Every now and then, I expand my dialogue about storytelling by going beyond the boundaries of books and out into the mediums of TV and film. I do so by doing these analysis pieces once in a while about a TV show or film that has reached a significant time in its history (i.e. series premiere, series finale, film release, anniversary of a release, etc.). Previously, I dove into Disney’s iteration of “Tarzan.” Today, in honor of its 30th anniversary, I look to another film from Hayao Miyazaki; one that bares a lot of fond memories for me. Today, I’m talking about the Studio Ghibli film, “Kiki’s Delivery Service.”
Per tradition for all young witches, 13-year-old Kiki leaves her village for a year to begin her training. Once arriving in a new city far from everything she knows, she quickly picks up work as a delivery girl, and along the way, makes new friends (and an admirer). But when her self doubt begins to overwhelm her and affect her powers, Kiki must pause and learn how to both find a new purpose for what she does and trust her spirit.
Apart from this year being 30 years since the film was originally released in Japan, it’s also been 20 years since I became a Studio Ghibli fan, and I have “Kiki’s Delivery Service” to thank for that. While I’ll always remember “My Neighbor Totoro” as my first film from them, it was “Kiki’s Delivery Service” that really solidified the deal for me. It was a movie I watched non-stop the summer before starting second grade. I just couldn’t get enough of it.
I think part of the appeal for me initially was the fact that this was a film centered on a teenage witch with a sarcastic talking black cat. Around the same time I watched “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” I would stay up late every Friday night to watch the latest episode of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch;” a sitcom that also is centered on a teenage witch with a sarcastic talking black cat.
But that’s where the similarities between the two stop. As much as I enjoyed watching “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” it was often difficult for me to follow. Sabrina deals with embodying her own powers, while navigating everyday life as a high schooler with difficult teachers, equally as difficult peers, friends, and boys. Being as young as I was at the time, it was a world that I had no familiarity with, and so it was hard to digest.
“Kiki’s Delivery Service” was much easier for me to understand at that age. While she dealt with similar situations, they were never over the top, but more subtle and realistic. Also, Kiki is navigating the real world as a young person, and that was fascinating to see, as someone who wasn’t old enough to leave the house by myself at the time.
“Kiki’s Delivery Service” is one of those films that you’ll love as a kid but will grow to understand at even deeper levels as an adult. Now having long since passed that awkward period of my life known as adolescence, I can see now how Miyazaki aimed to capture many of the feelings and moments one experiences at that age, but in the most extraordinary of circumstances (the circumstances being a teenage witch with her own delivery service). It just goes to show that just because she has the ability to fly around on a broomstick, she’s still 13. She’s going through experiences that many 13-year-olds can relate to.
The subject of trusting your spirit, even when in an environment where you’re the outsider, is the ultimate standout theme of the film, and whether if a viewer is Kiki’s age or mine, I’m sure that they’ll benefit from that reminder when dealing with life in general.
“Kiki’s Delivery Service” will always be a film that I’ll be fond of, and I hope the same can go for others who’ve had the pleasure of growing up with it.