Anime: Kiki's Delivery Service

Trust us, that's not a sign that the movie is boring.

"It's one of our oldest customs that when a witch turns thirteen she has to leave home for a year to begin her training."

Kiki's Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyubin / 魔女の宅急便) is a Hayao Miyazaki film from Studio Ghibli based rather loosely on an illustrated novel by Eiko Kadono. Kiki is a witch who has just recently turned 13, which means it's time for her to strike out on her own. Heading "south towards the ocean" she soon finds a town that does not yet have a resident witch of their own and tries to establish herself, only to be lost in the sights and wonders the big city has to offer. As she tries to cope with city life it's pretty clear that her witch powers still need some fine tuning. She quickly befriends a baker who temporarily employs her to make a delivery, which Kiki makes using the only power she has — flight, via broom. Inspired by her initial success, she establishes an independent delivery service in the attic of the baker's shop. As time goes on and her business gains success, she continues to refine her magical skills and befriends a young boy from a local aviation enthusiasts' club. Despite the magical setting, however, Kiki's real adventures mainly revolve around the trials and tribulations of a normal adolescence.

The setting of Kiki's Delivery Service is intentionally ill-defined, a Europe where WWII apparently never happened that was inspired by Napoli, Lisbon, Stockholm and Paris. A very laid-back, Slice of Life animated movie, it nonetheless is thoroughly enjoyable and gorgeously executed — and unlike many Slice of Life works, actually manages to have an exciting, action-packed climax at the end. It also depicts more people laughing out of sheer delight than any other film of recent memory.

This was Disney's first effort at localization, nearly 9 years after the movie first came out. They produced a dub with some celebrity voices (including Kirsten Dunst and Phil Hartman in his last voice acting role evernote ), with additional pieces of music (mostly piano solos, as provided by Paul Chihara). The opening and ending theme songs — two iconic Japanese pop songs from the 1960s — were also replaced for the dub with two "American pop"-style songs by Sydney Forest. This release of the film sold over a million copies on VHS and a later bilingual DVD was met with similar success, cementing the film's popularity in the U.S. A 2010 re-release of the film removed much of the ad-libbed Phil Hartman dialog (in particular, a controversial line added to the end of the film) and also reverted the musical track to the Japanese songs and music.

Another little-known fact is the alternate dub produced by Carl Macek and commissioned by Japan Airlines for in-flight entertainment. Unlike Macek's similar dub of Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro the Streamline Pictures version was never licensed for official release in the North American market.

