Majo No Takkyûbin (1989, JAP) C-103m. **** D: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring (the voices of) Minami Takayama, Rei Sakuma, Kappei Yamaguchi, Keiko Toda, Mieko Nobusawa, Koichi Miura. Charming, absolutely beautiful fantasy is one of master Miyazaki's most endearing films. A 13-year-old witch, eagerly following family tradition, grabs her broomstick and black cat and heads for a city by the ocean to live there for a year by herself. After some starting problems, she befriends a baker's family and sets up a delivery service. Lovingly animated, filled with an old-world charm of friendliness, slowness and peace (albeit not without Miyazaki's trademark criticism of technology), this masterpiece unfolds beautifully without needing to be spectacular - and just when you didn't expect it any more it becomes just that. Truly amazing. Miyazaki's based his screenplay on a children's book by Eiko Kadono. Reportedly he set the story in an alternative 1950s Europe, where the World Wars never happened. Wonderful score by Joe Hisaishi. English version, titled KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE, features the voice talents of Kirsten Dunst, Debbie Reynolds, Janeane Garofalo, and Phil Hartman, among others.

© Ron Altman