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Episode 83: KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE

  

130 members have voted

  1. 1. Do we deliver KIKI to the Canon?

    • Yes!
      81
    • Get off that broomstick, kid.
      49


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Actually going No with this, even though it was a nice little film. Hulk almost persuaded me, though. There just wasn't enough meat to it to lift it to Canon greatness.

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Lesser Miyazaki is still Miyazaki, which is to say pretty incredible. Though I would love to see one of the "slam dunks" from his filmography get into The Canon (particularly Totoro), Kiki's would still be a fine addition. Thumbs up for me.

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I'm a no on this as well. It's decent, but ultimately it is poorly paced and is not as engaging nor charming as other Miyazaki films. I would probably give a yes to Totoro or Spirited Away, but I don't think a "great" director at the helm necessitates induction into our canon. Would Hitchcock's Lifeboat get the votes? (Maybe that's an episode we need.)

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Kiki's Delivery Service was probably the second Miyazaki film I ever saw not too long after catching Princess Mononoke during its initial US theatrical release. Mononoke is still my favorite movie of his. My favorite thing he's ever done, however, is his manga Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. The film adaptation was done well before Miyazaki had finished the comic, so the movie's story comes to an abrupt end. I'd really love to see Ghibli adapt it as a long-form story, the way it's meant to be told. It ran me through the entire gamut of emotions in a way few stories have.

 

Anyway, I found Kiki to be incredibly charming, and I actually thought its gentleness was refreshing, a feature rather than a bug.

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I vote no.

 

While the movie is pleasant, it has no real meat to it. There's nothing about the movie that creates real conversation, which we can see (hear) in this episode. Devin, Amy, and FCH barely talk about the pluses and minuses of the movie itself, but more about anime and the career of Miyazaki. At multiple points, the argument for Kiki pretty much breaks down to "the movie is pleasant". I don't know if just being pleasant is enough of a reason.

 

Points are made about why Miyazaki should have a movie in the canon, but never why this specific film is the one.

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This is a perfect example of a great movie that doesn't get into the Canon for me. Devin said that it "has the consistency of muzak," and I agree. Kiki's does try to demonstrate its power through that gentleness and it's soft-touch vérité, but somehow it doesn't penetrate to me.

 

Maybe the distinction is that it's deeply sentimental, and not as dramatic. And it should be, right? I think the ending moment when Jiji doesn't talk to her at the end and she just nuzzles him in acceptance is tremendously powerful. It's a really thrown away and powerful moment of maturation. Kiki's struggles are mundane, but they're life. The movie may be at its most brilliant in the prologue where the "leaving the nest" process takes place in beautiful miniature. We never see those parents again, until the credits, and it's a few small moments like these that fulfill the movie's promise of low-key gravitas.

 

However, many moments are purely sentimental. The interactions with the old ladies are sweet but skin-deep. It's sweet that Kiki's helpful, it's funny that the 2nd lady likes brooms, and it's sweet that Kiki and the grandma bond some time after her snooty granddaughter rebuffed her (awful) pie. It takes on the appearance of dramatic heft but is more just a contrivance for an "awww" moment.

 

This movie hammered my heartstrings. It's gorgeous not only in the fluid animation and the detailed backgrounds, but in what it chooses to depict; I love how much we get to enjoy Kiki's flying through long landscape shots and intermittent interactions with geese.

 

But ultimately I think the movie throws out all these perfectly saccharine moments and heaps of nostalgia for a realistically-perfect city, but it really comes up short on genuine drama. Plus there's a few elements that fall kind of flat for me, including Tombo in total, who's obnoxiousness isn't saved by the kind of kind humanization and life-affirming content of the rest of the film.

 

My greatest fear is that I'm being too hard on it for not being something it has no interest in being, and something that would be more traditional. But I don't think it had to change fundamentally to be Canon-worthy; It just needed a greater count of low-key dramatic moments to low-key sweet nothings.

 

In writing this out, I've satisfied my fears. I think the movie is just too light and airy to be Canon-worthy. Kiki's Delivery Service is a perfectly sentimental ride, and that makes it easy to mistake it for being far more powerful then it really is. It fails to break the skin. I've always felt a Canon movie must be great and exceptional. It's great, but it doesn't truly distinguish itself. I can already feel it washing off my brain.