A live-action film began filming in May 2013, with actress Fuka Koshiba making her film debut as the title character.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The book is episodic with each chapter recounting a separate adventure for Kiki. Ghibli compiled an entirely new plot for the movie by plucking details from here and there throughout the book and reassembling them into a new story. For example, in the book Kiki doesn't meet Tombo until after her rescue flight on the borrowed broom, and the person she rescues is a drowning child at the beach.
  • Adorkable: Tombo.
  • All Witches Have Cats: All witches have a cat as a guide and mentor. Kiki's personal cat is the usual black variety.
  • All There in the Manual: Some things from the book—like why there are bells in the trees around Kiki's house—are never explained in the film.note  The name of the town Kiki settles in, Koriko, is never mentioned in the film itself.
  • Alpha Bitch/Spoiled Brat: Two of them, both with very brief screentime. The first one is a snobby older witch Kiki encounters while flying, and the other is Ketto, the rich granddaughter of Madame (who shows up in the credits sequence as a friend of Kiki and Tombo, so she presumably got better.)
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The English version uses Soaring and I'm Gonna Fly by Sydney Forest for the opening and ending themes.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: In the beginning on the movie one of Kiki's friends mentions discos, so it would seem the movie takes place in the 1970s or later, but most of the technology we see looks like it's from the 1950s or earlier.
  • Animal Jingoism: At first, Jiji is scared of the dog Jeff, but later on comes to like him.
  • Animal Talk: Jiji can talk to Kiki, but also to other cats, and birds.
  • Artistic License – Biology: In one scene, Jiji is shown sweating. (Although cats do have sweat glands, they're mostly in the pads on their feet.)
  • Author Appeal: Flying sequences, precipitous heights, the beautiful but thoroughly anachronistic Handley Page biplane airliner.
  • Babies Ever After: The ending of the film shows that Osono and her husband finally had their baby. And Jiji and Lilly (AKA "Miss Snooty Cat") have kittens.
  • Be Yourself: The central message of the film.
  • Big Damn Heroes: A particularly spectacular shot at the climactic event shows Kiki flying to the rescue in a blur, superhero-style.
  • Blush Sticker: Kiki has them throughout the film.
  • Bookends: The story begins and ends with a scene in Kiki's parents' kitchen.
  • Bowdlerise: Kiki's frustrated "I'll chop you to bits" got turned into "be a good broom."
    • TV airings often omit Jiji's jocular speculation that Kiki will model naked for a painting.
  • Bumbling Dad: Kiki's father is a lovable version.
  • Captain Crash: Kiki's piloting leaves something to desire when she first leaves home (see Cute Clumsy Girl). By the end of the film, she's become an expert flyer.
  • Carload of Cool Kids: This happens twice:
    • When Kiki first arrives in her new town, she encounters a rowdy group of kids filling a convertible. It is so full that there are kids on the rear deck, and hanging off the back. This is the first time she meets Tombo.
    • Later on, while Kiki and Tombo are together, Tombo is asked to come along with a smaller group of kids in what appears to be the same convertible. Much to Kiki's chagrin, there's a snobbish girl she once delivered to in the car. The kids in the car are not particularly mean, and actually speak neutrally about Kiki, but her self-consciousness makes her feel like she's a Third Wheel. She leaves to preserve her dignity.
  • Cats Are Snarkers: Jiji.
  • Cats Hate Water
  • Chekhov's News: There's a running news item involving a dirigible. At the climax, it runs into trouble and Kiki must rescue Tombo, who's desperately hanging from a rope on it.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: The entire plot of the film, mirrored in Kiki's daily life and especially her struggle to regain her powers after she loses them.
  • Creator Cameo: Miyazaki himself appears as an extra in the crowd near the end of the film, in the scene where the man who lent Kiki his broom points her out on TV. Because he's in the extreme top right corner, full-frame cropped releases have him chopped out.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Kiki, when it comes to flying.
  • Cute Witch: A rather mild version of it (though Kiki's still cute).
  • Daddy's Girl: Kiki, although she also takes after her mother.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jiji. Kiki can occasionally shoot back, too.
  • Death Glare: When Kiki first meets Tombo and finds him annoying. Later on, she and he become good friends.
  • Determinator: Kiki, especially in the climax of the film. She gets a borrowed broom to lift off simply by focusing hard and telling it to fly.
  • Diegetic Switch: The opening credits are underscored with a pop song that is kicked off by Jiji switching the radio on while Kiki rides her broom. As the credits finish, we switch to a diegetic version of that song playing on Kiki's radio.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Tombo, who combines this with Extraverted Nerd. It takes a while, but eventually Kiki warms up to him.
  • Don't Think, Feel.: The advice Ursula gives Kiki, which allows her to save the day at the end.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Or in Kiki's case, flies like crazy. (She gets better.)
