Posted on June 11, 2018
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989/1998)
Kiki’s Delivery Service is a 1989 Japanese animated fantasy film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The film was based on the 1985 novel by Eiko Kadonoe.
It was the first Studio Ghibli film released under a partnership between The Walt Disney Company and Studio Ghibli. Disney released the English dub in 1998 featuring Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman, and Matthew Lawrence.
The Story (SPOILERS)
Kiki is a 13-year-old witch who lives in a village with her herbalist mother. It is tradition for young witches to leave home (for a year) on the night of a full moon to pursue their training.
Kiki leaves home with her familiar, a talking black cat named Jiji.
She flies on her broomstick to the port city of Koriko. While trying to find somewhere to live, Kiki is pursued by Tombo Kipoli.
Tombo is a bespectacled boy obsessed with aviation that is fascinated with Kiki’s ability to fly. He helps her from being arrested, but won’t leave her alone.
In exchange for a room in an attic, she helps a pregnant bakery owner named Osono. Kiki decides to open a “Witch Delivery Business”, delivering goods with her broomstick.
Her first delivery goes horribly, as she is hit by a gust of wind (and geese). In transit, she loses a black cat toy that she was meant to deliver.
Jiji mimics the toy until Kiki can retrieve it and swap the two. She finds the toy in the home of a young painter named Ursula.
Ursula repairs the toy and gives it to Kiki so that she can complete the delivery and rescue Jiji.
Kiki accepts a party invitation from Tombo, but is unable to attend due to work and getting sick from a previous delivery in the rain.
Osono, wanting Kiki to have friends, arranges for Kiki to see Tombo again. She assigns a bread delivery addressed to him.
After Kiki apologizes for missing the party, Tombo takes her for a test ride on his flying bicycle machine.
Kiki becomes depressed and discovers she can no longer talk to Jiji, who has befriended the neighbor’s white cat. She looses her flying ability and is forced to suspend her delivery business.
Kiki visits Ursula, who figures that Kiki’s crisis is a form of artist’s block. Ursula suggests that Kiki find a new purpose, hoping that she will regain her powers.
While Kiki is visiting a customer, she witnesses an airship accident on television. Tombo is (somehow) involved and is suspended from one of the collapsing dirigible’s anchoring lines.
Kiki regains her flying power and manages to rescue him. She regains her confidence, resumes her delivery service, and writes home stating that she and Jiji are happy.
The film ends with a credits montage of Tombo’s completed flying machine, Kiki’s new life and business, and a beautiful song titled “I’m Gonna Fly”.
Kiki’s Delivery Service was the first Studio Ghibli film that I watched as a child. I was captivated by the animation style (my first non-western animated film).
While I viewed a dubbed version of the film (sorry traditional Japanese fans), the voice cast was perfectly adequate.
There isn’t an antagonist and that makes the film ultimately timeless. It chooses instead to focus on a coming-of-age story line revolving around Kiki’s business.
This film is dedicated to Phil Hartman (Jiji), who was murdered before it was released. The original version included more of his improvised lines that made the film far funnier. If you’re interested, I recommend that you look for that version of the film.
For some reason, the re-release for the Blu-Ray edited the film to be more in line with the Japanese version. That is a travesty, as some excellent moments were in the original cut.
The story is simple enough for a child to understand, enjoy, and grow to appreciate. This film is comfortable. If you enjoy well-intended stories with humor, heart, and gorgeous animation look no further than this.