This is a slightly revised, short review of Studio’s Ghibli’s 1989 film Kiki’s Delivery Service, which I first posted in 2020. Films by Studio Ghibli are available for streaming on Netflix in the UK.
My children have grown up with Studio Ghibli animations such as the iconic My Neighbour Totoro, Ponyo and The Cat Returns, and retain huge amounts of affection for their hyper-realistic, surreal and fantastical animations, even in their teens. And why wouldn’t they? I love these movies too.
Kiki’s Delivery Service is a charming take on the coming of age movie. At the age of 13, junior witches have to leave their families and make their own way in the world for a year (like a gap year!). So in this beautifully detailed animated feature, Kiki sets off on her herbologist mother’s broomstick to seek her fortune, with only her talking pet cat/familiar Jiji for company.
After an eventful journey, Kiki ends up in a city that looks very much like some kind of European hybrid utopia, a bit like a coastal Paris. She finds lodgings in a dusty but soon cosy cottage near the sea, and quickly finds a job in a local bakery, while she also develops a sideline as a delivery girl, using her broomstick as her delivery vehicle.
She meets various characters along the way, including a young aviation-mad boy, Tombo, who is impressed by Kiki’s aerial skills on the broomstick. As she bonds more and more with her everyday acquaintances, her magical powers seem to wain, and she has to find new purpose and confidence in her life in order to overcome her block.
Tombo invents a bizarre flying machine, a bike with some kind of propeller attachment, and mild peril ensues. As usual with Studio Ghibli films, the storyline is appealingly strange, but its own breed of internal logic means everything pans out satisfactorily in the end. All in all, this is a really delightful movie for all ages.
“Anime may depict fictional worlds, but I nonetheless believe that at its core it must have a certain realism. Even if the world depicted is a lie, the trick is to make it seem as real as possible. Stated another way, the animator must fabricate a world that seems so real, viewers will think the world depicted might possibly exist.” – Hayao Miyazaki