Headscratchers: Kiki's Delivery Service

  • It always struck me as completely nonsensical that Kiki regains her ability to fly but not to talk to her own familiar. I get that they were trying to insert a Growing Up Sucks thing into it, but it just strikes me as inconsistent/violating the rules of their own setting.
    • Furthermore, this idea that witches-in-training need to be able to talk to their familiar, but full witches don't is a bit odd. Furthermore, if it's common that witches cease to understand their familiar when they get powerful enough, why is Kiki shocked that this has happened? Surely her mother explained the major steps in this process before Kiki left!
      • I never gathered that Kiki completely lost her ability to talk to Jiji. When he jumps on her shoulder at the very end of the movie, it's obvious Phil Hartman does the 'me-YOW!', where when she couldn't understand Jiji before he sounded like a real cat and made cat mewls. I saw it as Jiji able to understand and talk to her, but he was just making a joke that time, and we just didn't get to hear from him again after that.
      • ^Agreed.
      • In the dub, Phil Hartman also had Jiji say "Kiki, can you hear me?" before he jumps on her shoulder and meows. In the Japanese version, it was just another regular "meow" but they decided to change that for the dub probably because it made more sense and because the whole losing her ability to communicate with her cat wasn't in the original book to begin with.
      • In-universe logic is secondary to storytelling in Hayao Miyazaki movies. In this case, Miyazaki is delivering An Aesop about how in order to grow up, you have to leave behind the familiar things of your childhood. So the radio stops speaking Japanese, Kiki loses her mom's broom, and she can't understand Jiji anymore. Jiji represents Kiki's childish self, so her inability to understand him after regaining her flying powers is symbolic of her having grown up. I think the 1998 Disney dub restored Kiki's ability to understand Jiji in order to give American kids a happier ending.
      • It's not even an in universe inconsistency if you think about it. We never see adults talking to cats, so who's to say that witches don't lose their ability to talk to cats when they grow up? In response to the second troper: it's common for girls to go through menstruation and still be shocked. Losing the ability to speak to a close friend is a pretty hard thing whether you knew it was coming or not.
      • How many different English dubs ARE there? In my original VHS of the movie, it was always Phil Hartman making the meows, even when they couldn't communicate. Now I have the special edition DVD and not only does Jiji sound like a regular cat AFTER she gets her powers back, but they also cut out a lot of his Deadpan Snarker lines. SO CONFUSING.
      • There are three. Streamline did a dub not long after the movie came out. This script was used for the subtitles on the Disney releases. Disney re-dubbed it in 1998 for a DVD release, with some new music and lots of extra dialog from Jiji. This dub was then edited to be closer to the Japanese original for the 2010 rerelease.
      • At the end of the story, can Kiki still understand Jiji? Original book: Yes (she never loses this in the first place.) Miyazaki's script: No. Streamline dub: No. Disney 1998: Yes. Disney 2010: No. Can this get more confusing? NO!
      • So Disney, in making a change to the dub, actually brought the movie closer to the source material?
      • Miyazaki's statements aside, the mere fact that Jiji doesn't talk to Kiki in the final scene isn't proof that he can't. In fact, Jiji never talks to Kiki when others are present - only when they are alone.
      • One of the things that makes this so confusing is Kiki's response when she loses her powers. When she first discovers that she can't talk to Jiji, Kiki's first reaction (apart from shock) is to hop on her broom and check if that's not working either. So apparently the talking-to-Jiji magic is basically the same stuff as the flying-on-broomsticks magic, and if you lose one you can expect to lose the other. Sure enough, Kiki discovers that her flight magic is very weak. So at the end of the film, when she gets her flight magic back, you'd logically expect that she gets her talking-to-Jiji magic back too. But in some versions of the film, Jiji doesn't talk at the end. So what gives? Are there two separate ways for a witch to lose her familiar-communication powers? (The first being a general loss of magic, and the second being personal maturity?)
      • A prior troper referenced a Word of God statement by Miyazaki, where he apparently claimed that Kiki can't talk to Jiji anymore because she's growing up. (It's symbolic of emotional maturity or something.) But if Miyazaki ever did say that, then this is a Flip Flop of God. In the documentary "The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness" (filmed in 2013), a staffer asks Miyazaki why Jiji doesn't speak at the end. Miyazaki doesn't say anything about magic or maturity or symbolism. Instead, he just responds that Jiji had nothing particular to say at the moment, and that people don't always need to talk to each other. Depending on your viewpoint, this either clears everything up or else it just adds to the pile of confusion. (The fact that a Ghibli staffer asked the question shows that this has been a long-running mystery for many.)
    • He's talking to the cameras.
    • My understanding of the final scene is that Jiji not talking isn't because Kiki has changed, but because he has. While living in the town, he's grown up to be more like a regular cat, and now he has a mate and kids on the way. So his role is not that of a witch's familiar anymore, he's become a cat of his own, and he starts acting like cats normally do. Cats are independent creatures, and while he will still remain friends with Kiki, now that she can't talk to him, Kiki can't order him around anymore, like she did in the beginning of the movie when she made Jiji pretend to be a toy cat. So in a way you could say their friendship has matured to a point where Kiki has to treat him like he really is, a cat, not an underling.