 

In short, I agree pretty much entirely with Devin this week. Sorry, Hulk!

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I'm voting no on this one.

 

Personally, I'm not an anime guy. Yeah, I know they tackle the idea in this episode that this may not really be anime, but whatever, I'm not into Japanese animation. It's just not for me. Generally the people I've interacted with who are really into anime are the most insufferable people I've ever met, and that's probably spoiled me on the genre. And I know people have told me that Miyazaki is different. "He's the Walt Disney of Japan," is usually what I get told. And I'll admit, I do like Spirited Away quite a bit. I've tried. I've checked out anime shows, other anime films, and none of it clicks. So I was hoping that maybe this would be interesting along the same way as Spirited Away.

 

But it wasn't.

 

This movie was a room temperature glass of water. It wasn't even that I didn't like it, it was kind of nothing to me. It looked pretty, but it didn't connect to me on any way. Hulk had some interesting point in the episode, but none of his opinions resonated with me. Yeah, I agreed with Devin about all the weird panty stuff and and obnoxious kid with the glasses that just stalked Kiki and pestered her into talking to him like a real creep, but even taking all that stuff out of it, this movie just did absolutely nothing for me. If you like it, good for you, but it's not for me, and even if it was, I don't think it deserves to be in the Canon.

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Yes all the way. One of my favorite movies, and definitely my favorite of the movies this podcast has covered so far.

 

I see a lot of comments considering this a lesser Miyazaki, but I actually think Kiki's is one of the most subtly and effectively managed expressions of the director's favorite themes. He loves putting female characters (usually girls) in the middle of a conflict between the human world and the world of nature/spirit. Kiki, as a witch who lives among non-witches, is very much in that line. But whereas most of Miyazaki's movies emphasize the spiritual/magical side of that divide, I think what makes this a more powerful story is that Kiki's connection to the supernatural is slight and ultimately very fragile. There's a real risk of losing it, and even when Kiki's powers are regained at the end, it's not a complete recovery, which hits me hard.

 

I think a lot of Miyazaki (Nausicaa, Laputa, and Ponyo as a few examples) go out of their way to impress us with the majesty and strangeness of the spirit world, so we grieve its loss as human society encroach upon it (which is great!), but Kiki's does a marvelous job of finding beauty in the mundane human world as well. It's a more humane environmentalism than you usually see in his films. The flying motif is my favorite instance of this: presented as an experience of beauty (and risk of danger!) achievable by both magic and human technology, it's a really creative and surprising way to bridge the gap between the two realms.

 

It's also just really charming and makes me cry and laugh every time I see it.

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I'm a soft no as well. Funnily, the pro-argument that was brought up in the show is kind of a contra-argument for me: I agree this is one of the more relatable and closer-to-reality miyazaki films... but that's exactly what I don't necessarily cherish in animated films in general. I think they are the strongest when they are pure visual escapism, and Miyazaki would be a master in this. Kiki's Delivery Service is fine, but I can't feel very passionate about it. It's too in-the-middle-of-the-road for me. I'm sorry, Hulk.

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This movie isn't all that historically important, nor is it one of the more iconic Miyazakis.

 

Filmmaking-wise, I thought it was okay, but it does stretch on a little long and gets quite boring in the second act.

 

I vote no.

 

When somebody nominates Spirited Away, I will vote yes. Because that's the Miyazaki that really broke through with Western audiences, won the Oscar, etc. That can represent anime.

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I was planning to vote no after watching this movie (for the first time), but Film Crit Hulk convinced me. It really is the most quintessentially Miyazaki of Miyazaki movies. In a lot of ways, it has every element that individually goes into all his other films, and I think that status warrants its inclusion.

 

And I don't think we have to be worried about the fact that several of his other movies are better on a lot of levels and more obviously canon. I don't think that should be a factor at all.

 

The show has now addressed I think 4 Spielberg movies, and there's never been a concern that putting one of them in would preclude putting in another (at least I can't remember such a concern) or that too many were being discussed. I think Miyazaki should be approached the same way. Spirited Away and Totoro are definitely canon movies so 1) they'll probably get to them at some point and 2) they probably deserve to be talked about and debated less precisely because they're such obvious cases.

