Kiki's Delivery Service

Kiki's Delivery Service (Japanese: 魔女の宅急便, Hepburn: Majo no Takkyūbin, lit.'Witch's Express Home Delivery') is a 1989 Japanese animated fantasy film written, produced and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, based on the 1985 novel by Eiko Kadono. It was animated by Studio Ghibli for Tokuma Shoten, Yamato Transport and the Nippon Television Network, and stars the voices of Minami Takayama, Rei Sakuma and Kappei Yamaguchi. The story follows Kiki, a young witch who moves to the port city of Koriko with her cat Jiji and starts a flying courier service.

Kiki's Delivery Service
Kiki, accompanied with Jiji the Cat, is waiting in the bakery. At the top is the film's title and credits.
Theatrical release poster
Japanese name
Revised HepburnMajo no Takkyūbin
Directed byHayao Miyazaki
Screenplay byHayao Miyazaki
Based onKiki's Delivery Service
by Eiko Kadono
Produced byHayao Miyazaki
CinematographyShigeo Sugimura
Edited byTakeshi Seyama
Music byJoe Hisaishi
Distributed byToei Company
Release date
  • July 29, 1989 (1989-07-29)
Running time
102 minutes
Budget¥800 million ($6.9 million)
Box office$41.8 million[note 1]

In 1987, Group Fudosha asked Kadono's publishers for the rights to the novel to be made into a film by either Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata. Production began near the release of My Neighbor Totoro (1988). Miyazaki initially worked as producer, but took over directing from Sunao Katabuchi as he became more involved in the project. As the novel is based on a fictional northern European country, Miyazaki and his team traveled to locations such as Visby, Sweden, to research its landscape. Miyazaki altered the story, adding new scenes to emphasize the theme of independence and growing up. According to Miyazaki, the film portrays the gulf between independence and reliance among teenage Japanese girls.[1]

Kiki's Delivery Service was released in Japan on July 29, 1989, by the Toei Company.[2] It was the first Studio Ghibli film to be successful on initial release, grossing a total of ¥4.3 billion ($31 million). It received critical acclaim and multiple awards.

An English dub was requested by Tokuma Shoten and was distributed by Streamline Pictures in 1989. Walt Disney Pictures produced an English dub via Buena Vista in 1997, which became the first film under a deal between Tokuma and Disney to be released in English. The dub stars the voices of Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman and Matthew Lawrence.

Plot edit

Thirteen-year-old trainee witch Kiki leaves home with her talking black cat Jiji. She flies on her broomstick to the port city of Koriko. While trying to find somewhere to live, Kiki is pursued by Tombo, a geeky boy obsessed with aviation who admires her flying ability.

In exchange for accommodation, Kiki helps Osono, the kind owner of a bakery who is pregnant with her first child. She opens a business delivering goods by broomstick—the "Witch Delivery Service". Her first delivery goes poorly; she is caught in the wind and loses the black cat toy she is supposed to deliver. Jiji pretends to be the toy until Kiki can retrieve the real item. She finds it in the home of a young painter, Ursula, who repairs and returns it to Kiki so she can complete the delivery and rescue Jiji.

Kiki accepts a party invitation from Tombo, but is delayed by her work and, exhausted, falls ill. When she recovers, Osono clandestinely arranges for Kiki to see Tombo again by assigning her a delivery addressed to him. After Kiki apologizes for missing the party, Tombo takes her for a test ride on the flying machine he is working on fashioned from a bicycle. Kiki warms up to Tombo but is intimidated by his friends, so she walks home.

Kiki becomes depressed and discovers she can no longer understand Jiji, who has befriended a pretty white cat named Lilly. She has also lost her flying ability and is forced to suspend her delivery business. Kiki has a surprise visit from Ursula, who determines that Kiki's crisis is a form of artist's block. Ursula suggests that if Kiki can find a new purpose, she will regain her powers.

While Kiki is visiting a customer, she witnesses an airship accident on television. A strong gust leaves Tombo hanging from a rope in mid-air. Kiki regains her flying power and manages to rescue him. She recovers her confidence, resumes her delivery service, and writes a letter home saying that she and Jiji are happy.

