Film Review: Kiki's Delivery Service
In 1989, Hayao Miyazaki released Kiki’s Delivery Service, based off the 1985 novel of the same name by Eiko Kadono. Released in the US in 1998, it starred Minami Takayama, Rei Sakuma, Keiko Toda, Kappei Yamaguchi, Koichi Yamadera, Meiko Nobusawa, Koichi Miura, and Haruko Kato, with Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman, Tress MacNellie, Janeane Garofalo, Matthew Lawrence, Kath Soucie, Jeff Bennett, Debbie Reynolds, and Brad Garrett providing English voices, and grossed ¥2.2 billion at the box office. The film won the Best Anime, Best Female Character, and Best Anime Theme Song Awards at the 12th Anime Grand Prix, the Special Award and Popularity Award at the 13th Japan Academy Prize, Best Animated Film at the 44th Mainichi Film Award, the Reader’s Choice Award at the Kinema Junpo Awards, and Best Film at the Japan Cinema Association Awards, for the Japanese Agency of Cultural Affairs, and for the Tokyo Metropolitan Cultural Honor.
As a witch who recently turned 13, it’s time for Kiki to strike out on her own, so she heads south and finds a town that doesn’t have a resident witch. In trying to establish herself, she becomes lost in what the city has to offer while struggling to fine tune her witch powers.
A laid back slice of life film that’s quite different than the films Studio Ghibli put out prior, Kiki’s Delivery Service is a wonderful film that really captures the essence and beauty of life. It portrays a town living possibly the best kind of life as not only do so many people laugh for no apparent reason other than they’re just happy, but a large number of the townspeople go out of their way to make Kiki feel welcome.
But what the film really revolves around is Kiki and how she grows up and finds her way on her own in said town. Having been raised by parents who value and support her independence, when she’s finally on her own, she’s met with quite a few problems, such as taking care of herself, finding a job and figuring out what her skill as a witch is. It provides an inner struggle that leaves no active antagonist and it’s really what makes the film so great. It really comes to a head when Kiki loses her magic for a while, which includes her ability to talk to her cat, Jiji, and her ability to fly. This is her biggest problem in the film and is due to her self-doubt. But it all helps her realize that vulnerability doesn’t always mean failure, but the ability to learn and gain understanding. What’s really interesting is that it seems Jiji is Kiki’s bridge between adolescence and adulthood. The two are able to converse throughout the first portion of the film, all the way up to the point she begins to lose her powers. And after she gains back the ability to fly, she still can’t talk to Jiji, showing that she’s grown up. However, the film demonstrates that Kiki doesn’t need Jiji in the same way anymore as she has gained human friends. But it’s not just friendship that Kiki gained with them. They have become just as important to her as she is to them due to her friends being the inspiration that resulted in her powers coming back. The catalyst for this realization was another friend, Ursula, who told her that she had a form of artist’s block and that she needed new inspiration. In showing Kiki that she cared, Kiki understood that they’re all there for her. It helped her make it so that she was there for them.
Another notable aspect of the film is in its portrayal of witches, letting go of some of the usual trappings witches have in media. Though rare, they’re an accepted part of society, making it so that no one sees anything wrong about a witch delivering their packages. They’re also sort of genetically different, as witchcraft is inherited through the maternal line. Further, it’s established that witches have a single talent that they excel at, which is what Kiki has been trying to discover throughout the film. That’s another fascinating take on witches, having them live alone for a year as they train, with leaving on the night of a full moon being the best time to do so. The film also explains why witches wear black or other dark colors: once they’ve started training, witches are only allowed to wear black.
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