Released a year after My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service is among the most cheerful and lighthearted of Hayao Miyazaki's Ghibli features. A tween-age witch leaves home for a journey on her own as part of her training, settling in a small fictional town that is somewhat Germanic in look. The storyline is not as intricate as, say, that of Spirited Away, but the characters are no less charming or memorable.

In this Disney-produced English translation (you can watch it subtitled in Japanese at once), Kirsten Dunst's earnest performance reminds me of Pamelyn Ferdin, the go-to young actress of late 60s/early 70s TV and animation. Debbie Reynolds has a small role as a kindly old woman, partnered with Edie McClurg as her housekeeper.

But the scene-stealing role is that of the late Phil Hartman as Jiji, the cat who accompanies Kiki on her journey, making acerbic comments along the way. It only serves to underscore the great loss of a gifted performer and the potential never realized.

One of the most interesting things about Kiki's Delivery Service is the way the general populace reacts to her magical gifts. She belongs to a group of individuals that are not feared, hidden or scorned, but instead treated matter-of-factly. A prime example is a scene in which Kiki's takes off on her broom and a village lady looks on with a "well, what do you know, how interesting" reaction. She doesn't go all "Gladys Kravitz."

This Special Edition issue of the movie is accompanied with a series of short bonus documentaries and an interactive "world of Ghibli" feature.

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