Voice cast edit

Character name Voice actor[3]
English Japanese Japanese English
Original, 1989 (Streamline Pictures/Tokuma, 1990) (Disney, 1997/1998/2010)
Kiki Kiki (キキ) Minami Takayama Lisa Michelson Kirsten Dunst
Jiji Jiji (ジジ) Rei Sakuma Kerrigan Mahan Phil Hartman
Osono Osono (おソノ) Keiko Toda Alexandra Kenworthy Tress MacNeille
Ursula Urusura (ウルスラ) Minami Takayama Edie Mirman Janeane Garofalo
Tombo Tonbo (トンボ) Kappei Yamaguchi Eddie Frierson Matthew Lawrence
Fukuo (Osono's husband) Fukuo (フクオ) Kōichi Yamadera Greg Snegoff John Hostetter
Kokiri (Kiki's mother) Kokiri (コキリ) Mieko Nobusawa Barbara Goodson Kath Soucie
Okino (Kiki's father) Okino (オキノ) Kōichi Miura John Dantona Jeff Bennett
Madame Madamu (マダム) Haruko Kato Melanie MacQueen Debbie Reynolds
Barsa Barusa (バルサ) Hiroko Seki Edie Mirman Edie McClurg
Senior Witch Jōkyū majo (上級魔女) Yūko Kobayashi Wendee Lee Debi Derryberry
Madame's Granddaughter Madamu no magomusume (マダムの孫娘) Keiko Kagimoto Sherry Lynn
Ket Ketto (ケット) Yuriko Fuchizaki Lara Cody Pamela Adlon
Maki (Ket's aunt) Maki (マキ) Kikuko Inoue Julia Fletcher
Ket's mother Ketto no haha (ケットの母) Mika Doi Diane Michelle
Ket's father Ketto no chichi (ケットの父) Takaya Hashi Steve Kramer John DeMita
Ket's grandmother Ketto no o bāchan (ケットのおばあちゃん) Yoshiko Asai Mike Reynolds Julia Fletcher
Miss Dora Misu dōra (ミス・ドーラ) Shō Saito Diane Michelle Fay Dewitt
Truck Driver Torakku untenshu (トラック運転手) Michihiro Ikemizu Unknown Corey Burton
Hotel Receptionist Hoteru no uketsuke-gakari (ホテルの受付係) Shinpachi Tsuji Doug Stone Matt K. Miller
Policeman Keikan (警官) Kōichi Yamadera Steve Kramer
Radio Announcer Rajioanaunsā (ラジオアナウンサー) Carl Macek Corey Burton
Man with Push Broom Oshi hōki o motsu otoko (押しほうきを持つ男) Takashi Taguchi Steve Kramer Jeff Bennett
Dirigible Captain Hikōsen no senchō (飛行船の船長) Akio Ōtsuka Dave Mallow John Hostetter
Clock Tower Caretaker Tokei-tō no kanrinin (時計塔の管理人) Tomomichi Nishimura Greg Snegoff Lewis Arquette
Baby Akachan (赤ちゃん) Chika Sakamoto Unknown
Friends Tomodachi (友達) Yūko Tsuga
Yoshiko Kamei
Lara Cody
Barbara Goodson
Old Lady Rō fujin (老婦人) Hiroko Maruyama Melanie MacQueen
Boy Otokonoko (男の子) Unknown
Tombo's Friends Tonbo no tomodachi (トンボの友達) Unknown Dave Mallow
Diane Michelle
Lara Cody
Hometown Adults Furusato no otona-tachi (故郷の大人たち) Mike Reynolds
Wendee Lee

Themes and analysis edit

Kiki and Jiji (sitting on Kiki's back) flying by the clock tower in Koriko just after arriving. According to Helen McCarthy, the "vibrant" Stockholm-inspired city gives a sense of safety as well as independence.[4][5]

A major theme of the film is maturity.[6] After leaving her parents who are supportive of her independence, Kiki has to face problems common to adolescence such as finding a job, seeking acceptance, and taking care of herself.[7] The concept of vulnerability is also examined closely in the film. Critic Mark Schilling notes a scene during Kiki's first night away from home where Kiki rushes back to her room and slams the door behind her to avoid being spotted by Fukuo. Fukuo, however, steps outside simply to stretch his arms, and Kiki's bizarrely shy behavior "expresses [her] youth, vulnerability, and isolation."[8]

