Following the tragic film that is 'Grave of the Fireflies' comes a much more upbeat, slice of life film that focuses on, according to Miyazaki, himself, the gap between Japanese girls being independent and being reliant on others.
Our tale features Kiki (Minami Takayama/Lisa Michelson/Kirsten Dunst) along with her talking cat, Jiji (Rei Sakuma/Kerrigan Mahan/Phil Hartman). Kiki has just turned thirteen, and in accordance with her witch family customs, she heads out to a nearby town to live independently for a year.
Here, she meets the likes of a pregnant woman named Osono (Keiko Toda/Alexandra Kenworthy/Tress MacNeille) who offers for Kiki to take a room upstairs, above her bakery. Meanwhile, Kiki works on getting her own business started - a delivery service for the bakery.
Along the way she also befriends a handful of friendly characters, who like her for what she is. Most notable being two characters. The first, a boy named Tombo (Kappei Yamaguchi/Eddie Frierson/Matthew Lawrence) who takes a great interest in flying, and provides an interesting contrast to Kiki, to whom flying is as simple and everyday as walking. The second, a girl named Ursula (Minami Takayama/Edie Mirman/Janeane Garofalo), a fun artist type who helps Kiki with some of her more difficult issues, largely having to do with herself.
As these Ghibli films advance, it's interesting to see just how different they get from one to the other. Much like 'Totoro', with this one, you kinda look at things a bit deeper to find the meaning of it all. To me, this translated as pretty much a "man vs himself" (in this case woman vs herself) story that has a lot to do with coming of age and, yeah, as Miyazaki says, the gap between independence and reliance. However, I didn't really get that it was meant, apparently, specifically toward Japanese girls.
Indeed, personally, I feel like there's plenty here that just about everyone could relate to. In fact, I even interpreted it as a struggle against depression and angst during those God-forsaken teenage years. Though maybe it wasn't meant to be quite that deep, see if you can't see where I'm coming from with it upon viewing it for yourself.
That said, it's by no means a very depressing film at all. It's really quite upbeat, and, in fact, a nice, quaint, subtle film. It might be something one might turn to in order to brighten their day. Much like with, again, 'Totoro', it only kinda gets semi-serious in parts. The rest of it is just kinda warm and fun... and FULL of great scenery throughout the flying scenes.
At the end of the day, this ends up being one of those titles I really like as a potential go-to for cheering myself up. And yes, it is about a 13 year old girl trying to find herself, and that's okay. As I said, there's plenty here to relate to, regardless. It might just not necessarily be the one I keep coming back to, but it's definitely a nice, two-hour animation for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
I ALMOST wanna bump it down to a 3/5 (translating to "good"), but in all fairness, I have to give this film what it has going for it. The voice acting is decent, the animation is gorgeous, the characters are pretty much all likable except for a couple of sides, and the whole concept is an original way to bring those themes of adolescence to the screen. This really is a very good movie, and I can't bring myself to give it that 3.
As anime is an all-around untapped resource for my viewing pleasure, I have decided to explore the Ghibli titles, one-by-one. It seemed good a place to start as any. I'll be focusing on these titles throughout the month of August.