Kiki, a 13-year-old witch-in-training, must spend a year living on her own in a distant town in order to become a full-fledged witch. Leaving her family and friends, Kiki undertakes this tradition when she flies out into the open world atop her broomstick with her black cat Jiji.
As she settles down in the coastal town of Koriko, Kiki struggles to adapt and ends up wandering the streets with no place to stay—until she encounters Osono, who offers Kiki boarding in exchange for making deliveries for her small bakery. Before long, Kiki decides to open her own courier service by broomstick, beginning her journey to independence. In attempting to find her place among the townsfolk, Kiki brings with her exciting new experiences and comes to understand the true meaning of responsibility.
Kiki's Delivery Service resonates with me more than any other movie I've seen. Filled with inspiration, warmth and tenderness, it's perhaps the best example of a coming-of-age story I've seen in anime to date. While most Ghibli fans prefer the likes of Spirited Away or Mononoke Hime, and while I love and adore those films passionately, I personally feel that Kiki's Delivery Service is their best work, and Miyazaki's best directed film.
Everything about this movie just brings me a smile and always brings me up when I feel down. What makes this movie great is that it doesn't have huge ambition; it's not here to
tell you about the consequences of relying too much on technology, or destroying the natural earth, confronting the spirits of the forest. Of life. But it's simply the story of a young girl coming to terms with growing up and living in an entirely new town with total strangers. Transitioning from the comfort of her quiet country side hometown, to the hustle and bustle of an urban area.
Being independent for the first time is a terrifying experience for anyone, but it's also enlightening, as you can learn more about yourself and others than you thought. Kiki's Delivery Service showcases those ups and downs brilliantly. From an awkward introduction to baffled strangers on the streets, to starting her own business and befriending her clients, to meeting the owner of a Bakery who immediately shows a keen interest in the young girl, taking the role of a sort of mother figure to her. You meet all sorts of characters in this movie, all of them with an interesting or realistic characteristic. From a gruff looking, but gentle husband of the Bakery owner, to a boy who is extremely passionate about flight and aircrafts(even attempting to lodge a propeller onto his bike to try to get some air) who develops an immediate infatuation with Kiki, to a painter who takes comfort living in the middle of the woods, befriending the hordes of crows that live in it.
And then there is Kiki herself; at first glance she is cheerful, if a little naive. Honest, yet surprisingly old fashioned("It's not polite to ask a persons name without introducing yourself first!"). The thing I love about her character is that she's so many things, so many qualities that show how much of a varied, complex, but very realistic character she really is. She isn't a spoiled brat, she isn't selfish, she isn't annoying. She's simply a little girl with her own quirks and principles.
The film showcases the joys and pains of growing up finding your place in the world. At one point, she wearily laments the fact that she doesn't have pretty dresses, and she cannot afford that sparkling pair of red shoes that she gazes at through the window of a clothes shop. She sees her friend Tombo chatting and laughing with girls, sparking an immediate sense of jealousy from Kiki due to her insecurities.
She wants nice things, she wants to wear a nice dress, she wants to talk to boys and make friends. But cannot afford it, nor does she have the time. She simply desires a lot of what girls probably want at that age or slightly older. It's what makes her human and convincing as a character.
Even if you're not the same age group, or even gender, I feel that a lot of us have lived through moments where we feel so unsure of ourselves, feeling a sense of loneliness and isolation in the process.
And even though she goes through times of insecurity, depression and feeling like she's in a rut. She also befriends and meets many people that find her remarkably charming, sweet and sincere. She experiences friendships, success in her business and feeling accomplished.
The music, composed by the master himself, Joe Hisaishi. Is nothing short of perfect, the soundtrack has a very distinct European sound to it, also induces a large sense of nostalgia. From the early 60s pop sound of the opening, to the tender folk ballad of the ending. The soundtrack compliments nearly every scene in the movie to considerable effect. As expected!
The animation and designs are also incredibly top notch. It's crisp, it's clear(I just recently purchased the bluray version), it brilliantly showcases the varied areas and backgrounds. Everything is just straight up gorgeous. The town itself, Koriko, an ideal version of a pre-WWII Northern European city is one of my favorite designed places in fiction. To the hectic main-roads, the quiet alleyways and side areas you could casually stroll through, to the gorgeous beaches and scenery. It's very romantic and exhilarating. I would personally love to live in a city like this.
Despite what it does right, does it do anything wrong? Well, I wouldn't have minded if the movie went a bit more into the witch culture. In the story, when 12-13, a witch must leave her town and spend a year elsewhere, growing and learning, broadening their horizons essentially. But it's not really explained too much, but this is simply a nitpick as the film is more about Kiki and her experiences than all that.
