Kiki’s Delivery Services is a 1989 Japanese animated film that was directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who also created the screenplay, based on the book Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiki Kadono. The film follows a young witch named Kiki, who moves to a seaside town, as a part of her village’s tradition for young witches in training. She has to stay there for a year and learn about herself and her powers. We watch Kiki go through the ups and downs of being on her own for the first time while also being so young. She struggles with starting a new job, navigating building new relationships, and also questioning her purpose in the world. These are all the ups and downs that come with emerging into adulthood and we’re able to relate to and learn from through Kiki’s journey.
When Kiki arrives in the town of Koriko, the first thing she does is look for a place to stay and a job. After spending the day looking, she eventually ends up at a bakery called Gütiokipänjä owned by Osono. Kiki returns a pacifier to one of the customers that left the bakery and when she gets back her and Osono get to talking. Kiki tells Osono that she’s been looking for a place to stay while she’s away from home and Osono offers her a small apartment over the storage area for the balcony. Kiki agrees to help around the bakery, since Osono gave her a place to stay, and they eventually come up with the idea for Kiki to start a delivery service. Kiki doesn’t have any skills outside of being able to fly and having delivery services plays into her strengths while also helping her hone her skill. Her first delivery doesn’t go great. She loses the toy that she’s supposed to deliver and has to go through a side journey of getting the toy back. The toy falls into a crows nest and they attack her thinking she’s trying to steal one of their eggs. She comes up with the plan to have her cat, Jiji, pretend to be the toy for a little bit, while she goes back to get the toy from the forest. She’s able to retrieve the toy and switch the place of the toy and Jiji without anybody really noticing.
Kiki falls into a rut since deliveries slow down and the boy she met when she first arrived at Koriko, Tombo, invites her to a party. Before the party she has to help with a delivery for a pot pie. She helps the old woman make the pot pie after her electric oven doesn’t work. Kiki and the woman work together to make the pot pie in her wood burning oven, but by the time they finish she realizes that she’s running late for the party, and needs to rush out. When she’s out for the delivery, it starts pouring rain, which slows Kiki down more, and when she arrives the old woman’s granddaughter expresses her disdain for the pot pie. Kiki misses the party and becomes sick. Tombo has been making an effort to befriend Kiki, despite her seemingly not being that interested, missing the party made Kiki feel bad. Kiki apologizes after she recovers from her illness and Tombo accepts the apology then introduces her to some of his friends. The friends don’t seem to like Kiki very much and that leads to her feeling bad about herself and leaving. Kiki starts to get depressed and it gets worse when she realizes she can no longer understand her cat Jiji.
When Kiki falls into this depression she starts to lose her magic. She can no longer talk to her cat and she can no longer fly. She broke her broom and with her powers dwindling, she has to put a pause on her delivery services. Ursula is a woman that Kiki met in the forest, when she was trying to retrieve the toy that she lost during her first delivery. Ursula visits Kiki at the bakery and tells her that she needs to find a new purpose in life and by doing so, she’ll regain her powers. Not having a clear sense of what’s holding her back and she is able to get her powers back after she saves Tombo after an accident. An airship goes down, with Tombo hanging from a rope under the ship, and she’s able to kick into high gear with her powers returning. After she saves Tombo, things start to look up for Kiki. Jiji starts talking again, she’s able to start her delivery services again, she joins the aviation club, and she writes home that she and Jiji are happy.
Leaving home and starting a new life on your own is a scary journey that everyone has to face eventually. There are so many different reasons as to why leaving home and trying to start a new life is so scary, and Kiki is someone we watch experience all the ups and downs. In a lot of ways Kiki’s story is very similar to people starting their journeys in college. Moving to a new place, trying to make friends, dealing with burnout and depression. It can be very easy for some and a struggle for others and Kiki is able to show us both sides of the journey, while also leaving us with the message that perseverance and pushing through is what makes it worth it in the end.
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