Kiki's Delivery Service: The Perfect Movie For Anyone Going Through Life Changes
Updated: Oct 29, 2019
Kiki’s Delivery Service is a wonderful 1989 Studio Ghibli movie about a 13-year-old girl who has to move away from home for a year to complete her Witch training. Still unsure of what her speciality is, she flies off to a seaside town with her talking cat Jiji, where she moves into a bakery to work. The movie was a box office hit in Japan and the first of Hayao Miyazaki’s films to be available in the U.S.
Kiki’s Delivery Service is an inspiring tale about a young girl learning ‘make it’ alone in a new town, discovering her calling and then re-discovering her inspiration. Kiki is a Witch in training who moves away to complete her training as part of a family tradition. Upon arriving in the town, she meets a boy her age named Tombo who’s fascinated with Witches and flying, and they gradually become friends. Once she learns to fly properly, she sets up a courier service in a local bakery and becomes a fixture in the community, until she starts to doubt herself and loses her abilities. She then goes on a break and stays with a painter she met in the countryside who helps her regain her inspiration and confidence, eventually leading her to take up flying again. After regaining her flying powers, Tombo ends up in an accident with a blimp that goes rogue, leading Kiki to rescue him and gain even more praise from the local community.
Hayao Miyazaki has a knack for creating stories about strong-willed girls going on magical adventures, Kiki’s being a personal favourite of mine. His female characters are allowed to be angry and stubborn and strong without feeling ashamed or being portrayed as crazy. They are the heroes of their own stories, which is so important for kids to see as opposed to all of the mild-mannered, well-spoken damsels in distress that I watched growing up. Kiki goes against the stereotypical damsel in distress we usually see young girls as in the media, as her journey has very little to do with the boy she meets and he isn’t her saviour. SHE is the one who rescues HIM (literally), as well as the whole town.
We get to see themes of growing up, with Kiki becoming more independent; building her skills, earning a living by herself, finding a place to stay and settling into a new town. Jiji not speaking to her again even after her powers come back could also be a metaphor for her growth, as she can no longer speak to him, and maybe she never really could. It’s very plausible that she only spoke to him in her imagination, as she is still a child, but matures a lot by the end of the film. Though this is a Miyazaki film, so it’s also plausible that cats really can talk in this world.
Every Studio Ghibli movie is brought to life by an immersive soundtrack, and Kiki’s Delivery Service is no different, with music composed by Joe Hisaishi, who composed music for popular Ghibli films ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ and ‘Spirited Away’. The orchestra captures the excitement of moving to a new town and having a fresh start, setting the scene with an adventurous and magical sound. The artwork is as beautiful as you would expect from a Miyazaki film, full of European architecture and views of the stunning landscape. The bright colour palette creates a very lively, welcoming atmosphere for the bustling town. There are scenic seaside views, with extreme wide shots of the town and the ocean from the shore. It’s the perfect film for a comfortable Sunday afternoon; it’s the type of movie you watch with a warm drink whilst being snuggled up under a blanket.
Kiki is painfully relatable for anyone going through any sort of life transition, especially younger people making their own way in the world for the first time. From realising the expense of living alone, choosing a career path, learning to take time off to look after herself and rediscovering her inspiration, every person experiences these things during the transition period between youth and adolescence. She’s also a wonderful role model for younger viewers to see; watching a young girl go out into the world on her own and supporting herself, all whilst growing her skills and making friends. The movie also teaches viewers the most important lesson of all: learning to accept help when you need it.
With it’s immersive soundtrack, aesthetic artwork and detailed European style settings, it’s the perfect Sunday afternoon film for anyone going through drastic life changes, and of course children who dream of growing up and going to new places. This nostalgic movie explores the themes of growth, helping others, trying new things and discovering yourself, with a little bit of Studio Ghibli magic sprinkled on top.