Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)
What's fantastic about Hayao Miyazaki's earlier films is how magical they feel in their simplicity. As a child watching this film for the first time, I immediately feel in love with it and all of its characters. Magic has been commonly associated with witches for centuries. While they are usually portrayed as evil beings, there are still those who uses their magic for good. In Kiki's Delivery
there are implications that some witches who make healing potions and tells love fortunes. While these skills are impressive, they are nonetheless common and predictable. One of Studio Ghibli's great trait is being able to give new light and meaning in something very simple, rendering it as if it was the most ingenious and interesting concept for all to see. In Kiki's Delivery Service
, it's a story about a little witch who simply flies around on her broom and working as a delivery woman.
Like My Neighbor Totoro
, the story of Kiki's Delivery Service
has no villains and no real plot goal. It's simply a story about a girl going out into the world with everyday life's situation coming her way. Call it a slice of life film with a small touch of magic. The little girl is named Kiki (voiced by Kirsten Dunst) and she has already turned thirteen years old and is old enough to undergo a witch tradition where she must leave her family and her home and make a living for herself somewhere in the real world for a year. It's a tradition that helps young witches find their identity, and at that age, it can very much apply to the story and to the audience very well. Kiki sets out with her little black cat, Gigi (voiced by Phil Hartman), as they settled into a large European-liked town by the sea. It's strange that while there doesn't seemed to be many witches in this film, the normal humans aren't alarmed by their presences. Rather, they became fascinated by Kiki when she flew in. Through sheer forces of both mishaps and luck in one day, Kiki met Tombo (Matthew Lawrence), a boy who's enthusiastic about the concept of flying, and Osono (Tress MacNeille), a bakery owner and welcomed her to live with her and her family.
Kiki began to wonder her special talent as a witch. Since she's not as good with potion making as her mother nor can she predict the future like other witches, Kiki relies on her flying skill. Soon, she decided to take a job in the delivery service. Based on the design and the technology, I would guess that this story takes place sometimes in the 1930s. Before the age of UPS or FedEx delivery, a witch on a broom is your fastest chance of getting any packages delivered.
In essence, the rest of the film focuses on Kiki flying around helping her customers delivering their parcels and making new friends. So simple and plain on paper this plot sounds, but in reality, it is an absolute gem. Like many of Studio Ghibli's films, its a film where the audience gets to enjoy the simple life of a character. Unlike its predecessor, this film's third act is more action-packed. Call it a tribute to the Hindenburg incident of 1937, the final act shows us how our hero grows and mature when the time comes.
As always, Hayao Miyazaki and his film crew painted the scenery and the animation beautifully. The way the buildings of the town was designed would make you wish you want to live in a place like that. The flowing movement of Kiki flying in the sky makes you hold your breath and feel as if you're falling from the sky. Combined all of this with a simple plot and charming characters, Kiki's Delivery Service
definitely delivered the right amount of magic for us all. It is simply one of Studio Ghibli's best and most memorable films to this date. We can only hope that it will still be appreciated and loved for generations to come. Like the scene where Kiki's helped an elderly woman bake using a traditional oven over a microwave, some old things are better.