Cigar’s review published on Letterboxd:
My first few experiences with Studio Ghibli left a lasting impression of fantastical worlds that betray traditional narrative structure, instead offering uplifting stories in strange domains only Miyazaki could create. After watching Howl's Moving Castle and Spirited Away, I knew I had to ration these gems of animation in fear that I run out. Not only does Studio Ghibli create vibrant animation and breathable worlds, but they are incredibly consistent. Each time I venture into a new world of Miyazaki's making I am apprehensive at the high bar he has created for himself. "Will I be disappointed?" I ask myself. Steadfast, Ghibli again meets expectations, producing the magnificent tale that is Kiki's Delivery Service.
Focusing on the tale of Kiki, the film glimpses into her life as she ventures out into the wide world as a coming-of-age witch. Rare amongst the population, witches must fly the nest at the ripe age of thirteen and find their own town to train a magical specialty of their own. Eager to experience what the world has to offer, Kiki flies to the ocean town of Koriko, where she sets up a broom-based delivery service from the attic of a local bakery.
Glancing at the plot, one might be inclined to give the film a pass. "The story sounds so bare-bones, it must be dull!" In fact, Kiki's simplicity is its strength. There are no big bad villains to deal with, no traditional 'bell-curve' you might find in a typical narrative. The burden of an all-important plot is alleviated, and with that weight gone we see a strong focus on characters, relationships and self-growth from our protagonist, Kiki. That isn't to say that the story is devoid of meaning however; Kiki has her own internal struggles: becoming independent, dealing with her first love and making enough money to live all play a part in her self-development.
The film likes to pose a lot of questions but not answer all of them. What magical specialty did Kiki choose? Does she ever experience her first love? Does she ever go back to visit her parents? Although answers to these questions would undoubtedly be a story within itself, Miyazaki portrays Kiki as growing up, not grown up. She has plenty left to discover, and these answered questions light the path for the audience to see where she is heading.
The visuals and animation in Kiki's Delivery Service was the most engrossing aspect for me, chartering you through a sea of flora and fauna, beaches and sea, cluttered, unique towns and quaint, ivy-clad houses. The town is based mainly upon the architecture of Sweden, but drawing inspiration from a great deal of Europe and even San Francisco. The 50s-style interiors that each house possesses adds a certain charm, with each place different from the next, yet similar in theme. In particular, Kiki's home and the bakery stick with me as beautiful design; both inside and out.
If you're a fan of humble, slice of life tales with exceptional visuals and heartwarming kinship, I would wholeheartedly recommend Kiki's Delivery Service. Whilst not on the same fantastical scale as Spirited Away, Kiki's takes the mundane, trodden path but makes it exceptionally interesting.