Kiki’s Delivery Service is one of Studio Ghibli’s most well-loved films–I think that’s pretty safe for me to say. 😀 I came to appreciate Kiki in a roundabout way, as it wasn’t love at first sight. I thought it was a decent film at first, but I didn’t connect with it–I was sick in bed at the time. When I gave it a second chance a week or so later, we clicked. It was fun, it was adventurous, it was emotionally valid, it was and is fantastic!
So now I get why so many people love Kiki’s Delivery Service. It perfectly captures what a family film should feel like: It’s not too silly and not to serious and purely endearing. Deliciously delightful and quaint, Kiki’s Delivery Service is thoroughly soaked in a nostalgia for a simpler time. And the best part is our title character Kiki herself!
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Drama | Fantasy | Adventure | Comedy | Magic
1989 | 105 minutes | G
Having turned 13, Kiki follows the witches’ tradition for passage of age by establishing herself in a new town to develop her skills. And so she hits the sky on her broom, accompanied by her talking black cat Jiji. Kiki settles into a bustling European city, driven with an optimistic determination to make her year away from home a success, opening up a business as a delivery girl with her broom flying. Thus begins her adventures of making brand new friends, surviving escapades in the sky, and discovering her own real potential.
While the film as a whole is absolutely charming, Kiki herself is the best part. While most of Studio Ghibli’s female characters are dimensional and hard-working, Kiki is one of their best and most determined. She is optimistic without being annoying, and driven to work very hard for herself and others. She doesn’t feel unrealistic for a 13 year old girl because not everything goes her way. Kiki’s hard work and effort do pay off, but not without hard reality knocking her down a few times.
The unique element to Kiki’s story is that, while she does have and use magic, it does not make her life easy, and even her hard work seems to go unrewarded for a time. This is very true to life, in that even when we work hard, the results are not often immediate or magical. In fact, sometimes things get tougher, and we end up questioning our very core.
While some children’s films might whisk these elements of reality away with magic, Kiki’s Delivery Service faces the hard parts of independence and responsibility head on. This makes its lead character all the more relatable!
Thankfully, the maturity doesn’t cost the film it’s fun and charm, of course! Kiki’s Delivery Service, while being a drama with slice-of-life elements, is also an adventure story. The film is almost never boring and ends on an incredibly suspenseful rescue attempt. Memorable characters weave in and out of the story, adding to the quieter moments, like the baker and her husband, the boy who wants to fly, and Ursula, the artist in the woods.
The talking cat Jiji is probably the most memorable character after Kiki. The character hits the perfect balance of being a funny sidekick without weighing the film down with excessive silly dialog or being a goofball. I wish more children’s films had sidekick’s like Jiji which add rather than detract.
Technically, Kiki’s Delivery Service still manages to stand up on its own despite its age. The animation is fluid and clean, per Studio Ghibli standard. The film manages to capture the spirit of an older European city, and the attention to detail helps loose us into the setting!
I love the sound for this film too. I watched this with the Disney dub and everyone’s voice acting is enthusiastic and lively. I love hearing the young Kirsten Dunst as Kiki; she gives her a wonderful spunk and warmth that aids her already endearing character. The soundtrack is also full of beautiful themes that help the film with its atmosphere and adventure.
The film gets better with each rewatch in my opinion. I now find it easy to understand why it is so strongly loved by so many people! It’s staple in family entertainment and I highly recommend it for the sweet atmosphere, fun adventure, and the freshingly mature look at young adulthood and responsibility.
Star Rating: 4.5/5 | Rewatchability: High | Definition: We Can Fly With Our Spirit