My Thoughts on Kiki’s Delivery Service- A Japanese Animated Film

“The spirit of witches, the spirit of artists, the spirit of bakers. I suppose it must be a power given by God. Sometimes you suffer for it.”

– Ursula

Another adventure-packed movie filled with heartwarming scenes at the same time. Kiki’s Delivery Service is a film that a lot of young girls and even those young at heart can surely relate to.

Kiki’s Delivery Service also known as Witch’s Delivery Service is a 1989 Japanese animated, fantasy themed movie produced by Studio Ghibli; written, produced and directed by the great Hayao Miyazaki based on the 1985 novel of the same name by Eiko Kadono. This film was first released in Japan on July 29, 1989 where it won the Animage Anime Grand Prix prize. This is also the first Studio Ghibli film released under the distribution partnership between The Walt Disney Company and Studio Ghibli. In 1997, Walt Disney Pictures recorded an English dub of this film which premiered in United States theaters at the Seattle International Film Festival on May 23, 1998. The film was then released on home video in the U.S. and Canada on September 1, 1998. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiki%27s_Delivery_Service)

kiki black cat black clothes

The film revolves on the story of Kiki, a 13-year old witch who decided to leave home on one ‘clear’ night (which actually turned out to be a stormy night) to formally start her witch training in an unknown town. The film opens with a scene of Kiki, lying comfortably on a green pasture, listening to the news on the radio and then abruptly going back home to tell her family that she will be leaving on that very night. It’s an ancient old custom of her family that once a witch turns 13, she will have to start training to acquire more witch skills and live on her own.

kiki and another witchSetting off alone with only her black cat, Jiji as her companion and of course her magical broom which she inherited from her mother, wasn’t easy for our little heroine. On her way in search of a town to live in, her trip was halted by a sudden downpour leaving her sleeping in a train full of hay and cows.

Upon realizing that she was sleeping on the cows’ food, Kiki immediately left and continued on with her search until she found a big city which at first looks like a place full off indifferent people and even arrogant ones. Eventually, Kiki was able to find a place to stay. Thanks to the kindhearted lady Osono, who owns a bakery and was pregnant at that time. She said that having Kiki in her store would be a big help due to her current condition and even gave her the room in the attic of her house.

kiki's delivery collage

In order to earn a living, Kiki then decided to open a delivery service. The bakeshop owner offered and allowed her to use the store’s phone for free so that she no longer has to buy a new phone. Her first customer was a beautiful lady, a fashion designer, who requested her to deliver a bird-cage on the far side of the town. Her delivery trips were definitely full of twists and turns. The first one for example was accompanied by a flock of crows. Due to the strong wind, she lost the black cat stuffed toy that comes with the bird-cage and had to make Jiji act just like the stuffed toy for the meantime while she looks for the real one in the forest.  The kid who received the package played well with the black cat, making sure it is always by his side. Good thing though, Jiji was able to act well and the house dog, Jeff, even helped him get out of the house without much hassle.

I particularly like the part where Kiki went to an old lady’s house for another delivery service. The old lady wanted to send baked pie for her granddaughter’s birthday celebration but because the electric oven wasn’t working she decided to call it off and still pay Kiki for coming over. Kiki, not wanting to accept the payment without doing anything helped the old lady in gathering wood and making fire so they can use the traditional oven to cook the dish. They were able to cook it as planned and Kiki was able to deliver the pie to her granddaughter who was very ungrateful upon receiving her grandmother’s gift. Because of the delay and again the sudden heavy downpour, Kiki was unable to attend the Flying Club party (Tombo invited her to this party). The next day, Kiki got sick and had to stay in bed to rest. Osono, the kind store owner took care of her while she was sick and then carried out a witty scheme to make Tombo and Kiki meet. I also like this part because it shows that Kiki and Tombo have become comfortable with each other and I can say they have become close friends as well. Tombo even showed his project to Kiki. Being a geek who is obsessed with aircrafts, he invited Kiki to ride his flying bicycle with him, got into a “not-so-serious” accident (which totally wrecked the bike) and then parted that day on a not-so-good note. Here we can see every girl’s (from a rural area who decided to settle in urban place) dilemma – Kiki was happy to have a friend in Tombo but then felt insecure upon seeing his other ‘city friends.’

