Kiki's Delivery Service was the very first Studio Ghibli movie ever licensed and distributed by Disney and it is still considered by many of us to be one of the very best family movies that has ever been made! So it is nice to see it re-issued yet again in a bluray edition but there is one little caveat that I will get to later.
The story is simple and sweet and utterly charming. Set in a mid-50's type world of black and white TV's, trams and automobiles. It's a world in which witches are completely normal (though rather rare) and on their 13th birthdays; they have to venture out into the world to advance their training and decide how they will use their gifts of magic. And so our plucky heroine ends up in a small city by the sea that hasn't seen young witches in decades. It's quite a revelation for both sides!
It's an utterly wonderful tale of a young girl passing from childhood into adulthood; overcoming her own fears and doubts and of an absolutely wonderful supporting cast from the boy with a crush on her to the baker and his wife who offer her a place to stay. Not to mention the city folk having to come to terms with a young flying witch in their midst!
In fact that's one of the very best parts of this movie; there's really no superhero's or villains in the entire movie. Just ordinary folk going about their ordinary lives. Some are friendly, some are neutral while others may be a little arrogant or even a little rude or greedy but there's nobody who's really bad. And unlike a lot of movies, family or otherwise; there's no villainous plot and no violent ending. Just a wonderful uplifting movie that teaches you don't have to settle things with force and that girls don't always have to depend on a boy to protect them. Unless of course they want him to! It's a perfect family movie especially if you have young girls. (Though boys will love it too.)
Animation is first rate as always and is even better on this Blu Ray bringing out every nuance of the movie's original release. (Though the DVD is pretty damn good as well.) Plus there's a nice little collection of extras (non of which is overly long) that have been carried over from the previous DVD release and the stereo pro-logic track has been bumped up to a DTS-HD 2.0 for the English, Japanese and French tracks. Not that I noticed much difference since the original 1989 film had a very simple audio track.
However, here is where that little caveat comes in. Kiki's Delivery Service along with Castle in the Sky (Laputa) have had two different English Disney soundtracks over the years. The original l998 soundtrack (on the 2005 DVD) which was enhanced with new English opening and closing songs, some boosted sound effects and other musical embellishments where it was quiet on the Japanese release and quite a bit of additional ad-libbing from Phil Hartman's Jiji which considerably livened up the dub.
However in 2010 when the DVD was re-released; Disney revised the English track to adhere more closely to the original Japanese track. This resulted in cutting out the two English songs as well as a good number of the embellishment and crowd comments and as a result this newer version feels slightly more flat to me than the older 2005 version did (though it's still wonderful) and as a result could prove disappointing to some. So when you read a review claiming that the movie has been cut or it's not as good as it used to be; this is what they really are referring to!
So like last years release of the Castle in the Sky BD; some of us feel that the original English dubs of Kiki and Castle should have been kept or at least included along with their newer English dubs so that viewers could get whichever they preferred. As this is one of those rare situations where many otaku feel the original English enhancements actually improved these two movies. And in the case of Kiki's Delivery Service, made a great movie even slightly better! So like Castle if you have and/or loved the original English DVD releases, you may want to hold onto them just in case. Of course if you've never heard the 2003 release of Castle or the 2005 release of Kiki then you won't miss the differences and will be perfectly happy as they're still wonderful soundtracks.
As for the movie itself, despite that little caveat; this is a movie that will still wow you whichever version you watch! Though in a quiet and unassuming way. It's a virtually perfect family movie and I've never seen anyone who didn't fall in love with it at first sight. I consider it one of the top ten family animated movies of all time! 5 big stars out of 5!