Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kiki's Delivery Service

Or, if I had my way, Jiji's Delivery Service, because that is the most awesome cat that doesn't host a reality program.

(Of course, I refer to the Japanese audio track of the film -- nothing against Phil Hartman or any of the other voice talents, but I refuse dubbed films because dubbed voice work inevitably sounds stilted compared to original language. I think this is the reason I didn't like Howl's Moving Castle, and why I haven't seen Ponyo yet.)

This is the second of the Miyazaki films that I got from Netflix recently, the first being My Neighbor Totoro which, unfortunately, I found too dramatically inert to enjoy outside of Catbus. Kiki wins mightily, though, with its potent cuteness (see: Jiji).

Image-heavy cuteness (and spoilers), after the jump!


Honestly, the last two lines completely lose their effectiveness unless they're spoken in squeaky and high-pitched voice.

What's interesting about Kiki is that it addresses a lot of Miyazaki's concerns all within the same film: it's set in a modernish Continental cosmopolitan city that's surrounded by the rural countryside, the latter of which is his ideal of human-nature cooperation.

All these environments together let Miyazaki articulate his tempered suspicions about post-industrial capitalist society: after the grandmother's microwave breaks down, an old-fashioned oven saves the day; Kiki rediscovers her witchy mojo after spending time with boho artist Ursula out in the woods and communing with the crows; and the climax of the film is precipitated by that dirigible accident.

However, Miyazaki doesn't simply portray modern technology and urban life as onerous alienation, but instead it's an analogue for growing up (and by extension connects childhood and innocence with nature, which she has to leave when she's 13 to further establish her journey from town to city as a passage into adulthood); Tombo's flying contraption nearly kills him and Kiki, but it also leads to Kiki's most uninhibited and happy moment. What's more, Kiki never seriously considers leaving the city, and in her letter to her parents, admits to feeling depressed (the English dub has "homesick") but nonetheless certain that the city is her new home.

Miyazaki doesn't offer a revolutionary solution to the downs of adulthood or the perils of the city -- as a witch, Kiki simply can't go back to the scene of her childhood, but adulthood is also situated as something enviable. Kiki envies the cosmopolitan style of the fashionable (read: mature) girls around her, while less stuck-up girls admire Kiki's autonomy. Independence may cost, but it's set up as a monolithically desirable state.

Indie rating: Pussycat Dolls - "When I Grow Up"


momo said...

Totoro for me is about children discovering nature, and reminds me enough of the year we lived in the country when I was 10 that I find it mesmerizing.
Kiki's Delivery Service was our gateway Miyazaki drug, when my daughter was 8 or 9.To see an animated film in which a girl was not a Disney princess, a precocious sexbot or a sidekick was like finding water in the desert. We now own most of the Miyazaki DVDs in spite of the fact that they are hideously expensive. You can usually switch between languages, so we've watched them all in both Japanese and English. Phil Hartmann's voice work is great.
We just watched Howl's Moving Castle again a few days ago, when my daughter had to come home from school sick. Even though I like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke a lot more, she is attached to it maybe because how she is an adolescent, and Howl is an ugly duckling fairy tale about psychic integration.
Ponyo is quite odd, but worth seeing when it comes out and you can watch the Japanese version on DVD, if you're a purist. I think Tina Fey's voice work is quite good, though.

Leee said...

Oh, Spirited Away has one scene that utterly destroyed me when I watched it. The whole film is an all-time favorite.