Ursula the painter

The worst crisis, or I must say, the biggest challenge faced by Kiki was when she found out one day that she could no longer fly and could no longer understand what Jiji is saying. Fortunately, Ursula (the friend she met in the forest while looking for the stuffed toy), having finished her shopping in the city decided to visit her and took her to her house in the forest so she can have a rest until she regains her power.

Ursula-kiki's delivery service

The conversation they had was really memorable. Ursula, being an artist for years now had also encountered what Kiki experienced which she called as an ‘artist’s block.’ Ursula told her that if she can find a whole new meaning to what she is doing, then probably, she will be able to fly again. Spending time with Ursula truly helped Kiki in regaining her confidence and faith in her power.

Kiki upon returning home, stopped by the old lady’s house who has been earnestly waiting for her return in order to give her the cake which she baked personally. It’s a sign of gratitude as Kiki was able to help her a lot during the time that she wasn’t able to use the electric oven for her pie. Since Bertha (the old woman’s helper) was watching news that time, Kiki was able to witness the airship which was overturned by the strong gust of wind leaving Tombo hanging in the mid-air. Kiki immediately went to rescue Tombo. With the broom given to her by an old man in the street and her new-found purpose – which is to rescue her friend, Kiki was able to fly again and just in time, was able to save Tombo from a possible disaster. Now this is what I call a life-changing experience for Kiki. Back at home, I can see that all she was accustomed to see and probably trained to do is anything that relates to potion and broomstick. Her mother probably earns a living by making potions and is also the one responsible for the medicines of her grandmother while her father, from what I can see, maybe an office worker of some sort. But this time around, in this big and unfamiliar city, Kiki was actually able to save someone’s life!

kiki saved tombo

Because of this incident, the people of the city recognized Kiki and she somehow became the talk of the town due to her heroic deeds. The epilogue shows Kiki finally getting along with Tombo and his friends. Both were seen flying – Kiki using her broomstick and Tombo with his very own aircraft, while their friends happily run after them.

kiki and tombo flying

This film definitely has a lot of good points. Firstly, I like the fact that Hayao Miyazaki always empowers female characters in his films. Just like Chihiro of Spirited Away and San of Princess Mononoke, Kiki is portrayed in this movie as a young, loving girl who is capable of living and learning the trade on her own. She is also shown as a brave character and someone who will defy all the odds just to protect the people that she values the most. I also like the character of Tombo – a typical city boy who can be insensitive at times but also that type of friend who will never be ashamed of you. I like that. Even though Kiki is obviously not the ‘prettiest’ girl in the city (given her unique appearance compared to the other girls that he is used to go with) and even though she is a witch, Tombo didn’t show even a patch of hesitation in approaching her nor a tiny bit of aloofness towards her.

kiki and the little girl

I also like the final part wherein a little girl was wearing the same dress as Kiki’s. This was after the incident with the airship where Kiki became an unexpected heroine. It just goes to show that the town finally accepted her and the fact that she is a witch doesn’t bother them anymore. I feel happy when I saw this part. I can somehow relate to her because I also felt like an outcast at some point in my life and to finally be able to feel that you ‘belong’ is just so precious. Kiki loved the town. The town loved her back. I think that’s more than enough reason to be happy with the decision she made. She also made her family happy when she sent them a letter advising them that she and Jiji are doing fine. Yeah, there may be some instances where she felt sad, but for the most part, she is happy and contented.

Osono

old woman

Again, let’s not forget the old ladies’ characters who played the ‘fairy godmother’ roles for our little Kiki- the old woman (Kiki’s customer who baked her a cake, not really sure if she has a name though) and Osono (even though she’s not that old, let’s just say she’s Kiki’s senior). They all took care of Kiki and showed what motherly love is.

Jiji

I also found another memorable character in this film, though not as unique as the ‘guards of the forest’ in Princess Mononoke, ‘No-face’ of Spirited Away, Laputian Robot of Castle in the Sky and Catbus of My Neighbor Totoro, I must say this cute, little creature is still adorable and unforgettable. He’s (and yes, ‘he’ since it is a male creature) Jiji!! Thank you for always staying by Kiki’s side. All the best for the family you have built with Lily!

And thank you, above everything else, Hayao Miyazaki-sensei for always making fantasy-themed movies which are not only fascinating but sensible and captivating at the same time. Cheers!

(Photos used are not mine, credits to their rightful owners)

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