There's a certain warmth to this film that makes it feel like you're revisiting an old friend. I find it difficult to find any major faults in this movie. I've grown up watching it on tv dozens of times, and later in life revisiting it, only to truly then realize how special this film is to me. I never said that I would be objective or impartial in this review, that would be pointless and a disservice to the film. Kiki's Delivery Service makes you passionate, or just really happy and relaxed, whichever works for you.
It's anime like this that proves to me yet again that animation can be a wonderful expression of art. If you've never seen this film, do yourself a favor and do so soon. Set up some free time during a quiet weekend afternoon and let yourself be enveloped in tenderness.
Any constructive feedback is appreciated on this review!
For my second Hayao Miyazaki movie, I’d say it was pretty good.
I liked the plot of Spirited Away much, much better though. Spirited Away had a more complex and interesting plot, while Kiki’s story was simpler. I guess the advantage of that is it’s easy to understand. As much as I like stories about witches living amongst normal humans, Kiki didn’t really act or live like a witch. She was more of a human who can fly and happens to own a cat that talks.
Since I brought up the subject of the talking cat, I’m glad I picked the English dub over the original
Japanese dub. I fell in love with the cast when I saw their interviews, so I decided to go with the Disney dub.Sure it became more Disney-ish, but it was actually pretty good. I like how they made Jiji talk more – I realized that in the Japanese dub Jiji wasn’t as talkative. Also, Phil Hartman made Jiji way funnier.
As expected of Hayao Miyazaki, the animation was fantastic – even if it was a 1989 movie. Since it’s from 1989, I’m assuming everything is hand drawn. The backgrounds were very detail, but it wasn’t overwhelming. It’s kind of looking at a fine, intricate watercolor painting that moves.
I did notice a lot of fan service throughout the movie. I know that seems weird, but there were numerous panty flashes from Kiki herself. I was beginning to think if that was intentional.
Disney edited the music, for sure. There were poppy, contemporary songs (both by Sydney Forest) during the beginning and the ending scenes of the movie. I can’t say I like the songs that much, but they were pretty catchy. I also noticed that a lot of the original BGM was omitted – I don’t know why that is. For the BGM I heard, I thought those tracks were very nice. They were easy to listen to and made the scenes especially peaceful and serene.
I’m probably gonna watch it again. It’s the kind of thing that you can watch any time and you’ll never get tired of it.
The first time I heard of this movie was when one of my friends mentioned it as one of the movies on his "to watch" list. I remember looking over the synopses and cover of the movie and wondering what the heck had gotten into him. It's a cartoon, for heaven's sake, how good could it be?
Just a few weeks ago I came down with a cold. It was no ordinary spring cold, but the great granddaddy of all spring colds. I was stuck in bed for around 3 days, during which time I re-acquainted myself with my inner child.
In other words, I watched Kiki's Delivery Service. Then something happened. While I had begun the movie with very low expectations, and a "childish" mentality, I found myself wholly captured by the movie.
Story: The plot is simple. Super simple. So simple, in fact, that an overtired anime newbie with a head cold can understand it. It begins when Kiki, a 13 year old witch makes the traditional journey away from home to begin her training in a new city for one year. Within the city, Kiki finds an occupation, along with many new friends who help her find place in the world. It is a cheerful and optimistic plot which is both uncommon and appreciated.
Animation: Like the storyline, the animation is simple. Since it was made in 1989, I wasn't expecting anything fantastic, but I was pleased to find that both the simplicity and the colors matched the tone of the story and the characters.
Sound: I think this is what really hooked me. The music isn't absolutely fantastic, but it fits right into the scenes where you'd want it to be. It is comfortable, and fun. The voices were also impressed me (I watched the English dub). Perhaps that is because I started the movie with such low expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the voices matched up with their characters quite nicely.
Characters: Ah, here is where the fun part begins. Kiki is truly the heroine in the story, and while she isn't saccharin sweet, she has a definitive moral standard. She has the added complexity of being a tween, and having to deal with new feelings of insecurity and affection. Her cautious and decidedly unadventurous cat, Jiji, is perhaps my favorite character, and his snide remarks had me laughing out loud every time. The rest of the characters are distinctive, and memorable (though maybe that is because this was my first anime movie. . .).
