Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) IMDb

Creators

Miyazaki Hayao (writer-director).

Categorization

Coming of age, fantasy. Miyazaki.

Subject

An alternate Europe where the World Wars seem not to have happened. A witch is going to spend a traditional year away from her friends and parents because she's recently turned thirteen. She finds a town by the ocean, but the people there aren't very friendly, and she doesn't have any special skills. The girl begins to worry about her appearance and starts to have mood swings. A pragmatic artist helps her deal with it.

Commentary

Miyazaki shows his traditionalism here: Kiki goes out of her way to follow an outdated custom, despite her age. With Kondou's character design, that thing in her hair makes her look like a moekko stereotype, and the choice of showing her black hair as black but her black dress as purple is a poor one. Really weird linguistics, mixing alphabets and spoken languages in the same way it mixes architectural styles. Why is the radio chatter American?

Viewed as a fantasy, this is a failure in a few important ways. It posits that some traditional European notions of witchcraft are effective. For example, witches fly on their brooms, a traditional woman's tool used for unpaid work in real life and to imitate a phallus in the myths. There is no attempt here to undermine the sexism of the symbol. The effects of magic also include a familiar, doubling as a Disneyesque funny animal sidekick. Despite the obvious effectiveness of magic, society looks much as it does in real life. The result is a creeping sense of internal inconsistency, albeit mild compared to the similarly written Someday's Dreamers (2003).

Taken as a whole, the writing shows an unfortunate tendency toward wish fulfillment, where the makers simply ignore resulting problems. This is perhaps most apparent in the concept of a world where the great wars never occurred. That is not commented, as if they could not occur. It reads like whimsical “magical realism” and denial of human nature, which in itself is internally inconsistent with the things I like about the movie, such as the heroine getting knocked out by a common cold for a day. The story is based on a book. I presume Miyazaki just didn't have the power or the courage to depart from it into his usual, more mature mode of fantasy.

References here: “Don't mention the war!”, Ghibli movie titles, “On Your Mark” (1995), Spirited Away (2001), Howl's Moving Castle (2004).

Ghibli Japanese production animation movie