This well-loved children’s fantasy novel, made famous in a Hayao Miyazaki animation, has returned to the big screen as a live-action motion picture
Produced by Takashi Shimizu, best known for horror flick The Grudge, this moving story of a young girl coming of age is a long-selling classic in Japanese children’s literature.
It was first brought to life on the big screen as a Hayao Miyazaki animation in 1989. How will this updated live-action adaptation fare?
Fans of Miyazaki’s anime version should note that this version is not based on the anime at all but rather on the original novel.
There is little resemblance in the storyline, except the general idea of the young witch learning to be independent.
A Young Witch’s Adventure in the Human World
Kiki is a 13-year-old who sets out with her black cat, Jiji, to live on her own for one year in a strange place, in order to qualify as a full-fledged witch. She sets out full of hope, only to discover that things do not always go her way.
Not only is she stuck in an unfamiliar environment, she has to deal with the prejudice from mortals who do not trust her. She manages to earn a living by providing a unique broom-based delivery service with her special abilities.
She also befriends a local boy, Tombo. Soon enough, Tombo develops a crush on Kiki.
We feel that the plot is a tad predictable, with few surprises. Even the love story between Kiki and Tombo is too wishy-washy to win our hearts. Hirota‘s commendable portrayal of Tombo is, however, worth looking out for.
Visuals – The good & the bad
The lack of special effects is perhaps the biggest flaw of this film. It appears as though little effort is made to hide the green background behind Kiki whenever she is ‘flying’ in mid-air. Jiji the cat and the hippopotamus, done in CGI, look fake to say the least.
The saving grace of the visuals is definitely the styling. The costumes are delightful and distinctive, yet not over the top. The island Kiki settles on looks lovely, with its pseudo-European architecture and the spectacular view of the ocean.
As Kiki flies from place to place, frequently, you get to admire the lovely aesthetics.
We would say that this movie could give you and your family light-hearted enjoyment, especially for the young ones. That said, don’t expect it to be anywhere near the level of excitement of flashy Hollywood movies.
KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE [PG] (Japanese w/ English & Chinese subtitles)
Director: Takashi Shimizu
Starring: Fuka Koshiba, Ryohei Hirota & Machiko Ono
Run Length: 108 min
Release: Apr 17