  • Dub Induced Plothole: Because Disney thought it was inappropriate for children to drink coffee, the old Streamline dub altered references from "coffee" to "hot cocoa". This creates a strange scene in which Kiki is asked about putting sugar in her cocoa. This is retained by the Disney subtitled version, which used the Streamline script (see the next trope), creating a sub-induced plothole as well. However, anyone who grew up before the invention of instant cocoa won't find it so strange.
  • Dubtitle: Before Disney came into the picture, there was a Streamline dub produced by Carl Macek for use on Japan Airlines. When Disney started localizing the movie for wide release, Ghibli actually gave them a copy of the script from the Streamline dub and they used it unaltered. A strange case where the dubtitles are from a completely different dub.
  • Extraverted Nerd: Tombo.
  • Fantastic Racism: Completely absent in the movie, but in the book there was a lot of enmity towards witches in the past, though in the present the attitude is considerably more positive (although her mother still reminds Kiki to be very careful how she behaves, so there seem to be still some resentment left).
  • Fireman's Safety Net: At the big climatic rescue, the attending firefighters rush one under Kiki and Tombo so the kids can land safely.
  • Flying Broomstick: Played with in several ways. It isn't that the broomstick is magical, the witch's power gives it the ability. If a witch loses confidence in herself, she could lose her magic and thus the ability to fly. She can also use brooms not made by herself or other witches, but those brooms seem more temperamental and harder to control.
  • Flying Postman: Titular.
  • Foreign-Looking Font: All of the signage in Koriko is in a Germanic-looking font that resembles blackletter, complete with tons of umlauts. It's not a real language, but the town is based on Stockholm, Swedennote .
  • Free-Range Children: It's a Studio Ghibli film, so of course.
    • In this world, it's totally normal for a witch to entirely leave home and move to a new city at the age of 13. In fact, it's expected. But it seems to be a pretty safe world, so apparently this isn't a big risk for the girl.
      • On the other hand, there are many instances where townspeople express surprise that Kiki is on her own.
    • Within the town, it seems that a lot of kids can ride or bike around. Given the timeframe it was set in, it actually makes a bit of sense as to why there are kids walking around.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • All the double-decker buses in the film belong to the Ghibli Bus Company.
    • Similarly, the box of pancake batter on Kiki's table says "Jiburi no Hot Keki".
  • Ghibli Hills: For obvious reasons.
  • A Girl And Her Cat: Kiki and Jiji.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Kiki loses her magic for a while (including the ability to talk to Jiji), as a part of growing up. While she eventually regains her powers of flight, she no longer can speak to Jiji, though as she has human friends now, she no longer needs Jiji in the same way anymore.note 
  • Hair Decorations: The preposterously large bow Kiki wears.
  • The Hecate Sisters: Kiki in her new life befriends and learns from a young artist, a mother-to-be, and an elderly lady. Given that Miyazaki studied enough Greek mythology to name a prior heroine Nausicaa, this is probably intentional (even though the trope does not occur in actual, genuine Greek myths, only in modern interpretations of them.)
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Or broom, since Kiki didn't have one handy.
  • I Am Not Pretty: Kiki says this when Ursula wants her to model for a painting. Ursula convinces her that it's not true, and Kiki agrees to do it.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: Averted through most of the film. It's the attention to detail, of things which don't matter but simply add realism, that elevates this past normal animation into a lifelike picture.
  • Lying on a Hillside: The film opens with a scene where Kiki is lying on the grass outside.
  • Letterbox: Disney released two widescreen VHSes of this movie (one in 1998 with Japanese audio and English dubtitles, and one in 2003 with English audio), even though they rarely released widescreen videotapes of their own movies.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Justified. Witches may wear only black once they start their training.
    • Somewhat confusingly, the Japanese word for "black" also covers certain shades of dark purple, which is the actual color of Kiki's dress. In the original Japanese, Kiki comments that her dress is the same color as her cat. The line was changed for the Disney English release.
  • Lost in Translation: In the original Japanese language track some of the broadcasts Kiki listens to on her little red radio are in English.
  • Lull Destruction: In the dubs. Some feel it's alright.
  • Magic Skirt: Completely averted. Kiki gets tons of Bloomer Shots because apparently that's all she's wearing underneath that giant witch dress. Also, when arriving at Tombo's place, Kiki is involuntarily going through a soft version of the Marilyn Maneuver.
  • Moral Guardians: Concerned Women for America boycotted the movie during its 1998 US debut because the protagonist is a witch and witchcraft is evil, ignoring that it's a lighthearted family film about a young girl finding her way in life.
