen trying to save her parents. Then there is No-Face, who just wants some companionship, but tries all the wrong methods to obtain it. Mixed in we have Haku and his somewhat bizarre plot to discover his true name (what was the point of this anyway). There are a few others but those three are the primary plot lines.

Another aspect of this movie: kids. I watched this movie in the company off a friend’s children the second and third time though (age 5,6, and 8). They enjoyed it a lot. There isn’t any swearing and there is relatively little violence (the attack on Haku is a bit gruesome, but nothing too horrid), it’s clean enough for kids to watch and they seem to really enjoy the elaborate world displayed before them. They didn’t get all of the parts but they seem to catch on to most aspects, probably better than I did the first time I watched it. It did leave them a bit scared at some points however, this is a somewhat frightening movie at times. The suspense in many parts is well laid out.

All in all, I’d say my opinion of this movie has only gotten better with repeated viewings. It’s not perfect mind you, but it’s quite good for what it does have.

The preceding review is based on the English Dubbed DVD version of Spirited Away.