Another theme is the transition from traditional to contemporary. Kiki is shown to balance both of these qualities. For instance, Kiki observes the tradition of witches wearing black, but adorns her hair with a bright red bow.[9][page needed] Kiki also engages in other traditional methods, such as baking with a wood-burning stove and flying her mother's old broom.[9][page needed]

Kiki's loss of her witch powers is considered the worst crisis she has to face during the film.[10][11] Her loss of flight reflects the harm dealt to Kiki by her own self-doubts.[10][12] This hardship causes Kiki to realize that being vulnerable does not always lead to failure and can help her learn valuable lessons to better understand herself.[12] Petrana Radulovic also suggests that Jiji's bond with Kiki represents the experiences she had as a child, and that once Kiki loses her powers to talk to Jiji, she becomes more lonely.[13] Jiji had served as the wiser voice (imaginary companion) to Kiki, and she stopped being able to understand him the moment she struggles with self-doubt. According to Miyazaki himself, Jiji is meant to represent the immature side of Kiki, and her inability to talk to Jiji represents her newfound maturity at the end of the movie.[14]

In relation to Kiki's portrayal as a witch, some have drawn comparisons to historical or contemporary views on witches and witchcraft. The film incorporates some conventions from fairy-tales such as a black cat companion for Kiki,[15] Kiki's use of a broom for flight, and her black dress.[16] While girls with magical powers are common in Japanese television, Miyazaki noted that, "the witchcraft has always merely been the means to fulfill the dreams of young girls. They have always become idols with no difficulties." In contrast, Kiki cannot use her powers as a means of wish fulfillment.[1]

Kiki has also been compared to other characters in Miyazaki's films. While there are overt differences in demeanor between Kiki and San from Princess Mononoke, a character who is motivated by anger, both characters take control over their own lives. This theme of remarkable independence is also seen in Miyazaki's earlier works, such as in Nausicaä in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.[17] Kiki is also compared to Chihiro of Spirited Away as they are both young girls attempting to seek independence without being rebellious. Both Chihiro and Kiki develop their independence with the help of their friends.[18]

Production edit

Almedalen in Visby, Gotland. This was one of the regions where Miyazaki got inspiration from for the film.
Kiki and Jiji illustrated by Akiko Hayashi from Majo no Takkyūbin. For the film, Kiki's hair was cut short to make the workload easier for the animators.[19]

In 1987, Group Fudosha asked Kadono's publishers for the rights to adapt Kadono's novel into a feature film directed by either Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata of Studio Ghibli. However, both of the chosen directors were busy, working on My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies respectively.[20] Miyazaki accepted the role of producer while the studio continued to search for a director.[21] Near the end of Totoro's production, members of Studio Ghibli were being recruited as senior staff for Kiki's Delivery Service. The character design position was given to Katsuya Kondo, who was working with Miyazaki on Totoro. Hiroshi Ohno, who would later work on projects such as Jin-Roh, was hired as art director at the request of Kazuo Oga.

Miyazaki chose Sunao Katabuchi as director. Katabuchi had worked with Miyazaki on Sherlock Hound; Kiki's Delivery Service was to have been his directorial debut. Studio Ghibli hired Nobuyuki Isshiki as script writer, but Miyazaki was dissatisfied by the first draft, finding it dry and too divergent from his own vision of the film.[22] Since the novel was based in a fictional country in northern Europe, Miyazaki and the senior staff went to research landscapes and other elements of the setting. Their main stops were Stockholm and Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland.[23] The architecture of Koriko is also based on the design of buildings from other cities such as Amsterdam, Paris, and San Francisco.[24]

