Thursday, April 6, 2017

Kiki's Delivery Service

As a child, I remember feeling vaguely uneasy that there weren’t many adventure movies starring young girls. Every film protagonist was a boy. So when I first watched the movie, Kiki’s Delivery Service, with featured a female protagonist, I was thrilled. Kiki quickly became my favorite character, and I was determined to be just like her. In fact, Kiki’s Delivery Service is still my ultimate comfort movie. I insist on watching it whenever I am sick, which happens frequently since I work with toddlers.

Like nearly all of Hayao Miyazaki's movies, Kiki’s Delivery Service centers around the bravery of a young girl. The movie opens with Kiki laying in a field listening to a radio. When the radio announces that it is going to be a clear night, Kiki races home to let her parents know she is going to be leaving for her training year that very night, as opposed to next month. We discover that Kiki is a witch just like her mom, and it is a tradition among witches to leave their homes at the age of thirteen to work on their skills in a new city for a year. How’s that for bravery? Kiki is leaving the safety of her hometown at 13, which is something few people ever do.

So with her broom, a bit of money, and her talking, black cat familiar, Jiji, she whooshes off into the night on her broom (flying is a common theme in Miyazaki films) in search of a seaside city and adventure. When Kiki arrives in her new city she takes up residence in the attic of a kind and pregnant bakery owner, Osono. Osono is the first older woman who we meet that will make up Kiki’s support system. Others include Ursula, an artist who lives in the woods and befriends crows, and a gentle, elderly woman named Madame. This film really put an emphasis on female friendships, as Kiki faces the struggles of coming-of-age and adulthood. Kiki struggles financially (she can only afford to eat pancakes every meal) until Osono helps her start her own flying delivery service. She also experiences the typical inner struggles of a teenager. She feels like she doesn't belong and views herself as an outsider. But no matter what struggles Kiki faces, she always uses her creativity and intelligence to find her way to the other side.

There is a romance in the movie, but the relationship between Kiki and Tombo, a very enthusiastic but respectful boy Kiki meets, never overwhelms the plot or takes away from Kiki’s other relationships. Kiki is never the damsel in distress. Her main challenge arises from not believing in herself.

In the second half of the movie Kiki’s main conflict arises as an internal conflict. She doesn’t have confidence in herself, so she loses her magical powers. She can no longer fly or talk to her cat and close friend, Jiji. When Kiki sees Tombo on the news in a perilous situation, Kiki races to the scene to save him using her special skill, flying. Kiki rekindles her self-confidence to save not only Tombo, but herself. 

The themes of bravery, friendship, self-reliance, and independence that drive Kiki's Delivery Service are universal themes that all children should be exposed to. I wholeheartedly recommend this movie to children of all ages.

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