  • Motorcycle on the Coast Road: A propeller-powered bicycle, actually.
  • Mundane Fantastic: Par to the course of a Miyazaki film, witches are an accepted (if rare) part of society, and no one finds the idea of a witch delivering their packages strange.
  • Mundane Utility: The basis of Kiki's entire business plan. At one point she remarks to Tombo that she's never been on a bicycle.
  • Nerd Glasses: Okino and Tombo.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Jiji.
  • No Antagonist: The film has no active antagonist - the source of conflict is Kiki's inner struggles with growing up.
  • Older Than They Look: Jiji is a pretty spry and young-looking, but according to the book, he's the same age as Kiki, making him 13 years old- quite an advanced age for a cat!
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Tombo.
  • Plucky Girl: Kiki's a poster child for this trope. She's a Miyazaki heroine, after all.
  • Psychosomatic Superpower Outage: The crux of the film's conflict revolves around Kiki losing her witch powers. If she can't fly her broom, what's she to do?
  • Rule of Three: An added line from the '98 English release, when Kiki almost crashes her broom into a train:
    Jiji: All right, first: don't panic! Second: don't panic! And third: did I mention not to panic?
  • Scenery Porn: Wouldn't be Miyazaki without it.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: At the hotel, the man behind the desk asks Kiki for identification after the latter says she is a witch. Kiki leaves immediately after.
  • She's Got Legs: When Ursula's friend gives a lift to her and Kiki, he jokes that he almost mistook her for a boy based on her outfit. She replies that boys don't have legs like hers.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The TV announcer shouts "Oh, the Humanity" during the dirigible crash in both English Dubs, a reference to the Hindenburg disaster.
    • At one point, an animal that looks like Totoro from My Neighbor Totoro can be seen on TV.
    • The police officer who scolds Kiki for flying in the middle of the street is subtle, referencing Miyazaki's work on Lupin III by having Lupin's face and build.
  • Shrinking Violet: Kiki, when she believes that Tombo's friends don't like her. (it's also attributed to one of the girl's snobbish attitude toward her grandmother). Later on, she grows out of it.
  • Slice of Life: Both the movie and the novel, especially the latter.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Tombo comes across this way to Kiki initially, so she avoids him as much as possible. She later realizes that she has misjudged him and becomes his friend.
  • Standard Snippet: An excerpt from "In the Hall of the Mountain King" plays during the bird chase.
  • Tactful Translation: In the Disney dub, when Kiki asks Jiji what the birds are saying about her after crashing into their nest, combined with You Do NOT Want to Know.
  • Take a Third Option: When Kiki arrives at Madame's house and her casserole isn't ready because her oven doesn't work. She offers to just pay Kiki for her trouble, but Kiki has the idea of using the woodstove to bake it, and delivers it on time.
  • Take My Hand: When Kiki rescues Tombo from the Zeppelin, combined with Catch a Falling Star.
  • Talking Animal: Jiji.
  • Thunder Equals Downpour: After Kiki's meeting with the snobby older witch on her broom, we hear thunder rolling and immediate does rain set in.
  • Title Drop: The sign outside the bakery that's put up to advertise Kiki's delivery service.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The American trailer showed the climax of the movie wherein Kiki saves Tombo after getting her powers back. But it's a Slice of Life, so is it really a spoiler?
  • Tsundere: Kiki is type B. She only seems to lapse into Tsuntsun mode when Tombo is pestering her, yet when he invites her to a party, she instantly wants to go. Jiji lampshades this mood swing ("I thought you didn't like him!")
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Yes, in a kid's film. Kiki keeps things down the front of her dress while flying her broom.
  • The Voiceless: Osono's husband, the baker. The one line he has is to note the blimp outside.
  • We Need a Distraction: Tombo rescuing Kiki from the traffic cop.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The ending credits show what happened with Tombo's aviator's club, Jiji and Lily, etc. in the immediate aftermath of the film. The final image is of Kiki's parents reading a letter from her.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The movie takes place in an unnamed city that's clearly European, and a lot of the architecture is based on real locations in Stockholm, but it has signs in German, French, and a weird made-up language, and several of the inhabitants have Japanese names.
  • Witch Species: Witchcraft appears to be inherited through the maternal line, and while it's normal for each town or city to have a resident witch, it's not universal. People in Koriko are surprised to see Kiki when she arrives.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: As Kiki swoops into the main setting.
  • You Do NOT Want to Know: When Kiki and Jiji are being attacked by a murder of crows.
    Jiji: They're calling you an egg stealer and you don't wanna know what else!

Alternative Title(s):

Kikis Delivery Service