Are you there, God? It's me, Kiki

I just saw Kiki’s Delivery Service, which contains all the saccharine of Miyazaki’s other stuff and none of the magic. It struck me as downright pedestrian, with none of the unsettling weirdness that gave Spirited Away and even the middling Princess Mononoke their charm. And it didn’t have any of the textured child’s life that made Totoro so powerful. It was like a Judy Blume anime.

I did love the design of the cat, Gigi, which was really nicely animated and drawn with a bit of a Totoro look. But what a horrible wretched voiceover from Phil Hartman (god rest his soul, and all that). I think the man was amazingly gifted at dry humor, but as Kiki’s surly cat, he was the most annoying animated voiceover since Rosie O’Donnel’s goddamn monkey in that Tarzan movie. A lot of it had to do with the way Gigi was written, as a sarcastic schtick-spouting sidekick. I can’t help but wonder if this is how the cat played in the original Japanese (which is sadly unavailable on the DVD) or if it was just savagely Americanized into a lame Garfield type character.

There were also some strange upskirt shots which were a little uncomfortable considering the jokes about Kiki posing nude and the painter having nice legs. In Totoro, that sort of upskirt stuff was strictly the child-like innocence of a little girl just pulling her dress over her head. In Kiki, which is about burgeoning womanhood, it was just kind of creepy.

What’s really sad is that this is available on DVD, but the vastly superior My Neighbor Totoro, which is a complex and multi-faceted work of genius, is still only on VHS. Sigh.


What are you talking about? I’m not referring to your general discourse on the merits of deity avatara laying the smack down on talking wildlife, but rather the availability of Japanese audio on the DVD, 'cause it’s available on the Disney DVD release. Phil Hartman’s Gigi is a bit overbearing, pushed over the edge by Gigi’s dialogue running almost continuously to no good effect. The Japanese Gigi has more of a girlish “arrogant kitty” voice (like there’s any other kind of kitty) and comes across as far less sarcastic, in part because the Japanese version doesn’t have Kiki providing a full play-by-play as in the English dub.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is supposed to be heartwarming, not “weird” like the other ones. Yeah, okay, it’s no Totoro, but that’s kind of the point. Speaking of which, Totoro is available on DVD – but at what cost! You have to put up with the FOX release, since they’re jealously clinging to the rights. This wouldn’t be so bad except that you’re stuck with a pan 'n scan dubbed version of marginal sound quality. Disney may have gone overboard with their elaborate dubbed renditions, but at least they had the sense to clean up the audio-visuals and let you preferentially listen to the Japanese voice track. You know, the one you get when you select “Japanese” as the language.

  • Alan

You know, the one you get when you select “Japanese” as the language.

My bad, then. As I was watching and cringing at Phil Hartman’s voiceover, I finally pressed the language button on my remote to hear how Gigi sounded in Japanese. I was rewarded with a ‘function not available’ message, which is what happens when there’s only one audio track. I just figured Buena Vista/Disney just wanted to get their money’s worth for paying Kirstin Dunst.

Totoro is available on DVD

Whoa, my bad again. Lookee there, so it is! When did that happen? I guess now I’ll be able to retire the last remaining VHS tape in my movie collection!


Don’t get this. This DVD is the Fox “full frame” version. Wait for the widescreen version, which should come out from Buena Vista later this year or early next. This is a rush job by Fox to capitilize on their license before it expired. It also lacks a Japanes soundtrack.

Nausicaa is the best Miyazaki flick I’ve seen. The art may not be anywhere near the likes of Mononoke Hime or Spirited Away, but I’d say that the overall content and direction surpass both pretty easily.

Tom, you might want to check it out.

You’re exactly right, I bought it a month ago and I’m very freaking disappointed in it. Really bad transfer and only 2 channel surround.

Kiki’s Delivery Service was good Tom. You’re gay. Didn’t you feel that flight and freedom were empty? The key to the movie.


There’s one screw-up in the dub of Jiji that I think is pretty important.

When Kiki gets sick, and she can’t fly any more, Jiji stops talking, only meowing. In the original soundtrack, Jiji never talks again after that, whereas Disney has him talking again at the end.

I think you can make a good argument that in the original, Miyazaki is showing that when you grow up, there are some things you lose that you never get back–it’s just a bit more poignant that way. (Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but it’s still a pity that Disney took that reading away in their dub.)


