Searching for the “correct” version of Kiki’s Delivery Service

My sister and I have a problem. You may already know what it is from the headline if you’ve looked into this at all yourself.

As kids in the late 90s/early 2000s, we watched Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service for the first time. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a lovely, enchanting film, much like Miyazaki’s other works. I didn’t let on to liking it so much as a kid, because it was a thing my sister liked, and I had to have my own things that I liked that were for me. If you’re a younger sibling, you understand. But I’ve since come to consider it possibly one of my top three Studio Ghibli movies.

It’s got a lot going for it beyond just raw nostalgia. The music is calm and sweet, the characters are lovable, Kiki’s situation is entirely sympathetic. But in terms of said raw nostalgia, hoo boy does it pack a wallop for us nowadays. In particular – going back to the music – the tracks that play over the beginning and end credits. See, my sister and I grew up on the Americanized version of Kiki, which featured Sydney Forest’s tracks, “Soaring” and “I’m Gonna Fly.”

It has since come to my attention that people don’t like this version, so I’m going to address that here: I don’t care. I don’t care that Sydney Forest’s music is not authentic. I don’t care that people don’t like the amount of Phil Hartman in this version. I don’t even care that the fact that Jiji talks again at the end of this version ruins the idea that Kiki is growing up. I’ll readily admit that it does.

But this is my childhood version. To my sister and I, that version is Kiki’s Delivery Service. And for a while, that was the (or at least a) version that could be found for sale here in the States. That was the version on the VHS we rented from Hollywood Video in Chicago Ridge, IL, and that same version was still available when my sister bought it on DVD years later. Up to that point, we had no idea another version of the film even existed.

Until. Many years later, after my sister and I moved out of our parents’ house and into an apartment together, I asked for – and received – a Blu-ray player for Christmas. Shortly after this, filled with future-minded upgraditude, while browsing the movie section of a Target together, I implored my sister to buy the Blu-ray copy of Kiki sitting on the shelf before us. She agreed. After all, it was a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. Even when we eventually split up, and I took my Blu-ray player, she’d still be able to play the DVD copy.

The culprit

On our way home, a black cat jumped onto the hood of our car, started me dead in the eyes for three solid minutes, and then left. That was a lie. But if it had happened, it would have been what I would now refer to as The First Warning.

When we got home, we put the new copy of Kiki away on our movie shelf. My sister asked what we should do with the old DVD copy. I said we should get rid of it. No sense having two copies! No incredibly important reason to hang onto that old thing! This was our second chance to avert disaster.

We sold it for money at a Half Price Books.

We had not yet watched the new Blu-ray copy.

Some time later, when it finally came time to watch Kiki’s Delivery Service (it always comes time), my sister discovered the awful truth: this version was different.

Not only was the opening music not Sydney Forest belting out the very soul of the 1990s, but many of the other bits we remember being there were not there. Jiji was different. He didn’t talk at the end. And worst of all, the ending music was not Sydney Forest belting out the very soul of the 1990s.

That basically brings us to present day, and our current conundrum of how to get back that other version, “our” version of the film. Because, as any film buff will happily tell you, it can be extremely hard to find the version of a film you are looking for when there are two or more versions out there. And in the case of Kiki, it sounds like two different versions were even shown at time of release on a theater-to-theater basis. After some cursory googling, the answer still seems to be: 🤷‍♂️

Let’s piece together the clues. The version we like, with Sydney Forest and a heaping helping of Phil Hartman, was for some stretch of time, sold on both VHS and DVD here in America. From my brief research, it sounds like the film was localized by both Disney and GKIDS. The Blu-ray we bought has a ton of “Presented by Disney” garbage plastered all over it, so maybe we want the GKIDS version? That’s also unclear from my search, as it sounds like the latest GKIDS releases – including possibly the version currently available for sale, as seen here – used elements of the previous Disney release for their own re-release, and/or disappointed in other ways.

Now, if that were the whole story, I would be content to throw in the towel and assume that our version of the film was laid to rest at some point, and is no longer available, extant, or acknowledged, and try to find it through – ahem – other means. However! In January of last year, Netflix released 21 of Studio Ghibli’s films for streaming around the world. Unfortunately for us, “around the world” did not include the US, so we despaired and then forgot about it. Until! Later that year, I finally got around to paying for a VPN subscription, and realized that a whole wide world of content was now open to us, including Ghibli on Netflix.

The very first thing we checked with this newfound power was whether or not their version of Kiki’s Delivery Service was our version. The strongest possible reason I can think up in response to what we found is that it was done purely to confound us. The Netflix English version is our version. Sydney Forest. Talking Jiji. All of it.

The good stuff

Does this mean that this version has come back into acceptability? Is this the version currently being sold in English? Does this mean I should take the plunge on the version available at Best Buy? Or is this version now only available in the UK and elsewhere (we used a UK VPN to access the films on Netflix)?

Perhaps time will tell. I’ll probably break and shell out for whatever Best Buy has, just to find out.

If you or someone you know has information on the whereabouts of this version of Kiki’s Delivery Service, please comment below, and someone will respond to you shortly.

Thank you.

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