Kiki just turned thirteen. That means it’s time for her to venture off on her own for a year to hone her (witch)craft. Taking her talking cat, Jiji, with her, she travels to a city by the sea. There Kiki finds a home with a baker and her husband and starts her very own delivery service—using her flying broomstick as transportation. She makes friends, thanks to her cheerful personality, but unfortunately, when she sees other girls her age, she begins to question herself and her abilities. Kiki’s magic begins to falter, and she worries that she might not be able to be a witch after all.
Kiki’s Delivery Service is the one Studio Ghibli film I was aware of as a child. I remember it coming out in the U.S. about the same time as Anastasia and Mulan (two of my favorite animated movies of all time). I never had any desire to see it though. Anime didn’t appeal to me as a kid (I associated it with those religious TV shows they played for us at church on Easter and Christmas) so I pretty much avoided Kiki’s Delivery Service like the plague.
Watching it now, I have to say it’s a cute movie. Not my favorite Studio Ghibli by far, but it certainly is cute. I loved Jiji, the talking cat especially. His character is adorable, and even if I don’t particularly love the choice of Phil Hartman for his voice, I still loved him as a character. (F.Y.I. I prefer his voice in this clip.) I actually feel like every Studio Ghibli film needs to have a cat—talking or otherwise. They’re generally my favorite characters whenever they’re around.
As for Kiki, I loved that she was yet another inspirational, teenage girl lead. Her journey reminded me a bit of Shizuku’s from Whisper of the Heart because she had to gain confidence in herself and in her abilities. I liked that she was independent and a go-getter. My only qualm about Kiki, though, was that she was a bit bland. I wish more had been revealed about her other than that she was a nice, helpful witch. Her story was very good; she just wasn’t as memorable as, say, Shizuku or even Haru.
Weirdly, what really stuck out to me in this film wasn’t the characters or the story, but the character design. I liked that the movie featured primarily female characters (there were like two guys with speaking parts) and that they all looked different. There’s a lot of talk that goes on about how all of Disney’s heroines look basically the same, but in Kiki’s Delivery Service, there were women of all ages and you would definitely be able to tell them apart even if you switched their hair. I particularly liked that the two older, female characters looked different. I expected every older woman in a Studio Ghibli movie to look like Dola from Castle in the Sky, but I was proved wrong here. I give Studio Ghibli a definite A+ for its portrayal of women of all ages in Kiki’s Delivery Service. It was super refreshing.
In the grand scheme of Studio Ghibli’s films, I have to say that Kiki’s blandness made this movie sort of so-so for me. There was nothing wrong with it (the art was lovely as always and the message positive and encouraging), but it felt like it lacked the personality of my more favorite Hayao Miyazaki movies. I’d definitely watch it again, but not as soon as I’d rewatch Whisper of the Heart or Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
For kicks, I made some Kiki’s Delivery Service inspired fashion sets. Before I share those, though, here’s where the film sits in my Studio Ghibli Movie Ranking list:
My Current Studio Ghibli Movie Rankings
- Howl’s Moving Castle (Review)
- Whisper of the Heart (Review)
- The Cat Returns (Review)
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Review)
- Kiki’s Delivery Service
- Castle in the Sky(Review)
- My Neighbor Totoro
Onto the fashion!