Tom, I disagree with you 100%. I think Kiki is a great little film, and one of the few animes I’ll actually let my daughter watch.

There’s a part about Kiki posing nude??? What the heck version were you watching?

Aha, quite understandable then. Apparently the sounds tracks are tied to the video, since some of the placards were altered to have English text. When you switch audio tracks, you’re really switching to a different version of the movie. Talk about overkill…

  • Alan

Aha, quite understandable then. Apparently the sounds tracks are tied to the video, since some of the placards were altered to have English text. When you switch audio tracks, you’re really switching to a different version of the movie. Talk about overkill…

  • Alan[/quote]

No way, that part is awesome. It’s the script changes that suck about Disney dubs of Gibli movies.

Noun, your daughter seems to be the target audience for the movie, hence my subject header for this thread. And I have no problem with that, but it wasn’t what I expected after having seen Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Totoro, all of which had very definite appeal to adults.

It’s when Kiki comes back from having met the artist in the forest. She’s telling Jiji (so it’s spelled ‘Jiji’?) about it and the cat makes some crack about whether the artist had asked Kiki to pose nude. Not funny, like most of the rest of that cat’s lines, and completely out of tone with the rest of the movie. Same with the artist’s comment about ‘how could anyone mistake her for a boy with legs like these?’

And for a brief tease of a moment, I thought it was going to be this really cool parable about dealing with the loss of childhood, as Gav alluded to. When Kiki couldn’t fly and Jiji stopped talking to her, I was briefly won over. But in the end, the cat goes chatty again and she flies away to save the day. Yay.

It’s a great lesson for little girls like noun’s daughter – “just believe in yourself!” – but not all that interesting to a guy like me who loved the subtle messages about death and loss in Totoro.

Evilore, thanks for the Nausicaa tip! Someone tipped me off to a place to find that, so I’ll be sure to have a look.


Tom, I agree with you then. Good for kids, not exactly highbrow entertainment for the grown-ups. As an aside, I loved Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, and am looking forward to showing those to my daughter when she’s older.

And thanks for the memory jogger - I recall that “nude” line now. Hmm…I guessed I glossed over that part. Anyone know if this same comment is in the Japanese language version?

I would recommend watching it again, with the Japanese track (as pointed out, it is on there) and subtitles. The dub sucks.

Even so, I’d agree it’s one of Miyazaki’s weaker films. By no means a bad one, simply not that great.

Yeah, even the songs at the beginning and the end of the film are completely different. I absolutely love the song at the end of the Japanese version - just a great little melody.

While I think Kiki is a good movie with some great sequences (the Fish Cake sequence is just about the greatest study of “generation-gap” I have ever seen), I have to agree about the upskirt stuff. It was kind-of upsetting to watch. For a movie with such a sweet heart at its core, it seemed odd to be viewing Kiki’s underpants for about 1/4 of the movie.

Cereal. There is a scene with Kiki sitting down to finish a bowl of it. How often does one see this in regular cinema, let alone the precise scripting of animation? You don’t and that being said I felt it was only case in which the movie attempted to buck any sort of convention. There was none of the off the cuff child psychosis injected into Totoro or the preachy enviromentalist fervor of Naussica and Mononoke’s saving grace was that it at least had slave labor lepers.


-Wonderful Days

I always thought the cat went silent because he got together with the neighbour’s “prissy” cat …

the whole film also has that “us vs them” struggle, about how teenage witches have to go out into the bigger society and find their place, about not backing down, not insulating yourself from the world, and about finding friendship where you used to see insults and antagonism …

about the upskirt stuff … if you look closely, it is there in almost every single miyazaki anime …

there’s even more screen time devoted to it in Nausiica …

regardless of who the intended audience is, the author is always the same … a team led by an old japanese man.

think about that …

The upskirt thing could very well represent innocence. Sexual innocence is often represented either by naked form or by lack of shame or modesty.

I suspect Miyazaki sees sexual innocence as a virtue in young girls.

Exactly - Japan is a culture that thrives upon sexual innocence. I also love all those school girl innocence dispensers in men’s rooms all around Tokyo. Japan’s infamous school girl fixation, therefore, isn’t a disgusting pedophile fetish at all. Rather it is a beautiful culture’s artistic song to the innocence of those fresh-faced pixies who will, for your edification, cream ther innocence, wrap it in a picture and a personal little note and sell it to you from a subway vending machine for 1,500 yen a pop