Overall: I thought it was a sweet, cheerful, "breath of fresh air" movie that I will probably watch more than once. It isn't on my list of top favorite movies (not that I have one...), but then again, it doesn't need to be. It is entertaining and sweet, and just the right thing to watch when you're feeling down - or when you've caught the great granddaddy of spring colds.
*I'm spoiling the hell out of Kiki. You know how this works.*
OBVIOUS NOTE: Unlike my previous reviews, I'm not trying to comment on every single aspect of this anime. I don't talk about art, animation, sound, music, some important scenes, random anecdotes I could bring up for the sake of doing so, and I don't think I really discuss Miyazaki himself very much. Talk to me about the film or watch it with me to hear anything else that didn't make it in this review.
I’m not a person to assign the waifu title to anime girls, but admittedly my first “girlfriend” was a
fictional character. She appeared in a full length animated film back in 1989, and in a way, I still haven’t gotten over her.
Having been born with a reasonable head on my shoulders, I never actually attempted to treat Kiki like a legitimate girlfriend, robust as my imagination had been in my early years. Despite that, I felt a connection with her character, which was something I had not legitimately encountered with another by that age. Kiki was her own person but never grew to be narcissistic or purposefully disrespectful. Perhaps what I had meant by the girlfriend line was that as a child, had I searched for a significant other, I might have hoped for that person to share traits with Kiki.
Really back then, my infatuation with this film was with the title character herself, and how fun she was to watch. But the specifics of her struggles and growth as a character only grew to mean so much to me as I got older. I guess when some look at films like this and what personal value it contains, it would be how the story triggers nostalgia for early-in-life transitions: meeting strangers, getting your first job, having to operate on a budget, and so on. And I certainly get a bit of that too, but perhaps my fondest memory that Kiki’s Delivery Service produces would be those times where I’d eagerly gallop around the house with a swiffer sweeper between my legs, imitating my then girlfriend’s flying broomstick. My dad and brother assumed I had been reading too much Harry Potter.
No, my specific connection to this supposedly minor Miyazaki project became evident in more recent years. Being a tryhard, I would be so vain as to see this story to be a somewhat beautiful fictionalization of my own. Parts of my life, at least. I have only one negative to bring up about Kiki and it really frustrates me to no end. As an aspiring storyteller, it’s remarkably disheartening that Hayao Miyazaki, my favorite director, already put to film everything I ever wanted to write a story about. He did this in a single feature-length that he only produced in just over a year. As a result, this film is the only work of art I find myself ever having to specifically avoid plagiarising.
Now due to some wild tradition, the witches in the world of Kiki’s Delivery Service leave their nests at the not quite ripe age of thirteen, heading in a random direction of their choice in search of a town, preferably one that isn’t already home to a witch. Kiki is so unprepared that she hadn’t even done research ahead of time to choose her new place of residence. Regardless, right off the bat, this film is perfecting my ideas. I often find myself writing stories about orphans because allowing a child to be separate from their parents allows for situations where children inevitably must handle a few dramatic growths earlier on in life than most. The author of Kiki didn’t take the easy way out like I would’ve. The girl’s parents are alive, and creativity separates Kiki from them instead of simple though unfortunate circumstances.
This tradition is simply the dawn of a maturation stage for witches. Watching the beginning of the film, it’s easy to see that Kiki is pretty well off. She doesn’t NEED to escape or better her situation. Her family is well off, and her father even claims that she can come back when things get rough. The stakes aren’t high, but the film doesn’t require such extremity to sell its story. The stakes are that Kiki wants to pave her own path in life and find out where she can belong, while also deeming herself to have value in where she ends up. What other stakes does one truly need?
Yes, this film isn’t about life or death, and failure doesn’t seem to have terrible consequences. Kiki’s Delivery Service shares the slice of life impression of near-plotlessness with Miyazaki’s masterpiece of the previous year, My Neighbor Totoro. Each film disregards the classic rule for a story to operate with a clear point B in mind. The only radical escalation of urgency in either occurs during the final act, both of which some criticize as being sudden, only there for the sake of having a cinematic climax the film can resolve speedily to forge a sort of resolution. At some point, I might’ve even conceded to those arguments, despite it never damaging the film for me personally. However, by now I’d completely rescind any of my concessions. Kiki’s journey onscreen follows a very detectable arc, and its events unfold believably.
Another grievance I hear is that Tombo never really successfully emerges as a major presence alongside Kiki, something which could disappoint even the character himself. By the time we’re nearing the end of the film and Tombo is seen on TV, caught up in the dirigible fiasco, even I can’t help but feel as if we, along with Kiki, are being roped into a background event. Sure, we spent a scene or two with the boy. I appreciated having the opportunity to watch Tombo show Kiki a taste of what he’s passionate about. Her curiosity felt genuine to me. But yes, Tombo does feel a bit irrelevant and out of the way for Kiki.