 

In addition to the fact that it is the most Miyazaki film ever, Kiki's Delivery Service is an incredibly delicately-balanced film, and one that I think very few other directors could have made, if any. There's magic in this world, but a very limited kind that other filmmakers would have wanted to ramp up. There's some history to witches, but we only get the bare minimum necessary to move the (emotional) plot forward; Again, another director would have started to get into world-building and origin explaining. And there's the fact that this is a young girl in a potentially scary, dangerous world. Another director might have taken that in a creepy direction, but here we get much more everyday battles and struggles that bring home what it's probably like for most 13-year-old girls. The stakes are raised by making them lower, something I think he does really well and that a lot of other directors are scared of doing.

 

There are just so many really narrow little holes that he threads the directorial needle through, narratively and in terms of setting — I think it's easy to focus on the simple, overly-charming feel-good aspects of this movie and forget the smart choices that make all that work, and make him a one-of-a-kind filmmaker.

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I've already said my piece on the matter in the homework thread. We could do a lot better, not just with Miyazaki, but in terms of filmmakers of anime. Whatever the case may be, I appreciated Film Crit Hulk's arguments, but I kinda feel the same as Devin. This is a film that should speak to me, but it leaves me a little emotionally empty. I still vote yes, but so softly. We need anime, and Miyazaki is as good of a representative as any., and Kiki's is a fine film as well.

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I only now discovered I could get this on Blu ray from the library. It'll be a week before my request gets it delivered to my library, so I guess I'll be too late to vote. Wish it had been Spirited Away though.

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Also, just wanted to say Amy's a genius for pointing out that the limited kinds of "world" movies that we end up getting in the U.S. say much more about our culture than the culture they came from. By by extending that logic, though, every time Devin thinks it's weird that adults often watch and draw cartoons with sex and breasts, it says more about Devin than about the people who make anime. :P

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Really like the movie. Hulk brought up things that made me like it even more. but I have to say no. Because I agree on the point that it's "minor Miyazaki."

 

And wish this was talked about, (because I LOVE flying as much as Miyazaki seems to), but I think this film wonderfully portrays flying. Weight and the effect of wind on Kiki's was really taken into account in the animation. It's not just weightlessness.

Edited by burnettski92

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I haven't seen this movie in about 10 years and I was really excited to revisit it. It didn't have the impact that it had for me when I was a kid but, I still really enjoyed it and as other people have commented I don't think it's gentleness is a negative. I think Amy has brought up before that she tries to judge a movie not based on her personal tastes but how well it succeeds in what it is trying to do. I think Kiki's Delivery Service is incredibly well executed and can't be faulted just because it's dissimilar to Spirited Away, Totoro ect. I'm not a huge fan of anime but I do appreciate films that treat girls coming of age with respect and I think this movie satisfies two areas of the canon that are sourly lacking.

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(TL;DR, it's a YES.)

 

I understand the arguments against, but where Miyazaki is concerned (or Kubrick, or Fellini, or Spielberg, or Kurosawa) I'm very, very open to The Big Canon. They all have several films worthy of inclusion, and being "minor" for one of the greatest ever isn't, to me, any sort of good argument against. While Kiki's is certainly one of Miyazaki's "smaller" films, and while I wouldn't even put it at the top of the smaller ones (Totoro), I adore the hell out of it, and I can't NOT vote for it.

 

I tend to be a sucker for simple, emotional movies, as opposed to melodrama/screaming choruses/black-and-white-morality/battered-housewife crying, as well as movies that just look beautiful for the sake of looking beautiful. And even Devin admitted (despite the traditionally Japanese limited animation style he has a hang-up about) that Miyazaki movies look pretty good. Kiki's does a beautiful job with its depictions of flight, with its setup of an idealized town that is supposed to feel like (a new) home, and not just setting it up to be stepped on by a giant robot or lasered by a UFO. It creates a place I wanna visit (and having visited Stockholm before, and found it the most beautiful, safest, cleanest, and most comfortable big city I've ever been in, it captured the city well). Those are all big plusses for me, a big reason to want to re-visit a film again and again.

