Kiki's Delivery Service


Directed by Hiyao Miyazaki
A Film by Studio Ghibli

A Masterpiece by the Greatest Animation Director

Hiyao Miyazaki is a director of animated movies, and he lives in Japan. However, calling his movies Anime threatens to miscategorize them, since his forte is not the graphically dense science ficiton of his peers. His deceptively simply-drawn characters, consistent use of young girl protagonists, and intrinsic rather than affected use of humor make his movies a category apart from those of modern Anime.

But more than that, Miyazaki's movies are masterful stories. His characters are moving through a world they only partially understand, and we are taken with them every step of the way. While all of Miyazaki's movies are worthwhile (see full list below), Kiki's Delivery Service is the standout.

Kiki is a thirteen-year-old witch in the mythical pseudo-Europe where many of Miyazaki's films are set. Witches in this world must leave home at that age, to find their own way in the world. Sadly leaving her family, Kiki hops on her broom and flies off for an adventure.

Miyazaki loves flight, and Kiki's Delivery Service gave him a perfect opportunity to explore it. Without a crude motor or wings, witches aloft can enjoy flight at their own pace. The movie's sequences of Kiki in mid-sky enchant the audience with their pacific splendor, the rustle of robes, and conversation with fellow witchly travelers.

Upon arriving in a city, apparently in the mid-1930s, Kiki attempts to see how she can get by. Eventually, with the help of a friendly couple at a bakery, she decides to deliver packages via broom, a logical melding of skills (the Japanese title of the film, Majo no Takkyubin, literally means "Witch's Delivery Service."). Along the way, she makes a few mistakes, fascinates the neighborhood flight geek, a big-eyed boy named Tombo, and learns what it means to be on her own.

One of the things that truly sets Kiki's Delivery Service apart from other movies is that there is no antagonist; Kiki struggles to find her place in the world, not to overcome any other person. The fact that there's plenty of challenge and interest in watching that struggle is what makes this my favorite of Miyazaki's cinematic achievements.

The Films of Hiyao Miyazaki

Below is a list of the movie-length works directed by Hiyao Miyazaki; all of them are fantastic films. See this website for more information.

Castle of Cagliostro
This film was the only movie Miyazaki directed before forming Studio Ghibli. It features great chase sequences using the Monkey Punch character of Lupin III.
Miyazaki's first epic, with a pretty blatant environmental message, shows off the creature imagination that will apply throughout his films.
My Neighbor Totoro
An absolutely charming film about nativist spirits in the Japanese countryside, and the perfect introduction to Miyazaki films for children.
Kiki's Delivery Service
Porco Rosso
Porco is a master pilot fighting sky pirates in the Adriatic. Another homage to Miyazaki's love of flight.
Princess Mononoke
Miyazaki revisits much of the same ground as Nausicaa but with a more nuanced look at the motivations of all characters. Set in the muromachi ("warring states") period of Japan's history, this was the first Miyazaki film to receive a loving English dub courtesy of Pixar Animation Studios. Pixar's creative leader John Lasseter has repeatedley cited Miyazaki as his favorite animated film director.
Spirited Away
A young girl finds a truly fantastically spirit realm on a family trip. A tour de force of imaginative character creation.
Howl's Moving Castle
An old woman, a young girl, and the mysterious owner of a sentient moving castle seek to frustrate the plans of the powerful.