Hi fellow users. So recently, I’ve decided to go back and revisit a bunch of anime movies from Studio Ghibli, which is probably one of my favorite all-time animation studios since I’ve simply found most of their filmography to be fantastic. Likewise, Hayao Miyazaki, who’s directed many of their most famous movies, is probably my all-time favorite movie director. I don’t feel like I’ve talked about this much, but yeah; I’m a huge Studio Ghibli fan. Anyway, because I was doing that, it felt like a good time to see if there are some characters from these movies that deserve PG proposals since I usually find their protagonists to be pretty admirable. While a few of they are already officially approved, which I knew due to previously voting on all of them, there’s indeed at least a couple more that I think could possibly qualify, and this is one of them. I feel like this one could be considered a little subjective, but all the more reason to address them and see what others think.
What’s the work?
Kiki’s Delivery Service is one of Studio Ghibli’s earlier movies that was originally released in 1989, then licensed and dubbed in English by Disney close to a decade later. It’s an adaptation of the novel of the same name from 1985 by Eiko Kadono and was written, produced and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It follows a young witch named Kiki who has just turned 13. In order to complete her training and become a full-fledged witch, she leaves home to live on her own for a year in a different town with her talking black cat Jiji and earn a successful living with whatever skills she has. She soon settles down in a large town near the sea and luckily comes across a nice woman who owns a bakery and lets her stay in a room in her attic. After employing her to make a delivery by flight, which is her primary skill, she becomes inspired enough by her success with that to start up an independent delivery service. While Kiki is a witch, her story is actually a pretty relatable coming-of-age/slice-of-life one that revolves around the trials and tribulations of normal adolescence.
Who is she and what does she do?
Kiki is, of course, the main character of the movie who starts off the film by leaving home to live on her own in a separate town for a year to complete her training and become a full-fledged witch. After searching for a little on her broomstick, she comes across the port town of Koriko and decides to try living there since there aren’t any other witches already situated there and she likes the lively environment. It doesn’t get off to a great start since she nearly gets seriously hurt and almost causes a traffic accident when she flies too close to the road, which gets her reprimanded by a cop. She also initially struggles to find a place to stay. However, much to her luck, as she’s wondering around town, she comes across a kind bakery owner named Osono who’s trying to return a pacifier to a woman with a baby in their carriage that just left her bakery without it. Kiki quickly volunteers to help give it to the woman since she can reach her much faster on her broom, which she does much to Osono’s gratitude. After doing so, she returns to the bakery with a thank you note from the woman, who mistakenly identifies Kiki as her new delivery girl in it. Really liking the idea of that, Osono talks with Kiki in the back when they have some free time and after she explains her situation, Osono decides to let her and Jiji stay in a spare room they have in the attic, much to Kiki’s joy and gratitude. Kiki also quickly decides that opening a delivery service where she delivers goods by broomstick would be a good idea since flying is her only real skill.
For her first delivery, things don’t go particularly well, but we still get a demonstration of how dedicated she is. She’s tasked by a woman with delivering a black cat toy to her nephew for his birthday since she can’t make it in time, but on the way, she loses it when she crashes into the woods thanks to a strong gust of wind. Forced to improvise, she has Jiji pretend to be the toy since he happens to look just like it, and in the meantime, goes back to search the woods for it. Thankfully, she finds it, makes friends with a painter who lives in a cabin out there by herself named Ursula along the way, who repairs the toy in exchange for Kiki helping clean her cabin, and returns with the toy a few hours later, entrusting it to the family dog Jeff while picking up Jiji.
She’s later seen delivering a massive parcel to someone who lives in an apartment, which she handles all by herself despite the fact it’s nearly half her size and extremely heavy. However, the best example of her dedication is when she arrives at an elderly woman named Madame’s house to deliver a herring pie for her granddaughter’s birthday party. When she arrives, Madame confesses she wasn’t even able to bake it due to her electric oven breaking, so she offers to just pay her upfront for her time since she feels like the whole situation’s her own fault. However, Kiki doesn’t feel like she can just take her money, so she personally offers to help make it with a wood-fire oven while doing odd chores around the house, despite running late for a party she was invited to by a local boy named Tombo who’s taken a strong interest in her. When it’s ready, despite getting caught in the rain, she still quickly makes the delivery so the pie won’t get cold, at the expense of getting soaked to the bone since she had no coat or anything else to keep her dry. Unfortunately, the granddaughter is extremely ungrateful for the pie, which causes Kiki to get depressed, as well as sick from getting so wet.
While she gets better pretty quickly thanks to Osono and even ends up bonding with Tombo after doing a delivery to his house and getting to know him better, she still ends up sinking into depression for a combination of reasons, like the previous ungrateful reaction of Madame’s granddaughter and feeling like she doesn’t fit in with Tombo’s friends. In conjunction with this, much to her despair, she begins losing her powers. She can no longer understand Jiji, and on top of that, she finds herself unable to fly, which forces her to suspend her delivery service. However, she partially cheers up after going on an all-day outing with Ursula, who suggests that what she’s going through is akin to writer’s block, and if she finds her own purpose/motivation for flying, she’ll be able to do it again.