Now, we could stop there and just call it a major issue, and if it did irk you, then I guess I can’t fight that. However, I reject the notion that this aspect is in any way problematic. Kiki’s Delivery Service is about its titular character’s own personal journey, and the focus on her deteriorating ability to connect with even those her age is imperative to express another dimension of her adolescent struggles.
In their first interactions, Kiki develops a childish aggression towards Tombo, having had a rough entry into the city. The townspeople mainly dismissed her, aside from a police officer whose attention made her quite uncomfortable. The only person to attempt to immediately pay her any mind was Tombo, who was a touch too late to get any reciprocated excitement. He was also quite pushy and in her face, and I can understand why Kiki would avert her eyes in response. At her age, I could not really be appeased with high energy. I was (and still am) only trying to assemble even the cheapest of excuses to disregard others and not associate myself with them. It’s not that I think highly of myself. I just get nervous and lack the incentive to really put effort into communication. I think Kiki is similar in that regard, and perhaps that initial disappointment upon entering town is what paved the way for the rest of her decision making in this film. It compels me to consider whether there may have been a single moment that caused me to drop my interest in other people.
But as I implied, Tombo has almost no chance to get anywhere with her. When later in the film he drives by with his friends, he greets Kiki from the car, but she is frustrated and embarrassed upon seeing them try to wheel her in. Tombo manages to somewhat thwart her defenses and is set up to escort Kiki to a party. Other circumstances, now being preoccupied, stop that from happening. Kiki’s road to having friends again is having little success, and Tombo is remaining in the background for Kiki, one part distraction, and one part her path to becoming social. Even when she does spend time with Tombo, riding backseat on his bike in a hilarious and charming scene (Kiki asking “should I get off,” the one guy laughing at their absurd activity, her leaning on those curves like a pro), it feels like more of an experiment she got wrapped up in by the time it’s over. Tombo again tries to get Kiki to spend time with more people, extending the olive branch even further this time, but Kiki’s response is the same as mine would be. “No.”
The exact reason Kiki said this isn’t spelled out for us, but it’s certainly consistent with her prior actions. Kiki tells Jiji, “I make friends, but suddenly I can’t bear to be with any of them.” That single line is what I think seals the deal for me as a fan of this film. The biggest thing affecting my life for the past near decade has been my increasing, but now stagnating inability to really seek frequent companionship. For several years I haven’t been able to really enjoy myself being in the company of others like I once did. It’s unlikely I don’t share the basic instinctual desire for connection with others, so the issue is not black and white. Watching others who are close friends can be uncomfortable for me since it can draw out the feeling of being an outcast. Kiki entered the town with much optimism, like most would when entering the real world. Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t receive every one of us as comfortably as we would like to pine for. In adjustment to our surroundings, many of us end up feeling lost for a little while, and things that once came naturally are no longer clockwork. This is conveyed quite beautifully in the final act of the film when Kiki actually loses her ability to fly. Upon her entry into adolescence, as it were, Kiki naturally did not have a hundred percent success rate. The turnaround from sheer optimism is what’s conveyed here, and the wistful, upbeat young Kiki suddenly has to determine not just her purpose, as people often say, but how valuable her purpose should be, both to herself and others.
Kiki does this by taking a break from her routine. She doesn’t mope and lie uselessly in bed until she feels better like I often do. She walks around town and ruminates, and thanks to the help of Ursula, another well-utilized character under Miyazaki’s careful consideration, Kiki is able to take her mind out of her present dilemma and focus on something more casual than her future and personal self-worth. Kiki learns the obvious lesson first: Adults, or rather, people besides her, are going through and have gone through the same dilemma she is currently facing. An instinctual act is suddenly impossible to manage, even with a conscious effort. Many of the personal struggles we encounter in life can appear to be random. The origin of a downturn can be difficult to trace back to on the first attempt, and that’s why it’s important to spend time considering our behaviors and feelings in suitable depth. The insight of others can also prove to be quite worthwhile. It would be arrogant to assume that any of us are going through ordeals and developing thoughts that haven’t been discovered by humanity previously, and in great amounts. But Kiki is only young, so she can’t help but at first feel she is bearing something by her lonesome. I can think of no better way to demonstrate that than by offering you Ursula’s own words, which meant a lot to Kiki, and to me as well:
“When I was your age, I’d already decided to become an artist. I loved painting. I even painted in my sleep. Then one day, for no reason, I became unable to paint. So I painted and painted some more, but none of it was any good. They were copies of paintings I’d seen somewhere before. Just copies of ones I’d seen somewhere. I swore I’d paint my own pictures. But after that… it’s not much easier now. I think I found what painting means, at least for me.”
