Kiki's Delivery Service

Kiki's Delivery Service ★★★★½

Hayao Miyazaki has melted my heart once again.

It’s hard to quantify how he does it, but somehow he constructs a safe and accepting world for a child to grow, without pandering or coddling. The children that inhabit these worlds aren’t protected; they must face the difficulties of growing up, but they can do so in a world that can foster the growth, and support the earnest efforts by our young protagonists to find their way. They stray off the path, and consequences aren’t varnished over, but Miyazaki always allows for his young protagonists to find their way back.

My heart warned to this inclusiveness when right from the beginning the fact that Kiki and her mother are identified as Witches, and that Witches are neither feared nor particularly revered, but rather just accepted; if anything looked upon with a happy curiosity. This is such a refreshing world view for a child to be exposed to when the sad truth is that in today’s society children are taught directly and through osmosis to be suspicious of, fear, and in many cases hate something that isn’t familiar; something different than themselves and their family.

Kiki is on the threshold of adolescence, the transition between childlike wonder, and the awe and trepidation of the first steps to adulthood. Miyazaki portrays this metamorphosis perfectly by combining the exciting wonderment of a flight to an unknown future while simultaneously holding on to childhood in the form of her black cat, Jiji, with whom she can share; much like an anthropomorphized teddy bear.

As we see Kiki grow, we also see that in the new world of puberty, you gain some things at the expense of others. It’s a time of hope, and a time of doubt. Ultimately, though, Miyazaki’s message is that if you persevere, and be true to yourself, you will succeed. You will be happy.

The film plays so well to adult audiences that it’s easy to forget that this is a film for children, and what a remarkable film it is. While the Disney fare aim to entertain ( and sell merchandise to ) it’s young audience, Kiki’s Delivery Service aims for more; it aims to help its audience. It reminded me of an interview I read with Fred Rogers. I’m sure most here had some kind of exposure to Mister Rogers Neighbourhood, the gentle show for the pre-school set. In the interview, he spoke about how he chose topics for the show .. one of them being what happens to bath water when it goes down the drain. According to Rogers, the point was not only to satisfy an emerging minds curiosity, but to also put their fear about being sucked down the drain to rest. Rogers also didn’t avoid talking about other uncomfortable topics that could be a source of childhood anxiety such as death and divorce. He was so effective because he was never playing a character, he was playing himself. He was open and honest, and children believed him. In an interview he gave when the show finally ended in 2000 he said: "One of the greatest gifts you can give anybody is the gift of your honest self. I also believe that kids can spot a phony a mile away."

Hayao Miyazaki is often referred to as the Japanese Walt Disney; I think it would be more accurate to call him the Japanese Mr. Rogers, or equally valid, Fred Rogers is the American Hayao Miyazaki .

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