First written as a children’s novel by Eiko Kadano in 1985, Kiki’s Delivery Service is the story of a 13-year-old witch who, following the traditions taught to her by her similarly magical mother, sets out to live by herself for a year to mature and learn about the world. The story achieved international fame with its 1989 theatrical anime adaptation, directed by industry legend Hayao Miyazaki and crafted by his team at Studio Ghibli.

Filming has begun on a live-action version of the story, and producers recently released the first still image from the set.

Over 500 would-be witches auditioned for the title role, which was eventually won by relative newcomer Fuuka Koshiba. Koshiba made her professional acting debut in last year’s TV drama Iki mo Dekinai Natsu/Breathless Summer, playing the younger sister of the show’s protagonist, and has was also a guest on the period drama Oka Echizen this past spring. The upcoming Kiki film marks her first appearance in a theatrical feature, and is also the first live-action adaptation of a Studio Ghibli animated work.

The project is being helmed by director Takashi Shimizu, best-known for the Juon horror series. Takashi has stated he wants to give his version of the teenage witch a bit of a wild side. Appropriately, the released photo shows 16-year-old Osaka-native Koshiba striking a pose with hand on hip and a smirk on her lips.

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Kadono herself recently met with the actress, and commented that she was impressed by Koshiba’s enthusiasm for the role. The author also said she was looking forward to Koshiba, a former competitive figure skater, showing off her athleticism during the film’s flying scenes.

Sharp-eyed, or obsessive, anime fans may note a few differences between the live-action and animated versions of Kiki. First, Koshiba is without the large red ribbon that has always adorned Kiki’s head until now. In addition, Koshiba’s hair is much longer than that of the animated Kiki, although this is in keeping with the novel’s original illustrations, as well as early but eventually rejected design sketches by Studio Ghibli.

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There’s no sign yet of Kiki’s faithful companion Jiji the black cat (who as we recently reported may or not be an alien), but we figure his vanishing act is only temporary and trust he’ll show up in time for the film’s expected 2014 premiere. In the meantime, the production’s first magic trick, turning Kiki into a real girl, seems to be a success.

Sources: Hachima Kikou,
Insert images: Hachima Kikou