Upon their return to Japan, Miyazaki and the creative team worked on conceptual art and character designs. Miyazaki began significantly modifying the story, creating new ideas and changing existing ones.[25] Majo no Takkyūbin, the original children's book by Kadono that the movie was based on, is very different from Miyazaki's finished film. Kadono's novel is more episodic, consisting of small stories about various people and incidents Kiki encounters while making deliveries. Kiki overcomes many challenges in the novel based on "her good heart" and consequently expands her circle of friends. She faces no particular traumas or crises.[26] Many of the more dramatic elements, such as Kiki getting attacked by many crows, losing her powers or the airship incident at the film's climax, are not present in the original story. In order to more clearly illustrate the themes of struggling with independence and growing up in the film, Miyazaki intended to have Kiki face tougher challenges and create a more potent sense of loneliness.[26] One such challenge is Kiki's sudden loss of ability to fly. This event is only loosely paralleled in the novel, in which Kiki's broom breaks and merely requires her to fix it.[8] Miyazaki remarked, "As movies always create a more realistic feeling, Kiki will suffer stronger setbacks and loneliness than in the original".[8] Kadono was unhappy with the changes made between the book and film, to the point that the project was in danger of being shelved at the screenplay stage.[27] Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki, the producer of Ghibli, went to the author's home and invited her to the film's studio. After her visit to the studio, Kadono decided to let the project continue.[21]

Miyazaki finished the rough draft of the screenplay in June 1988 and presented it in July 1988. It was at this time that Miyazaki revealed that he had decided to direct the film, because he had influenced the project so much.[25] Kiki's Delivery Service was originally intended to be a 60-minute special, but expanded into a feature film running 102 minutes after Miyazaki completed storyboarding and scripting it.[28]

The word takkyūbin (宅急便, literally "home-fast-mail") in the Japanese title is a trademark of Yamato Transport (which stylized it in non-Japanese languages as TA-Q-BIN), though it is used today as a synonym for takuhaibin (宅配便, "home-delivery-mail"). While Yamato Transport sponsored the film, it initially did not approve of the usage of its trademark, since it was used by Kadano without permission. However, the success of the film restored relations between both her and Yamato Transport.[29][21]

The film had a production budget of ¥800 million ($6.9 million), making it one of the most expensive anime films up until then, along with Akira (1988)[30] and Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise (1987).[31]

Music edit

Kiki's Delivery Service
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedAugust 25, 1989
LabelTokuma Shoten
ProducerJoe Hisaishi
Joe Hisaishi chronology
The Inners
Kiki's Delivery Service

As with Hayao Miyazaki's other films, Joe Hisaishi composed the soundtrack for this film. Three months before the theatrical release of the movie, the image album for the film was published by Tokuma Shoten on Compact disc. A vocal album was released in November 1992.[32]

For the 1997 Disney English dub, much of the soundtrack was kept except for "Message of Rouge" and "Wrapped in Kindness", which were the opening and ending themes of the original Japanese version. Instead, they were replaced with two songs by Sydney Taylor; "Soaring" and "I'm Gonna Fly". Both these songs were removed from the 2010 DVD re-release of the English dub of Kiki's Delivery Service.[33] Paul Chihara composed the music for the dub, adding music to scenes that were silent in the original Japanese version.[34]

Music releases for Kiki's Delivery Service[32]
Release date English title Japanese title
April 10, 1989 Kiki's Delivery Service Image Album 魔女の宅急便 イメージソング集
August 25, 1989 Kiki's Delivery Service Soundtrack 魔女の宅急便 サウンドトラック
December 21, 1989 Kiki's Delivery Service Hi-Tech Series 魔女の宅急便 ハイテックシリーズ
November 25, 1992 Kiki's Delivery Service Vocal Album 魔女の宅急便 ヴォーカルアルバム

Release edit

Kiki's Delivery Service premiered on July 29, 1989, in Japanese theaters. It sold around 2,640,000 tickets in Japan,[35][36] with a total box office of ¥4.3 billion (US$31 million) in gross receipts.[37] It was become the first Studio Ghibli film to be successful during its initial release and was one of 1989's highest-grossing films in Japan.[35][38] It also grossed HK$4.04 million (US$519,000) in Hong Kong upon release there in 1990.[3] Later re-releases and international releases between 2004 and 2023 grossed US$10,366,082 worldwide,[39] adding up to $41,885,082 grossed worldwide as of 2023.[note 1] In the United Kingdom, it was 2018's seventh best-selling foreign-language film on home video,[40] and 2019's fifth best-selling foreign-language film (below four other Japanese films, including three Miyazaki anime films).[41]

