Kiki’s Delivery Service

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Kiki's Delivery Service anime movie cover art
Kiki’s Delivery Service Cover Art

Overview

Kiki’s Delivery Service is a coming of age story which doesn’t try to disguise the fact that it’s a coming of age story. Right at the start we’re introduced to the protagonist, Kiki, as she decides to leave home and go off on her own at the age of 13 (as is customary for her family).

This may sound somewhat extreme, and if you actually think about it for a bit, you’ll realize it is, but Kiki is a witch, not some random girl without the ability to fly, so I’m sure she’ll be just fine. Oh, and she has a talking cat with her too, so it’s not like she’s alone.

When witches come of age, it’s customary for them to leave their homes and find somewhere new in the world to live and set up shop for a year of “training.” I’m not really sure what part of this is training though, since these young girls don’t work under mentors or anything.

Kiki, for reasons I’ll explain later, decides to create a flying delivery service (hence the title of the movie) in a large town by the ocean. It appears to be somewhere on the coast of Italy, so not a bad place to settle down if you ask me.

It’s also hinted at that there should only be one witch per town, or at least only one witch in training per town, but that’s not something that’s ever explicitly told to the viewer.

Over the course of the film, Kiki’s delivery service basically devolves into Kiki’s odd-jobs service, as she tends to do more than simply deliver packages. She helps bake cakes, changes light-bulbs, poses for paintings, and sometimes delivers things in between.

During the low point in the story, our young protagonist temporarily loses her witch abilities. This means she can no longer fly on her broom and Jiji, her pet talking cat, turns back into a regular cat. Since there aren’t any real antagonists in the story, this was a fairly predictable development, as was how it’s resolved.

The boy Kiki potentially likes, Tombo, gets carried away by a runaway airship, and so Kiki has to muster all her heart and magic to rescue him. I know this is a children’s movie, but when the airship crashes into the clock tower and collapses onto the town, not many of the characters seem to comprehend how big of a disaster that is.

Now, when first starting this movie you may feel like it’s going to be some grand, magical adventure, but in reality it quickly turns into little more than a slice of life story about Kiki living in a bakery and working odd-jobs, as I previously mentioned. There’s not much real magic or wonder to be found, but I’ll talk more about that in the conclusion.

Kiki being given candy from the anime movie Kiki's Delivery Service
Kiki


Characters

Kiki, our 13-year-old protagonist’s only real defining trait is that she’s a witch. She has other traits such as the fact that she wears only black (I know, her bow and shoes are red, but ignore that), and that she can fly on a broom, but those are simply sub-traits she has due to being a witch.

The reason she started a delivery service is because flying is the only thing she’s good at. Early on in the movie we meet another witch about the same age as Kiki who’s working as a psychic, and Kiki’s mother is always shown making potions, hinting at two other possible jobs for witches.

Overall I found her to be a fairly bland character. She’s kind of tsundere, but not quite in the way we see tsunderes today, and she doesn’t necessarily have any special quirk which makes her stand out.

I think the reason I feel that Kiki is such a bland character is simply because of all the newer anime I’ve watched. In today’s anime landscape, every character needs to be jam-packed with tropes and quirks which make them unique, so much so that we’ve started to see that as the norm.

Jiji is Kiki’s pet cat who has the ability to speak. Like many animals with the ability to speak in children’s movies, Jiji is also shown to have human-like intelligence. Now, that may seem like an obvious detail not worth mentioning, but it does actually come into play later in the movie.

When Kiki loses her magic, Jiji not only loses his ability to speak, but also appears to revert back to the standard intelligence level of a cat. He no longer stays by Kiki’s side, but rather does cat things like drink milk out of a bowl and chase after a female cat.

One thing about this part of the movie which I found interesting was that after Kiki regains her magic and can fly on a broom again, Jiji doesn’t appear to ever regain his speech and intelligence. He’s still shown to be meowing instead of speaking even in the epilogue, although now he also has a kitten.

Maybe Jiji could never actually speak all along and he was just a metaphor for Kiki’s lack of friends. Once she starts to gain friends she doesn’t need a talking cat for companionship anymore after all.

Some of the less important supporting characters are Osono, Tombo, and Ursula.

Osono is a baker who lives with her husband (also a baker) in the town Kiki settles down in. She takes Kiki in after Kiki helps her return a pacifier to a customer who left it in the bakery and becomes a foster parent for Kiki. Her husband is basically a caveman; I think he had one word of dialogue.

Tombo is Kiki’s potential love interest, but their relationship is more of a friendship than anything else. He’s the first friend Kiki makes who’s her own age since leaving her hometown to start her journey (although they aren’t exactly friends at first). Flying is one of Tombo’s dreams.

Ursula is a painter who lives in the forest outside of town. She’s a few years older than Kiki, and they met when a package Kiki was delivering was dropped outside of Ursula’s house. Overall, Ursula wasn’t that important to the story, but she was a somewhat recurring character.

Kiki and Jiji flying with seagulls from the anime movie Kiki's Delivery Service
Kiki and Jiji

Conclusion

If you’ve seen my reviews of movies before, especially ones considered “childhood classics” for many people, my rating shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Kiki’s Delivery Service is a 5/10.

There were parts of the movie which I liked a lot, such as when Kiki borrowed some random guy’s broom and then stood in the middle of the street trying to get it to fly while the crowd stared at her, dumbfounded during the climax. Or, when later on that same guy was telling everyone that the broom she used was his.

However, most of the movie was extremely slow without much actually happening. Kiki would go make a delivery, something would “go wrong” (usually not that wrong), and then she’d end up doing some sort of odd-job. I guess I just wanted there to be a little more adventure.

The trailer for Kiki’s Delivery Service is available here.

Unfortunately, a problem arose when rating this movie. I was torn between giving it a 5 or a 6, but because I was so torn I figured that probably meant it deserved the 5. That said, if I had given it a 6, that would mean it’s on the same level as Ordinal Scale, or Akira, which it isn’t.

And I’m not going to bump those movies up to 7s just because of Kiki’s Delivery Service, so that means it must be a 5. But, when looking through posts to choose which ones I’ll be featuring this month, I noticed I rated Eureka Seven as a 5 as well even though that too is better than Kiki’s.

What I’m trying to get at here is that I may rewatch some of the series I watched and rated a while back and do some updated reviews. Eureka Seven is first on my list for this, but who knows when I’ll actually get around to doing that considering how much I still have to watch.

Anyway, let me know whether or not you agree with my review of Kiki’s Delivery Service down in the comments below. I look forward to hearing how I’m wrong and that Kiki’s is the perfect movie, though I doubt your words will change my mind.

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