Kiki’s Delivery Service is a heartwarming coming of age tale that sets itself apart through an imaginative and vividly realized setting, as well as the high level of visual and narrative detail which quickly became the Ghibli standard. Where else in the world of cinema would the role of the protagonist’s mentor be filled by a magical, crow-whispering hippie artist who lives in a cabin in the woods? In the mind of Hayao Miyazaki, that’s where.
Few others could have dreamed up the magical realist Eastern European setting that serves as the backdrop for Kiki’s Delivery Service, either. This is a world of cobbled pavements, bikes, bakeries and clock towers that could resemble anything from Prague to Amsterdam, and it’s brought to life by its contrasting against the light, playful fantasy our teen witch protagonist embodies at every turn.
The characters and writing are a joy throughout, but there are definitely some moments where the plot of Kiki’s Delivery Service begins to meander as it shows us Kiki’s day to day working life. Part of me finds that really appealing, though: this is a movie that doesn’t overly romanticise adulthood, and isn’t afraid to represent it as occasionally full of just as much responsibility and routine as freedom and adventure.
The one real criticism I have for this movie is that the ‘coming of age revelation’ which Ursula delivers Kiki towards the films end felt a little bit unearned from a plot point of view. Still, the sentiment itself and the scene in which it was delivered were warm, cosy and thoroughly lovely. All of which are adjectives I would use to describe Kiki’s Delivery Service as a whole.