English dubs edit

The first official English dub of Kiki's Delivery Service was produced by Carl Macek of Streamline Pictures, who previously dubbed Castle in the Sky and My Neighbor Totoro at the request of Tokuma Shoten for Japan Airlines' international flights. Tokuma was satisfied with the dub of My Neighbor Totoro, which allowed Carl to work on the dub of Kiki's Delivery Service in November 1989.[42] This dub is available only in the Ghibli Laserdisc Box Set.[21]

Disney produced an English dub in 1997,[34] and Kiki was the first film released through a deal Disney made with Tokuma.[36] It premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival on May 23, 1998, and was released on both VHS and Laserdisc by Buena Vista Home Video in September 1998.[3][33] It became the eighth-most sold film on Blockbuster during its first week of availability,[43] and sold over 900,000 copies by September 28, 1998.[44] It was released on home media in North America on 2003, alongside the releases of Spirited Away and Castle in the Sky.[45] In the United Kingdom, the film was released on Blu-ray by StudioCanal alongside a release of Grave of the Fireflies on July 1, 2013,[46] while in North America, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released the film on Blu-ray Disc alongside Princess Mononoke and The Wind Rises, on November 18, 2014.[47] GKIDS re-issued the film on Blu-ray and DVD on October 17, 2017.[48] In 2020, it was announced that both the original Japanese version and the Disney dub were made available to be streamed on Netflix.[49]

Differences between versions edit

Disney's English dub of Kiki's Delivery Service contained some changes, which have been described as "pragmatic".[50] The changes were approved by Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.[51][52] There are a number of additions and embellishments to the film's musical score, and several lavish sound effects over sections that are silent in the Japanese original.

The depiction of the cat, Jiji, is changed significantly in the Disney version. In the Japanese version Jiji is voiced by Rei Sakuma, while in the English version Jiji is voiced by comedian Phil Hartman. In Japanese culture, cats are usually depicted with feminine voices, whereas in American culture their voices are more gender-specific.[53] A number of Hartman's lines exist where Jiji simply says nothing in the original. Jiji's personality is notably different between the two versions, showing a more cynical and sarcastic attitude in the Disney English version as opposed to cautious and conscientious in the original Japanese. In the original Japanese script, Kiki loses her ability to communicate with Jiji permanently, but the American version adds a line that implies that she is once again able to understand him at the end of the film.[54] More minor changes to appeal to the different teenage habits of the day include Kiki drinking hot chocolate instead of coffee and referring to "cute boys" instead of to "the disco".[55]

However, when Disney re-released the film on DVD in 2010, several elements of the English dub were changed, reverting more towards the original Japanese version. Hartman's ad-libbed lines as Jiji were removed, and Forest's opening and ending songs were replaced with Arai's original Japanese opening and ending songs.[56] Additionally, Jiji does not talk again at the end, implying that Kiki never regains the ability to talk to him, and many of the sound effects added to the original English version have been removed. The English subtitled script used for the original VHS subbed release and the later DVD release more closely adheres to the Japanese script, but still contains a few alterations. Tokuma mistakenly believed the Streamline dub was an accurate translation of the film and offered it to Disney to use as subtitles. As a result, several additions from the dub appear in the subtitles regardless of whether or not they are present in the film.[21]

Reception edit

At the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 98% of 43 reviews are positive for Kiki's Delivery Service, and the average rating is 8.1/10. The critics consensus reads, "Kiki's Delivery Service is a heartwarming, gorgeously-rendered tale of a young witch discovering her place in the world."[57] Metacritic, another aggregator, collected 15 reviews and calculated an average rating of 85 out of 100, signifying "universal acclaim".[58] On September 4, 1998, Entertainment Weekly rated it as Video of the Year, and on September 12, 1998, it was the first video release to be reviewed as a normal film on Siskel and Ebert rather than on the "Video Pick of the Week" section.[43] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it "two thumbs up"[59][60] and Ebert went on to rank it as one of the best animated films released in the U.S. in 1998.[61] The film ranked #12 on Wizard's Anime Magazine's list of the "Top 50 Anime released in North America".[62] Other reviews were very positive as well. Andrew Johnston wrote in Time Out New York: "Although the story has a clear moral about learning to develop self-confidence, Kiki is never preachy. The story is given time to unfold at a natural pace..., which contributes greatly to the sense of depth it conveys."[63]

