Forging towards independence, finding your true spirit, and accepting who you are; forget Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and give that person heading out on a new adventure a copy of Kiki’s Delivery Service instead. Learn more about the film in this edition of Creations of Chaos, right after the jump.
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Release Date: 1989
Version Watched: English Dubbed (Disney Edition)
You could examine Studio Ghibli’s Kiki’s Delivery Service from a variety angles. It could be seen as simply a fun, adventure story about a teenage witch. It could be viewed as a commentary on the frustrations of the creative process, or it could be seen as a series of lessons for those beginning a new journey in life.
A Brief Summary
Thirteen year old Kiki is setting out to live on her own for her year of witch training. She settles into a seaside city where not everyone is happy to have a witch in residence. With flying being her only witch skill, Kiki endeavors to start her own delivery service. Things do not go as smoothly as she would like. Not long after starting her business, Kiki loses her self-confidence. Her powers begin fade. Not knowing what to do with her life if she is not a witch, Kiki falls into a depression. With a little help from others, Kiki discovers her inner spirit, just in time to save the day and become a city hero.
Kiki fearlessly strikes out towards independence. She is hopeful, she is optimistic, and she is naive. When she flies above the city over the sea, she has no doubt that it will be perfect, and that everything will work out exactly as she expects.
Unfortunately, Kiki is surprised when the residents are not very welcoming to the witch in training.
Kiki is defeated and homeless until Osono, the local bakery owner, offers Kiki an attic room in exchange for help in the bakery.
One of my favorite scenes is when Kiki becomes sick. I think many people can remember the first time they got ill away from home. It’s that simple longing for someone to make soup, or run out for more ginger ale. Though Kiki is on her own, Osono intervenes, giving the sick Kiki a little extra care.
Kiki, being an overachiever, bites off a little more than she can chew with her first delivery. Although she engages in some moves that would surely earn her the position of Seeker on a Quidditch team, the delivery is fraught with mishaps. For a moment it appears that her business is a failure, until Kiki encounters Ursula, a forest dwelling artist, who is just who Kiki needs.
Later, Ursula offers her home as a respite for the troubled Kiki, dishing out sound advice when Kiki needs it most.
Kiki also receives encouragement from Madame and her housekeeper Barsa, and of course there is Tombo, who mostly helps Kiki by being kind, and becoming a male damsel in distress.
The lesson– It is important to learn how to be self-sufficient, but it’s just as important to know when to ask for and accept help from others, without feeling like a failure for doing so.
The only witch skill Kiki has is flying. This is why a delivery service is the most practical way to earn a living, but after a few weeks, according to Kiki
“Flying used to be fun before I started doing it for a living.”
When Kiki starts to lose her powers, Ursula urges her to dig deep.
Is Kiki trying so hard, taking her training so seriously, and trying to fit in because it’s what she wants to do, or is she trying to fulfill the expectations others. When Kiki finally finds her inner inspiration, she discovers that flying, and being a witch, are in fact her passions. Kiki now flies using her spirit.
The Lesson– Don’t make decisions based on others expectations for you. No matter what life decisions you make, the inspiration must come from your own heart.
My favorite quote of the film is when Kiki says,
“I meet people, and at first everything seems to be going okay, but then I start feeling like such an outsider.”
I think many people identify with Kiki.
Kiki arrives to the city full of self-confidence, until she encounters her peers. Being a witch in training, Kiki wears a simple dark colored dress. Though her mother tells her,
“It’s not really important what color your dress is. What matters is the heart inside,” Kiki’s insecurities unfurl. The other girls are gussied up in pretty dresses and sun hats. They are cool and carefree, unburdened by a witch’s destiny. After one unpleasant encounter with Madame’s granddaughter, Kiki lumps all of the kids her age into one, non-accepting group.
Poor Tombo, who shares Kiki’s passion for flying, is constantly rebuffed by the self-conscious witch. Although becoming the town hero didn’t hurt, in the end Kiki appears to give her peers a chance, and makes some new friends.
The Lesson– The first lesson is to be content with being yourself. Also important however, is learning to give people a chance to actually get to know you. You should never be so fearful of rejection, that you don’t at least give others a chance to get to know you and take the chance to get to know them.
Although at first Kiki’s Delivery Service may seem like just another teenage witch story, its depth and spirit make it so much more. Whether you’re a child starting a new school, a young adult getting a first taste of independence, or an older adult starting a new adventure, there is inspiration for everyone in this Studio Ghibli film.