Tis the season where miracles happen. For December’s theme, we will be exploring faith in anime and pop culture. We will discuss some of the miracles that enter a character’s life during their darkest moments. Some of their questions we will explore is how does a “miracle” change a person’s life? How do we define miracles? Can miracles only happen due to a legend or a mystical being? Or do miracles happen every day, but we just don’t see it? We hope that you enjoy this holiday season! Happy Holidays!
When one thinks of Miyazaki, apart from his themes of flight and nature, the three films that come to mind are Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and My Neighbour Totoro. This is not to say that Miyazaki’s other films aren’t good or memorable, but these are the films even non-anime fans are able to recognize, mostly, in part, due to their impact on pop culture.
What also separates Miyazaki from most other anime directors is his depiction of the shojo (which has been well documented by scholars, such as Susan Napier, over time), who were mostly depicted as passive and helpless in other mediums at the time. Most of Miyazaki’s films have female leads and these characters are often depicted as strong, active and independent figures. One of these female figures is Kiki, a teenage witch who moves to a seaside town with her cat, Jiji, as part of her witch training.
Kiki, herself, retains most of the classical tropes associated with the witch – black dress, black cat, flying broomstick – but, compared to most fairy tales, is not depicted as evil. Rather, it can be argued that she inhabits a world where witches are part of society and are not seen as the “other”. Kiki also learns that in order to gain true independence, she needs to still be dependent on others to help her achieve it. This is prevalent when Osono, the town baker, offers Kiki a place to stay and also helps her start up her delivery service.
The film can also be classified as a coming-of-age story as Kiki learns to become independent by living by herself in a new and strange place and by trying to find work to sustain herself (her delivery service). However, she finds this transition from childhood into adulthood very tough and soon starts to suffer from depression and lack of self-confidence. This stems from her difficulty in adjusting to the new society that she’s living in as well as her difficulty in making new friends – save for Tombo, whom she initially finds as an annoyance.
This plays into one of the most prevalent themes in the film: self-confidence. Initially, Kiki is depicted as a happy, confident girl who seems to know what she wants to achieve in her life. However, she soon becomes disillusioned with her abilities as a witch and starts to have doubts about herself. Her lack of self-confidence is so great that she eventually loses her ability to fly and speak to Jiji.
However, not everything is all doom and gloom for young Kiki as she learns to regain her self-confidence in two unique ways. Firstly, she confides in Ursula, a painter, and Osono about her lack of self-confidence. These two characters act as both motherly figures and role models for Kiki throughout the film. One of the key sequences in the film is when Kiki and Ursula talk to one another while Kiki is feeling down. Ursula tells Kiki that when she was her age, she already decided to become an artist, but one day she had artist’s block. She then tells Kiki that in order for her to overcome her feelings of self-doubt she has to find her own inspiration.
Kiki also manages to regain her self-confidence through Tombo. Near the end of the film, Kiki witnesses an airship accident on television and sees Tombo holding on to one of the airship’s lines for dear life. Kiki, determined to save Tombo, manages to regain her powers (and her self-confidence) just in time to save him from falling. She is later heralded as the town hero at the end of the film, with a little girl even wearing an outfit similar to Kiki’s during the credit sequence.
Overall, Kiki’s Delivery Service is a film that deals with the hardships of growing up and becoming independent, while also illustrating how the power of self-confidence can make people do great things if they believe in themselves. Kiki acknowledges, at the end of the film, that she still has days where she is feeling down, but knows that at the end of the day her confidence levels are improving. Whether you are a Miyazaki fan or not, Kiki is a film that still resonates today with the life lessons that it teaches and is a film that people of all ages should watch at least once in their life.
If you enjoyed reading this post, be sure to check out Irina’s Blog Tour on Natsume’s Book of Friends from the 11th as well as Megan from Nerd Rambles’ post on the 16th. For a full schedule of this month’s blog tour, please visit the OWLS website.