Awkward switch to that last sentence I know, but I find the meat of it quite filling. Overcoming the hurdle that Kiki is presently trying to bound over didn’t end Ursula’s struggle to hone her talent. If anything it might’ve only gotten more difficult for her as a result. But once a person finds true value in doing something they love, then whatever upcoming struggles will exist shall only become challenges.
Ursula goes on to talk about having seen Kiki that day and thinking she would be capable of painting that sad face of hers. Perhaps Ursula saw herself in the young witch just then and thought it would be interesting to recapture the sight of that point in her own life as well. It’s moments like this that help me consider what it may be like to look back on phases of my own life far into the future. Ursula ends up becoming a great tool to bring these feelings to the forefront of Kiki’s Delivery Service, transforming these thoughts into words and actions.
Lastly, I do want to talk about that ending. Tombo ends up in great danger, close to falling down from a great height off the dirigible. It is up to KIki to save the boy. The fiasco is at first visible on the television, which can be turned off or changed to a different channel. It’s a simple way to portray him one last time as a background character, now something that could so easily be ignored. That visualization of Tombo is not to be seen again by Kiki. The young witch’s arc had actually been leading up to this moment all along. Not only did Tombo need her, but she needed Tombo. Their encounters had been mainly perpetrated by either Tombo, Osono, or circumstance. But at this moment, Kiki confronts her opportunity like it’s a responsibility. Kiki makes a thrilling, exhilarating beeline towards her future. In saving Tombo, Kiki metaphorically discovers her value. Her inspiration was mutual love with others, and love of herself. After all, she claimed witches fly with their spirit. The one last thing she was clinging too out of old necessity was the imaginary conversational companionship of her cat, Jiji, who meows in the final shot. Kiki no longer needs to rely on Jiji anymore as her primary company. She has grown and has no need for coping.
But getting back to the love of self and others, this is driven home even further by the outstanding credits visuals. Yes, they’re really cheesy. Everyone is together and having a good time, yadda yadda yadda. Kiki flies alongside Tombo who now has a proper plane. Kiki sees a kid walking in town dressed up as her, revealing her to have become an inspiration to others. Kiki’s parents receive a letter from her, allowing a final progress update to leave us content with. However, I’ve decided to mention my favorite part of the credits last. We notice in a single shot that Osono’s child has been born, and I cannot help but overthink and imagine that Kiki may be able to offer that child to hear her own story one day. In turn, she can pass down Ursula’s message. The story should give him the incentive to be strong during difficult times in life, and eventually, that story will become his as well.
But for now, Ursula’s story is Kiki’s and mine. As of today, Kiki’s Delivery Service still manages to make me excited for my future, as well as how I’ll look back on the past. When I consider that, I often cherish the idea that someday I could possibly admire myself for what I’ve been strong enough to make it through.
Random extra notes that wouldn’t fit anywhere in this review:
- Kiki’s bow is adorable
- The OST is an exception to my belief that Hisaishi got better over time
- I’ve stolen that part with Kiki taking a ride on the train for my own material
- I feel like I should be angry about Hartman’s dub portrayal of Jiji since it completely changes the character’s nature, but I think it really works for some reason.
- The scene where Osono’s husband tries to impress Jiji is pure Miyazaki
- The pop song that plays during the opening credits makes me go “yay!” every time
- Tombo’s Waldo shirt bothers me every time I see it
- There were some serious near-death experiences in this film
- The transition of Jiji noticing the mug with her face on it to Kiki at the counter is love
I’ll add more to this list as I think of anything. I only decided to put this in right before posting this review, so I only thought of a few off the top of my head.
I also wanna apologize for this review being kind of strange on my part. I guess all of my reviews are in a way dissecting stuff one can already come up with by simply caring in the slightest, but I tend to give some in-depth opinions on things I don’t usually see in-depth reviews on. I just want to give these shows/films a little justice, so thanks for bearing with me. Thank you for hearing what I have to say, as posting this review will be the first thing I do while I’m in my twenties.
Tons of good anime movies have been made over the years. But why settle for good? We present to you a list of not 5, not 10, but 20 of some of the best anime movies in existence! Dig in and find some new and interesting Japanese animated movies to watch this year!