First released in Japan in 1989, Kiki’s Delivery Service lacks a lot of the bells and whistles today’s films feature, but it retains a charm and sense of fun that few films today can rival.
Kiki’s Delivery Service is a Studio Ghibli film that tells the tale of Kiki, a 13-year-old witch who (as part of her training) leaves home with her cat Jiji for a year of living on her own. While other witches are often trained in telling fortunes or brewing potions, Kiki’s only witch-skill is flying. She makes her way to a lovely seaside city and decides that this is where she will spend her year.
Unfortunately, the people of the city are unaccustomed to witches. While they’re not inclined to burn her at the stake or anything, most of them are not very friendly, either. Kiki eventually finds a place with the kind bakers of Gutchokipan Bakery (a delightful pun on rock-paper-scissors, in Japanese). She helps them tend shop, and in exchange can live in their attic free. In returning an item a bakery customer forgot, Kiki gets an idea for her own business: a flying delivery service!
Kiki and her delivery service go through ups and downs (literal and metaphorical) aplenty, but in time, Kiki finds friends, finds customers, and finds hidden strengths inside herself.
I love Kiki’s Delivery Service. It’s fun to watch. The plot is simple, but sound. The characters are well-developed, without delving into too much depth for a fairly short movie (just 103 minutes). The movie is fun to hear, too, with a catchy, hum-able soundtrack that never pulled me out of the film.
I love that it’s a coming-of-age movie about a girl that actually focuses on the girl, instead of on some silly romance. There’s a touch of silly romance, but it’s a very subtle touch. The main focus is simply on a girl trying to do some very hard things, and eventually succeeding.
The supporting characters are just as fun to watch as Kiki. Notably, we have Osono and Fukuo (the bakers) as a fun-loving, hard-working, functional married couple. We have Tombo and his obsession with everything that flies (including, of course, Kiki). Ursula the artist makes a good mentor and friend to our young witch. Madame and Bertha do a delightful turn as the obligatory old ladies.
The whole show is just fun to watch. My toddler, who can’t yet understand all of it, watched Kiki’s Delivery Service in rapt attention and still (two weeks later) points to the TV and asks for “Kiki! Kiki!” This is a great movie for all ages. I highly recommend it.
Release Date: July 29, 1989 (Japan)
MPAA Rating: G
Original Title: 魔女の宅急便 (Majo no Takkyūbin)
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (brief pipe smoking)
Violence: 1 (a few scenes of peril)