 

But my main reason for voting for it is that I can't think of a single other movie I'd rather show to a little girl (or a non-"ick-girls-gross" boy). I've personally introduced all of my friends' kids, as well as my niece, to this movie, right when they're around six. It's a perfect film for them. "It's just a kids' movie" is typically an excuse for cheap, hollow, loud, pandering crap. Kiki's is a kids' movie that is easy to understand, emotionally instructive, entertaining, beautiful to look at, and a good introduction to a non-American style of art and storytelling. Along with Totoro. A small child will be better off for having seen it. Gentle, yes, but also gently humorous in parts, with true-to-life dilemmas, about good people doing their best and getting along with one another, struggling but learning. With, of course, a healthy, fun level of fantasy thrown in to make it more colorful and spectacular. It's what kids' entertainment should be all about, giving them something to connect to without Gumbifying their poor, impressionable brains. Kids do need movies like that, especially movies that don't think the best alternative to conflicts and difficult emotions is farting, slapstick violence, screaming and other cheap "kiddie" cartoon staples.

 

I say please put it in The Canon. How many kid-friendly films are in there right now? Other than the big ol' Disneys, how many others would you put in there before one of the Miyazakis, especially one of the non-PG-13 Miyazakis?

 

-- OK, we got Beauty and the Beast, E.T., King Kong mayyyyyybe (I saw it as a kid, and I loved it, but it's really, really old), Pan's Labyrinth maybe (feels too scary and hard to understand for children), and maybe Superman or Robin Hood (which might be a hard sell due to age and how the genres have changed, but if you hook 'em early....). --

 

But Kiki's is a film for all ages, and it feels timeless. Great, GREAT kids' film. Great animated film. Great coming-of-age. Great light fantasy. Just beautiful to look at. Sweet story. A little gem of a film, from a filmmaker who's world-famous, but still by no means as well-known as he should be.

 

It's not the hardest "YES" I've ever given here, but it's a solid one. Even if it's only in as a kids' film, it deserves inclusion as a fantastic example of what a kids' film should set out to be, and a sterling example of how to sell an animated movie to kids without falling back on lazy storytelling tropes, while hiding behind the animated medium as an excuse for mediocrity or condescension. I think (and know from personal experience) that it's a fantastic movie for children, one of best I know of.

 

Won't someone please think of the children? :P

 

When somebody nominates Spirited Away, I will vote yes. Because that's the Miyazaki that really broke through with Western audiences, won the Oscar, etc. That can represent anime.

 

As if only one film should represent something as vast as "anime/Japanese animation"? Say, we already have a Fellini in the Canon. Guess we can forget all about Antonioni, since we already have our mid-century Italian, amirite?

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I'm gonna say yes. Kiki's excels at one of my favorite aspects of a lot of Miyazaki's films, that they tend to have a lot of quiet moments that let the audience breathe and enjoy the film's world and ambiance. Spirited Away has some similar elements to this one and is a complete masterpiece, but I don't think that negates the charm and joy this film brings to the table.

 

Larger discussions surrounding anime would probably bring out better results in another thread, but I'll throw in some thoughts here: I grew up when anime was EXPLODING everywhere, when Cartoon Network and other kids channels would play anything remotely popular they could get their hands on, and people were just beginning to realize they could upload any series possible online. So most of the conventions/stylistic choices of anime don't bother me a ton because I was introduced to it at such a young age and was surrounded by it. You shouldn't let a pack of creepy dweebs who jack off to their wife body pillows dictate that an entire industry is worthless-American comedies shouldn't suddenly be tossed into the nearest landfill because Adam Sandler hasn't been stopped yet. Animation is an art form all on its own (I mean, we had an episode about Waltz With Bashir on here, which incidentally I find way more politically messy than anything Miyazaki's done), so each film should be taken on its own merit.

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I'm gonna say yes. Kiki's excels at one of my favorite aspects of a lot of Miyazaki's films, that they tend to have a lot of quiet moments that let the audience breathe and enjoy the film's world and ambiance. Spirited Away has some similar elements to this one and is a complete masterpiece, but I don't think that negates the charm and joy this film brings to the table.