  • That's not even close to the sound Canada Geese make. Doesn't ruin the scene by any means, but, It Just Bugs Me!.
  • Why do so many people randomly wink at Jiji for no reason? Asano, Asano's husband, Ursula. Is this some weird in-joke?
    • Maybe they're just showing awareness that he's sentient, as opposed to a regular cat?
  • Is there an actual reason Kiki is so mean to Tombo at first? I don't really see him doing much that warrants her being so rude.
    • At that point, Kiki had just had the run-in with the traffic cop. She's scared that she'll screw up her training and she'll have to go home or something. She's also embarrassed. But she's too disoriented to communicate any of that directly, so she just gets mad instead. Some people do that. Kiki makes a similar mistake when Tombo invites her to come along with his friends in the car (just after the bicycle scene). She feels awkward around these other people, but rather than just saying so she simply walks away without explanation. She's not very good at communicating negative feelings.
    • Also, Kiki's from a rural village and may genuinely be slightly shocked that a boy would speak to her without an introduction.
    • Kiki tells him that he's offended her, and instead of apologising, he insults her - calling her old-fashioned. She asks him to leave her alone - he keeps following her until she actually physically escapes. He's a nice boy, but he needs to think about others' feelings instead of just charging in and doing whatever he wants.
    • That's probably just a coverup. To me it's not so much that she's insulted or offended by Tombo or even dislikes him as much as, mentioned above, she's really just embarrassed that she's made a fool of herself by trying to make a good "impression" on the public. That and she was ignored by passersby and, yes, had the incident with the cop. So I think she was just frustrated. Yeah, I do think it also has something to do with her not being used to being in the city where people sometimes try to be friendly without knowing one's name, but mostly she's just embarrassed and doesn't want to talk about it. And so she misunderstands Tombo because of all that. It's nothing to really do with him, it's just her own humiliation from the incident in the street that she's really annoyed about and she unfairly blames him for that. It's only after she gets to know him does she acknowledge that she was wrong about him.
  • The thing that made no sense to me is that Kiki never discovers any special skill. We learn early on that all witches can fly on brooms and that she needs to discover her magical talent and use it in their new town. For instance her mother is an herbalist and the witch she runs into is a fortune teller. Does anyone else think that we should've seen some hints of what she can do besides riding a broom, and not very well?
    • Keep in mind, Kiki only just started her training. She spent most of the movie getting settle into the town, finding a job, and coming to terms with everything. She probably would go on to figure out her magical talent after things settled.
    • This drifts into Wild Mass Guessing territory, but it seems to me that Kiki's world is a setting where the magic is slowly going away due to whatever reason (lack of faith, witches marrying mundanes for lack of wizards, the rise of technology replacing the need for magic, etc.). Kiki's mother might be able to make potions, but she's not very good at it, as she causes them to explode at the slightest emotional disturbance. The fact that Kiki herself seems to have no explicit talent besides flight and a cat familiar (with whom she loses the ability to communicate, even!) might be a portent that in one more generation, there'll be no more magic at all.
      • By what standard are you judging Kiki's mom? Sure, the potion explodes, but then she fixes it with ease.
    • They're expected to learn magic in their daily life.
    • I figured her special skill was flying expertise - sure, all witches can fly, but Kiki runs a flying courier business, is the darling of the aviation club, performs an airborne rescue from an airship... that's some extraordinary specialisation!
    • Hard to speculate on Miyazaki's intention, but "sometimes you don't have an extraordinary talent, just ordinary ones: and those are enough" is a possible lesson from the film. The majority of people aren't The Chosen One and have to come to terms with that fact.
  • Maybe this was just me not paying attention, but it never was clear to me: is Kiki able to go back home to continue learning (since her mother makes a point saying Kiki has a lot to learn, as can be expected from a young witch of 13) after the one-year-training or is she obligated to remain in her city/town of choice? Yeah we see that aloof (I didn't really find her that snobbish or similar, though I did watch the Japanese version so the dubs can be different) witch going home who says her thing is fortunetelling, but what if the young witch in training discovers a talent she KNOWS her mother doesn't have? Especially since though not all cities have a resident witch, it is implied those that DO only have ONE full-on trained witch?
    • In the dub, Jiji's exact line when they first explore the city is "But there may be some witches living here already." He says "witches", in the plural. (In the original Japanese, it's probably ambiguous, because the language doesn't have plural nouns.) So apparently it is possible to have more than one witch in a single city. And there's no mention of different rules for "witches whose talent matches their mother's talent" vs. witches who are more unique. I'm pretty sure the rule is that you have to stay away for a year, and after that you can choose for yourself where you want to live. You can stay where you are, or go home, or even find a new town entirely. And even the "stay away for one year" rule is more of a guideline; Kiki's dad mentions that she can actually come home whenever she wants to. (Though Kiki says that would make her a "failure".)