Kiki's Delivery Service

Kiki's Delivery Service ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Kiki's Delivery Service is Hayao Miyazaki's magnum opus, the best animated film ever made, and it might just be my favorite movie of all time. It's a gorgeous and personal slice-of-life story about a teenage witch migrating to a new town and making a living out of her talent. Although simple and minimalist in plot, the movie excels in fleshing out the titular character as much as possible. It's also thematically dense, dealing with ideas such as vocation, depression, existential crisis, loneliness, friendship, independence, belonging, and self-discovery, which ends up as a therapeutic and heartwarming experience, especially for those involved in any sort of artistry, such as myself.

For starters, Kiki is passionate about flying, but she's also not confident in herself due to her not being flawless at it. She stumbles a bit while flying, isn't perfectly-coordinated, and hasn't learned how to gain complete control over her broom. As a result, she starts to feel a little disinterested in this endeavor and sees it more as work than personally fulfilling. That's the somewhat harsh truth about monetizing your passions, it makes for great work, but it's still work and work isn't always satisfying. This heavily connects to my own experiences with filmmaking and screenwriting, but I'll give the first specific example of this occurring. During the year I turned 15, I made three short films: one for the high school film club, one done mostly by myself, and one made as a long-term English project. None of them turned out well. For the first film, I collaborated with someone else and ended up having a disastrous occurrence of creative differences. I was under the impression that we were working on it together, but I learned that none of my artistic input actually mattered to them. To put it honestly, my partner only cared about my filmmaking gear and I ended up reluctantly working on that film out of some weird sense of obligation I had even though the process was dissatisfying and unfair to me (sorry if I sound so whiny here, but trust me, this matters in the context of the entire story).

After working on that first film, I almost decided that I didn't want to do filmmaking anymore. Thankfully, my love for cinema overcame that nonsensical part of my brain, so I opted to make another short film by myself before getting back to collaborating with others. Unfortunately, it didn't come together the way I wanted. My dialogue writing skills were severely subpar (they still are lmao), and overall, the film just didn't feel like it had much soul or vision. I merely dealt with being disappointed in myself and my efforts, and then I moved on. Later, I focused on the short film for English class. Although my teacher adored it and gave me an A, I hated the movie and immediately deleted it from my hard drive.

I had three failures in a row and started to realize that I had unrealistic expectations for my artistic process. Similar to Kiki's situation, these roadblocks caused me to become a bit disenchanted with film, but I hadn't completely lost my enthusiasm for it. I'd watch great movies to remind myself of why I love movies.

Moving back to Kiki's predicament for now, she's also lonely and yearns to connect with other people. She becomes friends with Tombo, but she mostly just interacts with adults rather than befriending individuals of her own age. When she does get closer to Tombo, his other friends immediately emerge and she ends up pushing him away out of anxiety. This behavior is and has been super relevant to my life; I've always had trouble making friends and establishing connections with other people. There are times where I end up distancing myself from my friends even though I love them so much because like Kiki, I have a hard time finding my own sense of belonging in the world.

So, Kiki's dissatisfaction with her vocation and her loneliness begin to eat away at her, resulting in her falling into a depression, which in turn causes her to lose her witch powers. The loss of her magical abilities devastates Kiki and she starts having an existential crisis, saying to herself, "If I lose my powers, then I've lost absolutely everything." Like I've said before, this entire movie is relatable for me in general, but to illustrate how hard it hits, I'm gonna revert to the story about 15 year-old me.

Although I began to feel a little bit more confident about film, I realized that something else was also bothering me. It was summer at the time, and I hadn't really been talking to my best friend too much besides texting. I didn't really put any effort into making plans with her, so I felt consumed by loneliness. I'd try to distract myself with movies and by writing scripts, but nothing could fix that I was in despondency because of isolation and uncertainty about my vocation. One day, I woke up and life was suddenly very different. I felt no connection to film, the art that had previously been so prominent and important in my life. I had no enthusiasm and my life felt directionless and insignificant. I'd enjoy movies, but I didn't love or care for them in the manner I used to. In a way, I lost my powers, so I started having an existential crisis like Kiki's.

However, Kiki regained her inspiration and her desire to fly. After discussing her issue with Ursula, Kiki decided to take time off of her flying delivery service and put her attention towards helping out in the bakery. While visiting a previous customer who has baked her a cake, Kiki watches the dirigible on TV and sees that Tombo has been caught in an accident. Hoping to help her friend, Kiki asks a pedestrian on the street for his broom. Even though it's obvious she'll reclaim her magical powers, this moment is so profound and emotionally powerful because it's when we realize the deeper motivation behind Kiki's keenness for flying. Throughout the entire film, Kiki has used her flying power to help others, mostly through her operating her courier service. In short, Kiki is her own witch because she has an innate need to help others. The moment of Kiki sitting on the broom like she's about to fly tests this and proves that her aspiration to help others is why she is a flyer.

Returning to the story of 15 year-old me, I wouldn't be writing this review if I hadn't regained my inspiration like Kiki did, so here's how it happened. Even though I struggled to feel a deep attachment to film like before, there was one movie I was very curious to see. I heard a little about it, mostly a lot of buzz about how the director's career started off on YouTube in the 2000s and now he's made an acclaimed feature film debut. After watching Bo Burnham's Eighth Grade, I sobbed hard because I felt so seen by that movie. It helped me a lot during that time (still love it but not as much as I did then) and I remembered why I wanted to make films in the first place. I told myself that I want to make movies that cause other people to feel represented and help them have their own emotional catharses.

Overall, Kiki's Delivery Service is a film about the challenges of being an introverted artist, and it's highly relatable to my life. I couldn't be more grateful that it exists. If you did actually read all of this, then thank you so much :) <3

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