 

Larger discussions surrounding anime would probably bring out better results in another thread, but I'll throw in some thoughts here: I grew up when anime was EXPLODING everywhere, when Cartoon Network and other kids channels would play anything remotely popular they could get their hands on, and people were just beginning to realize they could upload any series possible online. So most of the conventions/stylistic choices of anime don't bother me a ton because I was introduced to it at such a young age and was surrounded by it. You shouldn't let a pack of creepy dweebs who jack off to their wife body pillows dictate that an entire industry is worthless-American comedies shouldn't suddenly be tossed into the nearest landfill because Adam Sandler hasn't been stopped yet. Animation is an art form all on its own (I mean, we had an episode about Waltz With Bashir on here, which incidentally I find way more politically messy than anything Miyazaki's done), so each film should be taken on its own merit.

You know, you mentioning Cartoon Network makes me realize that we probably have shows like Steven Universe because of Miyazaki. In which case, Kiki is 100% canon.

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I don't understand how you could say this is "lesser Miyazaki"; that's like saying Casino is "lesser Scorsese".

 

It seems like the no votes are saying Kiki is pleasant but not as fantastic or dazzling as Spirited Away or Mononoke. This is an attitude often represented here (and one I'm guilty of myself) when the obvious canon film is pushed aside in favor of a second or third favorite. But these choices lead to much more interesting conversations -- I mean, I'd like to hear someone argue that Spirited Away *isn't* a sublime masterpiece.

 

I see Kiki and Totoro as companion films; both represent Miyazaki's idealized vision of a peaceful, pastoral, pre-war life which he never found as an adult. Film Crit Hulk really nailed it when he talked about Miyazaki's cynicism, which many fans wouldn't believe is there but is actually critical to understanding his work. The reason these beautiful worlds he's created exist is precisely because he's disillusioned with the real world, in which people hurt, die, and ruin goodness. You can see hints of this in his early films (people sometimes note an undercurrent of darkness in Totoro) until it comes to full bore in Princess Mononoke.

 

The two films also both feature girls on the cusp of adolescence, making choices and gaining a degree of independence; in many ways similar to a Disney Princess® but without the need to provide a suitably bland Prince to drive the story (which is one failing of Howl's Moving Castle). I loved it when Devin was handwaving away some aspect of the story and Amy injected with "Now see, here is this thing where you were never a teenage girl." Which is funny, but very true -- how telling is it that Devin was uncomfortable with the upskirt angles (which are totally not gratuitous or meant to be titillating at all). Who is the one sexualizing a little girl here?

 

I think it speaks to a real weakness in film criticism by men who are talking about women- (and especially) girl-centric stories. I don't mean to unnecessarily invoke claims of sexism, that's not the point at all. Maybe I'm reading ahead too far here.

 

Also, I want to say that Kiki and Miyazaki in general have a wonderful and distinctly Japanese sensibility, as seen in the works of Ozu, or movies like The Makioka Sisters or Ran. That pastoral nature is a large part of it, to be sure, but also in how measured the films are, how closely they align with traditional Japanese aesthetics of form, order, and simplicity. This is something a Pixar cartoon, with all of its narrative economy, will never do.

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Film Crit Hulk really swayed me on this one. I've always felt that Miyazaki transcends the stereotypes found in most anime. While his stories are certainly within the context of Japanese culture, the stories themselves appeal to a much broader human experience. It has been said on the podcast many times and elsewhere, a story that is told with specific and subjective views, its themes will be more relevant and applicable to a broader audience. Kiki's may be the most personal of the Miyazaki oeuvre.

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Also, I want to say that Kiki and Miyazaki in general have a wonderful and distinctly Japanese sensibility, as seen in the works of Ozu, or movies like The Makioka Sisters or Ran. That pastoral nature is a large part of it, to be sure, but also in how measured the films are, how closely they align with traditional Japanese aesthetics of form, order, and simplicity. This is something a Pixar cartoon, with all of its narrative economy, will never do.

I'm glad someone mentioned Ozu. Kiki's lacks the themes of generational conflict that I associate with him, but tonally, there's a lot to be gained from reading the film as really well done animated version of that sensibility.
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