Majo no takkyûbin (2014)

This review is for one of my most anticipated movies of 2014, based on the list made at the start of this year.

by Jaime Grijalba.

The thought of a remake of one of the most beloved Ghibli animated features, Kiki’s Delivery Service, is obviously blasphemous to some, and top on that, it features extensive CGI and green screen effects that don’t seem to be as polished as other features. But let’s take into account that this is a Japanese film, we’ve forgiven the faults in the Godzilla films for years, because they look great, they look physical and you could see the passion. You could even go poetical and say that you could see the strings behind the puppet and that’s one of the reasons why some of us love the kaiju genre, no matter how bad some of the movies are, we still enjoy them and can see them repeatedly and find a great time behind each one of them. Here we have a similar task, the special effects are not polished, and thus it gives us a look at how the movie was made and how much they tried to give them way in a movie that at least can say that has a gorgeously detailed art direction and a wonderful use of color.

Now, besides all of that, we have the issue that the film itself isn’t actually a remake of the Ghibli film, but a new adaptation of two books in the series that are based around the trials and ways of our cute little witch as she tries to get her training done in a city. And if you’ve seen the animated movie, you can pretty much already know the basic story behind this movie: a young witch, daughter of a witch and a normal human being, decides at 13 years old that she has to fly away from home and spend a year in a town that doesn’t know witches, so she can help them and at the same time bring upwards the view that people have of their kind. She is accompanied by a black cat that counsels her through the troubles and mistakes that she will commit. She arrives to a town that hasn’t known a witch for a long time, and there she realizes that the best she can do is install a delivery service, which brings things back and forth between different locations of the town, using her magic broom to fly quickly.

Now, it’s obvious that the movie itself tries to cash in on the memories that the people have of the animated movie, in fact, besides some elements from the upbringing and how she realized that she was a witch, the films are almost identical until the point in which she establishes herself with her service. Even the way that the scene in which she arrives and flies above the people in the new town is practically a shot by shot remake, but beyond those elements, and certain characters that must come from the book, the situations presented here are new. There are two main subplots: a small hippo that lives in the zoo and gets its tail bit off by a tiger, and an opera singer that stopped singing since her sister died; those two elements don’t actually come too well in the end to a satisfactory conclusion and even greater feeling of achievement by our main character, but it isn’t exactly bad either, no matter how ridiculous the main song is, or how bad the CGI looks for the hippo (who sometimes turns into a puppet), the film is not deprived of delights, and it’s because it doesn’t shy away from the darkness of its character.

Here the subplot about how she kinda loses her powers is emphasized in regards of its reasons: depression. And how the magic seems to abandon her with every thing that she makes, and how she starts dealing with being a human with no way of actually helping people, mainly because they think that she is a hex, a bad influence on the town. The way that its acted makes me realize that we have a great talent in Fûka Koshiba, who manages to deal with despair and happiness in an equal manner, bringing forward the complexities of the character fully and in a way that the animated movie couldn’t put on screen. While I’m not saying the animated version is inferior, since I’m saying quite the contrary, but what I’m trying to prove here is that it’s not the disaster that many people are saying it is. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s a fun movie.

Fun and cheesy and just for kids in the end. Japanese kids. With highly hyperactive sense of what fun really is. With bright colors and fun all around in every corner, but with an emotional corner that makes it have some kind of weight when compared to some other escapist entertainment. Here the film seems more ‘eventful’ if there is such a word, but it also means that it loses some of the charm that the original had. It is, nevertheless, the work of a director that knows how to put together a film, Takashi Shimizu, and this genre entertainment is exactly one that shows that he has enough skills beyond those of a horror director.

8/10

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