Kiki’s Delivery Service – As is tradition for a witch in training, Kiki leaves her family home for a year long mission to find her skill and establish her craft. She quickly settles in a town and decides to start up a delivery service business. But a life in a rural town is no preparation for city life and the hustle and bustle combined with some bad luck starts to make her doubt herself and lose the ability to fly. Will Kiki find herself again, and will she recognise herself if she does?

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) – Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Rating: U

Running Length: 104 mins

Starring (English Dub): Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman, Tress MacNeille

Genre: Animated, Drama, Comedy

REVIEW: ‘KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE’

‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ comes from Japanese animation masters, Studio Ghibli, and beloved writer / director, Hayao Miyazaki. At the point of release it became the highest grossing movie in Japan for 1989 and further cemented the reputation of Studio Ghibli as a production company that made non-patronising, thoughtful and beautiful films with well rounded female lead characters.

Whilst Kiki is a witch in training, magic is never the point of the story. ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ is a very simple coming of age story that subtly and believably shows the process of a 13 year old girl breaking away from the comfort of home to carve out her own identity in the wider world. A western film would usually do this through conflict, and have it’s protagonist win against some kind of challenge or antagonist. But ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ is so much more realistic. There is no huge fight with her family. There is no act of rebellion pushing her forward. There is no outside negative force to overcome. Instead, Kiki must battle for normal challenges: a job, customers, a desire to fit in but not lose herself. Her struggle is with her own confidence: manifested by the faltering of her ability to fly – which she has relied on so much. You could almost say nothing really happens in this movie, and yet it is so much more relatable than any falsely contrived plot device.

In typical Studio Ghibli fashion, there is a nicely compact cast of mostly sweet and quirky characters that revolve around Kiki. Jiji (the last role for Phil Hartman before his untimely death) delivers the sardonic one-liners (much more so in the English Dub than in the original Japanese); Osono is a mothering figure that encourages Kiki whilst running her bakery business; Ursula is the typical ‘cool older sister’ type who helps Kiki see her own special qualities; whilst Tombo is every infatuated boy who has no idea how to talk to girls. Put them all together and you get a truly heart-warming tale that tackles what it’s like to be be a young girl making her way in the world into adulthood, as told with relatable innocence but subtle maturity. Not a film for quick excitement, but one with unfaltering positive messages that, if enjoyed, will lodge in the heart of both adults and children alike.

CONTENT: IS ‘KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

Kiki is established as 13 in the opening of the film. When Kiki is discussing leaving home earlier than planned with Jiji she argues that their plans could be scuppered, asking what would happen if she “Put[s] it off for a month and I find some wonderful boyfriend, then what would we do?”

Kiki gets caught in a storm and stows away in a train to continue her journey. She is wet through so she takes off her dress and is left in her undervest and undershorts. Her midriff is briefly shown. However, it is only her and Jiji present and this is obviously not sexual in any way.

When Kiki gets to the city a male character sees her and is enamoured with her. He starts talking to her as she walks down the street. He is very friendly in his speech but Kiki is not interested and keeps walking on. He persists even when she makes it clear she doesn’t want to talk to him. This is done for comedic effect as Kiki has old fashioned manners and is put off by his city abruptness, but due to the real-life problems with men bothering women in the streets we mention this in case you want to talk to your child about what is and isn’t appropriate behaviour.

One character says, “you know how boys are” when discussing looks, and another is upset that they don’t have something pretty to wear to a party. This is very mild and not shown as bratty or entitled. We mention it purely in case your children are affected by similar insecurities.

Kiki crashes into some trees. She lands near a bird nest and is then attacked by an angry crow. The crow caws loudly and flaps directly in her face. It’s right front and centre of the shot at first and then chases her out of the forest. She shouts for it to leave her alone and Jiji says, ‘it’s calling you an egg stealer, and you don’t want to know what else.’ If any child has a fear of birds or animals that are aggressive and right in your face then this scene could affect them.

Kiki makes a delivery to a young boy, around 5 years old. He believes a real cat to be a stuffed toy and carries it around by the tail. He also opens a bird cage and reaches around inside to pull the bird out and put it into a different cage. He grabs roughly although not maliciously but the scene ends before he gets it.

Kiki tells Jiji that a female painter she met has told her she wants a paint a picture of her. Jiji teases by asking, “naked?”, to which she scolds him.

Kiki delivers a pie baked by a kindly grandma to her granddaughter’s party. The pie baking scene lasted 10 minutes or so so we see how friendly the grandma is. But when the pie is delivered the granddaughter does not appreciate it and mutters ‘I hate grandma’s stupid pies”. Kiki is hurt by this and flies back through a thunderstorm in silence. This marks a turning point in the movie where Kiki is affected by depression for around 15 minutes as she misses an event she was looking forward to and then becomes sick. Once the scenes break some good attention comes her way and she is cheered.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?
VERDICT: IS ‘KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE’ FOR KIDS?

‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ marks a mid-way point age-wise in Studio Ghibli films. It isn’t as mature as some films that deal with adult issues, and it isn’t as junior as some movies that trade in wonder. The story is a simple one of a 13 year old girl leaving home and coming to learn about herself in a new setting. It will likely therefore not be interesting for kids under 6 but might also be too childish for children over 11. In terms of suitability though it really is suitable for all ages.

  • Violence: 0/5
  • Emotional Distress: 1/5 (Kiki can be depressed and downhearted at times but this is pressure she directs inwards and never lasts too long)
  • Fear Factor: 1/5 (the scene with the crow may startle)
  • Sexual Content: 1/5 (some very mild innuendo)
  • Bad Language: 0/5
  • Dialogue: 0/5
  • Other Notes: Deals with themes of coming of age, burgeoning attraction to boys, feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, trying to establish yourself independent of your origins, moving past childhood, and belief in oneself

Words by Michael Record

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