Accolades edit

Award Category Result Recipient Ref.
12th Anime Grand Prix Best Anime Won Kiki's Delivery Service [64]
Best Female Character Won Kiki
Best Anime Theme Song Won "Yasashisa ni Tsutsumaretanara"
44th Mainichi Film Award Best Animated Film Won Kiki's Delivery Service [65]
Kinema Junpo Awards Readers' Choice Award Won Kiki's Delivery Service [66]
13th Japan Academy Prize Special Award Won Kiki's Delivery Service [67]
Popularity Award Won Kiki's Delivery Service
7th Annual Golden Gross Award Gold, Japanese Film Won Kiki's Delivery Service [68]
7th Annual Money Making Director's Award Best Director Won Hayao Miyazaki
The Movie's Day Special Achievement Award Won Kiki's Delivery Service
The Erandole Award Special Award Won Kiki's Delivery Service
Japan Cinema Association Award Best Film Won Kiki's Delivery Service
Best Director Won Hayao Miyazaki
Agency of Cultural Affairs Best Film Won Kiki's Delivery Service
Tokyo Metropolitan Cultural Honor Best Film Won Kiki's Delivery Service

Other media edit

Books edit

A four-volume ani-manga book series using stills from the film was published in Japan by Tokuma Shoten between August and September of 1989.[69][70] An English translation would later be published by Viz Media between April and July 2006.[71][72][73][74] Tokuma also published a 208-page art book on February 11, 1989, and Viz Media published the English translation of it on May 9, 2006.[75][76]

Musicals edit

A musical based on the film ran at the Southwark Playhouse in the UK from December 8, 2016 to January 7, 2017, and officially opened on December 13, 2016. It was adapted by Jessica Sian and directed by Katie Hewitt.[77] The musical would later run again from August 10, 2017 to September 3, 2017.[78]

There were also other musicals that ran in Japan. The first ran in Tokyo and Osaka from June 2017 to September 2017, and starred Moka Kamishirasi as Kiki and Aran Abe as Tombo. A second one ran in 2018 which starred Riko Fukumoto as Kiki. The most recent one ran from March 2021 to April 2021 in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. It stars Neo Inoue as Kiki, and Yūto Nasu as Tombo.[79]

Notes edit

  1. ^ a b This value is based on adding the box office revenue of the film's original release in Japan (US$31 million), the 1990 Hong Kong release (US$519,000), and the various re-releases between 2004 and 2023 (US$10,366,082).

References edit

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  2. ^ "Majo no takkyūbin". Japanese Cinema Database. Agency for Cultural Affairs. Archived from the original on September 18, 2016. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c "Credits // Kiki's Delivery Service //". Archived from the original on June 12, 2010. Retrieved June 29, 2017.
  4. ^ McCarthy 1999, p. 144.
  5. ^ McCarthy 1999, p. 157.
  6. ^ Camp 2007, p. 178.
  7. ^ McCarthy 1999, p. 154.
  8. ^ a b c Cavallaro 2006, p. 82.
  9. ^ a b Odell & Le Blanc 2009, Kiki's Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyūbin) (1989).
  10. ^ a b Napier 2005, p. 163.
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  12. ^ a b Cavallaro 2006, p. 85.
  13. ^ Radulovic, Petrana (May 26, 2020). "The profound loneliness of Kiki's Delivery Service". Polygon. Archived from the original on September 9, 2023. Retrieved October 11, 2023.
  14. ^ Miyazaki 2006, p. 45.
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  20. ^ My Neighbor Totoro Frequently Asked Questions. Archived June 12, 2010, at the Wayback Machine "I heard that it was double-featured with 'Grave of the Fireflies' in Japan. Is this true?" Retrieved on January 5, 2007.
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  35. ^ a b Suzuki, Toshio (February 1996). "10 Years of Studio Ghibli (Part 3)". Archived from the original on October 22, 1999. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
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Bibliography edit

External links edit