Near the end of the film, Kiki goes to visit Madame, who wants to have her do a delivery despite her temporarily suspending it, only to reveal she actually made a cake for her to thank her for all of her previous help from before, with both of them agreeing to do so on other occasions for each other in the future. At the same time, there is a live TV report going on about the planned departure of a dirigible dubbed the “Spirit of Freedom”. However, it goes horribly wrong when a strong seasonal gale dislodges its moors, and despite many people’s attempts to hold it down, it’s blown off-course, with none other than Tombo, who was one of the people on the scene, being left hanging for dear life on one of the vessel’s mooring lines when he gets carried up into the sky with it. Upon seeing this unfold, Kiki hurries to the scene where the airship crashes into and gets caught against the clock tower, with Tombo still holding onto the line for dear life. Kiki quickly borrows a street-sweeper’s broom, and having found a renewed motivation to fly to save someone she knows, she manages to kick off. Despite not being able to completely control the broom and some failed attempts at grabbing his hand, she perseveres and manages to catch him when he loses his grip, saving him from falling to his death. This gains her a massive applause from all of the people, who laud her as a hero, with Jiji even coming back to her, despite her still not being able to understand him. In the epilogue of the movie, she is seen resuming her delivery service by delivering parcels to people again, getting some help from Tombo, becoming closer with him and some of his friends, and writing a letter to her parents to tell them while she still gets homesick sometimes, she is largely doing well now and believes everything will work out.
I wouldn’t say she has any particularly problematic traits. In contrast to how she usually is, she’s initially a little cold and unfriendly towards Tombo. However, this is pretty minor to begin with, and there were several reasons for this; one, he happened to catch her in a particularly bad mood the first time he approached her due to feeling embarrassed over being chastised by a police officer over accidently coming close to causing a traffic accident. Two, he made some unintentionally insensitive remarks to her that didn’t help, like saying she sounded like his grandmother and asking for personal details despite only having just met her. Three, from her perspective, he was being overly friendly for a boy her age that she only just met, so she just didn’t trust him at first. However, even this never goes into blatantly mean or even rude territory, and of course, once she gets to know him, she quickly warms up to him and even saves his life at the end of the movie, so I don’t think there’s anything problematic about this.
Another very nitpicky point is that the police officer who chastised her near the beginning told her to stay put while he attended to something else so he could write her up for what happened, and she decides to run away. However, I think anyone who’s seen the movie can agree that simply telling her off was enough and that actually writing her up was far too harsh considering the circumstances. She only just arrived, and she only came close to causing an accident because she flew a little too close to the road while trying to leave a good impression on the townsfolk, so she was nearly hit by a bus, which caused her broom to go out of control, and if anything, she was the one who almost got seriously hurt. So she was essentially just escaping from being unfairly punished and treated like a criminal for something that was an honest mistake/misunderstanding, not avoiding taking responsibility.
Apart from those small points, Kiki is notable for generally being a very kindhearted, friendly, responsible and caring young girl who’s pretty much nice to everyone she meets including strangers, is especially respectful to elders, bears no real malice to anyone, and has an earnest, sincere drive to help others even when she doesn’t have to, which I’m just about to touch on more in the next section. She messes up sometimes, yes, and can be a little moody in a way that’s typical for girls her age, mostly with Tombo, but she has no particularly negative traits, let alone any real ill will whatsoever; she just wants to be independent, but not in a rebellious way.
Admirable Standard/Goodness Zone
Okay, so the biggest reason Kiki’s inclusion in the category can be debated is that in some other settings, her heroism, namely helping people in a bunch of small ways and saving one person’s life, could reasonably be seen as very generic and/or standard. However, Kiki’s Delivery Service is a very peaceful slice-of-life esque film devoid of any notable, overarching conflicts, so the in-story standard is very low, and the kind of heroism that’s even possible in this kind of movie is rather limited. Therefore, I would argue the lengths Kiki goes to to help her customers and complete her deliveries even when things go unexpectedly wrong, as well as her drive to help others in general, actually stand out a fair bit. In particular, everything about the situation with Madame stands out in a very positive way; she could have easily just accepted being paid in full and walked away with the same amount of money she would have made by actually completing her delivery. Instead, she actively helped her find a different way to bake the herring pie, did chores for her and her housekeeper in the meantime, and determinedly delivered it in a heavy rainstorm at the expense of being soaked to the bone and being late for a party she was invited to and excited to attend, all because she felt it was wrong to just take her money without doing anything for her. In fact, it’s this very drive to help others in need that ends up being her own personal “spark”/motivation that she uses to regain her ability to fly again and save Tombo’s life, which itself, is the pinnacle of heroism in the film. And again, due to the low in-story standard, no one else does or stands out in a positive way as much as her, except maybe Osono.
While I don’t think she’s as strong of a candidate compared to a number of other characters I’ve proposed, I still think she does just enough to qualify. If others feel like she still doesn’t do enough, I’ll respect that, but considering the setting, I feel like her good heart and earnest drive to help others make her stand out in a positive enough way to be worth acknowledging and considering. After all, you don’t always need large-scale acts of heroism like saving the world or even entire cities/communities to qualify; sometimes, just helping your community and making a positive difference on those around you in a more scaled-down, realistic way matters just as much. Thanks for reading!