Kiki's Delivery Service is an animated movie produced by Studio Ghibli in 1989. Its Japanese title was Majou no Takuubin, or "Witch's Express Delivery". It concerns a young witch named Kiki who, as part of her coming-of-age at 13, has to leave her parents and find a place for herself in a different city for a year. Her only magic ability is flying her broom, which she still hasn't quite mastered, but undaunted, she leaves for the big city and opens a delivery service.

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, this film is yet another that shows why he's the master. It's a touching, unselfconsious growing-up story, and manages to be sweet and cute without being stupid. Kiki's black cat, Jiji, is a character that Disney should study for their comic relief sidekicks.

All in all, another class act from Studio Ghibli.

It was rereleased in the United States by Disney in a direct-to-video move in 1998, and did quite well. Kirsten Dunst voiced Kiki, and the late Phil Hartman (in his last role!) did Jiji.

Original title: Majo no Takkyuubin (Witch's Express Delivery)
Date: 1989.07.29
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Voice: Minami Takayama (Kiki & Ursula), Rei Sakuma (Jiji), Keiko Toda (Osono)
Genre: Anime
Language: Japanese (English Subtitled)
Details: 102min, Color
Notes: Based on the book by Eiko Kadono.

"Kiki's Delivery Service" is a film when one learns to trust one's abilities. It teaches how to rely on yourself through the search for one's identity. Once a witch reaches the age of 13, she follows the village tradition and sets out into the unknown world. Kiki still childish in appearance is anxiously waiting to leave her home and live elsewhere. While she was listening the radio, the weather was perfect and she decided to leave immediately. Accompanied only by her mother's broom, her cat Jiji and the magic to fly, she set off to live in a distant city.

The world she lives in is not a fantasy world but instead resembles our own reality. Yet the setting is entirely fictitious and universal in style; the assembled from many different bits: cable-car taken from San Francisco, the open city market from Europe, near the open seaside such as in Asia. The rustic style city background blends with the technological equipment used in the households. It is amusing to see the use of old car in the streets followed by microwaves in the house. This setting creates the ideal environment of a thirteen-year-old witch. The unusual and bizarre place is now Kiki's new home. (A website said Hayao Miyazaki wanted it to resemble an "alternate Europe in the 50s where World War II never occurred.")

Anyone would be lost and disorientated if you decided to live in a new town. The rules of her small town no longer apply. It is "rule" to give a good first impression of one's self the people of the city. But Kiki almost caused an accident when she tried to show off her unique skills. When the bystanders first see Kiki flying on her broom, everyone acts casually, some surprised to see her. But what is common to all is they are not shocked as noting out of extraordinary has happened. The fact that Kiki is a witch has no influence on the opinion of the people surrounding her. Yet in Kiki's mind, she seems to be expecting a different reaction from them.

Not expecting her arrival to cause some much trouble, Kiki's feels ignored and unwelcome but refuses to give up and head for a different city. Ironically because she started like the new environment and second any other new city wouldn't be any different. Her age soon becomes a problem when she tried to find a place to sleep. The Hotel refuses to accept that she is alone, now discouraged she looks to find a place elsewhere. Out of difficult problems there is always a wonderful solution you would never expect. Giving it a little time and importantly not to give up Kiki does find hope.

Jiji tells Kiki to find a new friendlier town. But what Kiki has been ignoring is she never tried participated in the daily life of the people. An opportunity arises when a baker, Osono, calls out to her customer who accidentally forgot baby's pacifier. Kiki steps in to deliver it, and Osono is astonished when Kiki begins to take off in the sky. When she returns and is about to leave but Osono invites her to stay for some tea. Kiki starts to complain that the city isn't friendly to witches but Osono says differently and states for a fact she likes witches and invites her to stay. Delighted by her offer she decides to give the city a second chance.

She is treated like any delivery girl, should she be riding a bike or a broom. She meets a lot of new people through the adventures and the misfortunes during her delivery runs. The new encounters gradually fill-in for family. Slowly she makes friends, but at first she doesn't see the need. She makes a friend with an Artist, Ursula, and Tombo who dream is to fly and is awed by Kiki ability. Tombo is one of the few that succeeds to make Kiki laugh. Her new friends will be indispensable in the future, but currently she doesn't attach any meaning to them, often running away to avoid conversation.

Tombo goes to purchases a pastry and invites her to a party; Kiki pretends she never met him, and acts as he was no different than any customers. She feels inadequate, she would meet the expectation of the other girls at the party. She bases this because she only has a dull black dress, she complained to her mother and again to the Osono.

Before she can go Kiki must do another delivery. Once she arrives the delivery is not ready, Kiki does not feel right in taking money for a job unfinished. The microwave does not work and Kiki decided to help, and suggested to use the fire stove instead. She gets to work by beginning to clean the stove, the old lady impressed by her enthusiasm to help. Once completed Kiki is dismayed that the pie she painstakingly delivered, in the cold storm, is badly criticized by the girl receiving it. Yet she ignores this and get gathers the courage to continue only to realize she is too late for the party.

Her biggest challenge comes when Kiki begins to lose her magic. When her ability to fly begins to fade she panics. She quickly realizes the importance of her ability to fly, she never gave it a second thought and simply used it a given. Could you imagine suddenly being unable to ride your bike you took for granted every day? Miyazaki says "Talent is something that you are given, and you have to go through a process to consciously make such a talent truely yours."

The climax is finally reached when she breaks the broom. Consequently Jiji, somewhat like her guide is no longer needed and lost his ability to speak. (It is said Kiki does regain her power but Jiji won't talk again) Ursula, the young painter, gives Kiki good advice as she just been through an identical struggle like Kiki is going through now. She shares some insight with Kiki and invites her to the countryside.

The airship is enables her to regain her lost power to fly. The fact the Tombo was in distress gave it a sense of urgency. Concentrating her energy and focus, she finally succeeds and takes off to rescue her friend Tombo. She now uses her own unique broom, when she broke her mother broom the last link she had with her was removed.

Finally, Kiki finds her independence and the meaning of self-reliance. Miyazaki writes, "As movies always create a more realistic feeling, Kiki will suffer stronger setbacks and loneliness..." By overcoming setbacks and loneliness can you grow. In the letter to her parents she says "Father. Mother. How are you?" Jiji and I are both very well. My work is on the right track and I am confident. It's been hard sometimes, but I love this town!"

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