Avoiding the cold weather over the weekend, I decided they best way to spend a Sunday indoors was to watch some of my favorite anime classics. Kiki’s was the first DVD I popped in and realized that it had been years since I’ve watched many Miyazaki films. Rewatching these movies is a new experience and, I’ve found, adds a new level to my relationship with them. I had forgotten how complex and rich Miyazaki’s narratives are, but also simple at the time.
I think it must be eight or nine years since I watched Hayao Miyazaki’s 1989 fantasy Kiki’s Delivery Service all the way through. I love the character of Kiki, maybe now more than I used to, because her character is so relatable. A young girl sets out alone to find her place in the world. A simple journey that many have gone through.
As a young witch of thirteen, the day comes where she must do what all young witches must, which is to leave her parents and find a city or town that needs a witch. Kiki says goodbye to her parents and hops on her broom (a little shakily) with her cat Jiji and her radio.
After dealing with some bad weather during her flight, Kiki finally comes across a thriving town and not-so-subtly makes her landing. She nearly causes a traffic accident and gets a stern talking to by a police officer. The people of the town are somewhat taken aback by this new witch and not entirely sure that they need a witch, accept for a boy named Tombo who is obsessed with flight.
Rewatching the film I was curious about this town that she lands in, called Koriko. It felt so alive, I thought it was based on an actual city, at first thinking San Francisco and then somewhere in Germany. Not so. In the special features, Miyazaki says that the town is based on a few cities, included San Francisco, London, and others, but mainly Sweden’s Visby and Stockholm. He actually had his staff visit these two cities for the film.
Things look up for Kiki when she meets Osono, a pregnant woman who owns a bakery. Kiki makes a delivery for Osono, realizing her calling to start a delivery service. Osono offers her a place to live in exchange for helping with the bakery.
I really like that Kiki works at a bakery, it gives her a warm place to be as she finds her new life, but is neatly juxtaposed by the tiny, barren room that she lives in with Jiji. Rewatching I realized that Kiki makes a lot of strange friends in her new life. Back home, Kiki was popular with a lot of friends her own age, but in Koriko, as a thirteen year old who has started a career, she is an outsider among her peers and often feels embarrassed around them.
Along with Osono and her husband, Kiki meets Ursula, a young woman who lives in the woods, after loosing a toy she was delivering. Ursula becomes a kind of mentor as Kiki deals with her new life and struggles as a witch in the “real world”. She also meets two old women who live in a mansion, Bertha and her Madam. These characters add humor and help Kiki along her journey.
A big challenge for Kiki comes after a night of delivery making in the rain, when Kiki gets sick and finds that she is losing her powers. Kiki begins to doubt her abilities and feels that she is unsuccessful as a witch. With guidance from Ursula (in the form of a weird sleepover), Kiki learns that everyone faces doubt and insecurity as they grow up.
At the end of the movie, Kiki must save Tombo when he gets carried off by a zeppelin. Having lost her ability to fly and her broom, Kiki pushes herself until her powers come back.
I like that this movie lives up to its title, in that we are really with Kiki through the process of starting her delivery business. She makes her deliveries and runs into struggles along the way, through little scenes. Her struggles with her new career is neatly woven into personal life, as she struggles to fit in as well as learning to not let her pride get in the way as Tombo attempts to develop a friendship.
And of course there’s the charming Jiji, who can resist a talking cat. I think when I first watched the movie in college, it reminded me of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, what with the black talking cats. Jiji is Kiki’s voice of reason (which she mostly ignores), always a little worried about their obstacles. I love that Jiji has his own little subplot, falling in love with the cat next door.
I’m really glad I rewatched Kiki’s Delivery Service. With this film and the other Miyazaki movies I’ve been rewatching, it really is a fresh experience. It makes me want to watch the movie again and again. It also makes my want to buy stuff… I’m not sure why.
Here’s some Kiki swag I’ve had my eye one recently:
Favorite Kiki cosplay I found online: