Kondo Katsuya

Kiki's Delivery Service

is the fifth Studio Ghibli anime film, produced, written, and directed by Hayao Miyazaki in 1989. It was the fourth theatrically released film from the studio, and was also the second feature film that Miyazaki directed but did not originally write himself. The movie won the Animage Anime Grand Prix prize in 1989. The movie is based on Eiko Kadono's novel of the same name, which is the first in a series originally published by Fukuinkan Shoten in 1985. The film adaptation includes only some of the episodes in the book; it ends at the end of summer while the book covers an entire calendar year. The movie depicts the gulf that exists between independence and self-reliance in the hopes and spirit of ordinary Japanese teenage girls.

It was the first Studio Ghibli movie released under the Disney/Studio Ghibli partnership; Disney recorded an English dub in 1997, which premiered in the United States at the Seattle International Film Festival May 23, 1998. It was released on home video in the U.S. on September 1, 1998.


Kiki is a 13-year-old witch-in-training, living in a small rural village where her mother is the resident herbalist. The film opens at the time traditional for Kiki to leave her home to spend a year alone in a new town to establish herself as a full witch. Kiki therefore flies off on her mother's broom with her closest companion, Jiji, a loquacious black cat. At her departure from home, she has trouble controlling her newly inherited broom, and ricochets off of the trees in her front yard. Wind chimes in the trees chime; one of the neighbors wistfully comments that he will miss the sound of the bells, implying that such incidents have been common.

Soon after leaving, Kiki asks Jiji to turn on the radio. He flips to a lively pop song and the beginning credits roll. After the credits and song finish, Kiki and Jiji meet another witch on her way back home from training. After giving some advice about inner skills, this newcomer flies down yelling, "Ciao!" Seconds after she leaves, Kiki and Jiji are caught in a thunderstorm, from which they take overnight refuge in a train. On the next morning, Kiki and Jiji wake up to discover that they have fallen asleep in the feed bag of a herd of cows. They leave the train and continue their search for a place to live.

Kiki settles in the beautiful seaside city of Koriko, and, after initially finding it difficult to adjust to the city's pace of life, starts a delivery service that takes advantage of her ability to fly. Kiki experiences several setbacks, such as slow business, misplaced merchandise, rude customers, and illness. She also must contend with her loneliness, worries, and homesickness.

Having caught the eye of Tombo, a local boy about her age who has an interest in aviation and in Kiki herself, she at first rebuffs then befriends him. Jiji simultaneously courts a local cat named Lily, who had earlier snubbed him.

Because of her insecurity, Kiki's powers diminish and ultimately disappear, to her great shame and terror. Kiki learns about overcoming such obstacles with the help of a newfound friend, a young artist named Ursula, who gives Kiki advice regarding inspiration that she needs in order to regain her magical abilities.

In a moment of deadly crisis, Tombo is accidentally lifted into the air in a dirigible accident. When she is his only hope of rescue, Kiki finds the inspiration to regain her flying ability. Improvising with a street-sweeper's push broom, Kiki manages to rescue Tombo with considerable difficulty. At that adventure's conclusion, Jiji joins her again, but still cannot speak and Kiki gracefully accepts that as a price of growing up. Suddenly famous, she sends home a simple, modest letter to her parents, saying that she is becoming used to her new home and that things are working out well for her.

The story continues through the end titles, as she flies a high-guard formation with Tombo as he flies his human-powered aircraft in a flight sequence obviously inspired by the Gossamer Albatross. Later, she is on the street of her town and notices a little girl walking past, because the little girl has her hair and clothing styled like Kiki's and is even carrying a small deck broom like the one Kiki flew to save Tombo - an indication of her having become a local celebrity. Jiji and Lily are also shown, with several kittens in tow.


The Kiki’s Delivery Service project started in spring of 1987, when Group Fudosha asked the publishers of Eiko Kadono’s book if they could adapt it into a featured film directed by Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata of Studio Ghibli. Due to the approval of Miyazaki’s film My Neighbor Totoro and Takahata’s film Grave of the Fireflies for production, neither Miyazaki nor Takahata was available to take up the direction of the project at the moment.

Miyazaki took up the role as producer of the film while the position of director was still unfilled. During the start of the project and the nearing of Totoro's completion, members of Studio Ghibli were being recruited for senior staff for the Kiki’s Delivery Service project. The character design position was given to Katsuya Kondo, who was currently working with Miyazaki on Totoro. Hiroshi Ohno, who would later work on projects such as Jon-Roh, was hired as art director, partly because he was requested by Kazuo Oga, who was part of Miyazaki's Totoro team as well.

Although many positions had been filled, the project still lacked a director. Miyazaki, busy with Totoro, looked at many directors himself, but found none he thought fit to articulate the project. Ghibli hired an anonymous screenwriter, but Miyazaki was disappointed by the first draft, finding it dry and too divergent from his own vision of the film. Studio Ghibli rejected this draft of the screenplay after Miyazaki voiced his disapproval.

Finally, when Totoro was finished and released, Miyazaki began to look more closely at Kiki’s Delivery Service. He started by writing a screenplay himself, and since Majo no Takkyūbin was based in a fictional country in northern Europe, he and the senior staff went to research landscapes and other elements of the setting. Their main stops were Stockholm, Adelaide, South Australia and the Swedish island of Gotland. The city's architecture also owes debts to Ireland, Paris and Tokyo's Ginza district. The time setting for Kiki's Delivery Service was a subject for discussion among the movie's fans for some time: Kiki carries a transistor radio apparently of 1950s vintage, and some characters are seen watching black-and-white television sets, but the cars and some of the aircraft seem to be from an earlier period. Specifically, a plane resembling the Handley Page H.P.42 is seen during the opening credits, although all eight of the H.P.42 aircraft had been decommissioned or destroyed by 1941. The controversy was settled when Miyazaki said the story took place in the 1950s of an alternative universe in which World War II never took place.

Upon their return to Japan, Miyazaki and the creative team worked on conceptual art and character designs. Miyazaki began significantly modifying the story, creating new ideas and changing existing ones. Majo no Takkyūbin, the original children's book by Eiko Kadono that the movie was based on, is very different from Miyazaki's finished film. Kadono's novel is more episodic, consisting of small stories about various people and incidents Kiki encounters while making deliveries. Many of the more dramatic elements, such as Kiki losing her powers or the blimp incident at the film's climax, were not present in the original story. Miyazaki made these changes to give the film more of a story, and make the film about the hardships that Kiki faces while growing up; he remarked, "As movies always create a more realistic feeling, Kiki will suffer stronger setbacks and loneliness than in the original".

As a result, Kadono was unhappy with the changes that were made between the book and film, to the point that the project was in danger of being shelved at the screenplay stage. Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki, the producer of Ghibli, went to the author's home and invited her to the film's studio. After her visit to the studio, Kadono decided to let the project continue. Miyazaki finished the rough draft of the screenplay on June 18, 1988, and then presented it on July 8, 1988. It was at this time that Miyazaki revealed that he had decided to direct the film, because he had influenced the project so much.

The word takkyūbin (宅急便, literally home-fast-mail) in the Japanese title is a trademark of Yamato Transport, though it is used today as a synonym for takuhaibin (宅配便, literally home-delivery-mail). The company not only approved the use of its trademark — though its permission was not required under Japanese trademark laws — but also enthusiastically sponsored the film, as the company uses a stylized depiction of a black mother cat carrying her kitten as its corporate logo.

Kiki's Delivery Service was originally intended to be a 60-minute special, but expanded into a feature film running 102 minutes after Miyazaki completed storyboarding and scripting it.


  • Kiki is a 13-year-old apprentice witch, who leaves her home village to spend a year on her own. She has no visible magical abilities other than those of communicating with her cat and broom flying (at which she is still a novice). She is excitable, innocent, and by turns eager and shy. Some of the earlier concept drawings of Kiki closely resembled the original longer hair illustrations by Akiko Hayashi. It was eventually decided to cut her hair short to ease the animators' workload. She is voiced by Minami Takayama in Japanese, Lisa Michelson in the Streamline dub, and Kirsten Dunst in the Disney dub.
  • Jiji is Kiki's black cat. Jiji and Kiki are able to talk to each other. He is very cautious, especially in comparison to her innocent eagerness, and possesses a somewhat sarcastic wit. Jiji was voiced by a female actor, Rei Sakuma, in Japanese, and was voiced by male actors in the English language dubs - in the Streamline dub, Kerrigan Mahan, and in the Disney dub Phil Hartman. This was Hartman's last film role before his death.
  • Tombo Kopoli (or Kopori) is a 13-year-old boy in Koriko, the city where Kiki settles. He is obsessed with aviation, is a member of a club building a human-powered aircraft, and is at first intrigued only by Kiki's ability to fly. He later becomes her friend; it is obvious that he is in awe of her. It is not clear to an English-speaker whether "Kopoli" is intended as a given name or family name. "Tombo", according to the novel, is a nickname, being Japanese for "dragonfly". He was voiced by Kappei Yamaguchi in Japanese, Eddie Frierson in the Streamline dub, and Matthew Lawrence in the Disney dub.
  • Osono is the proprietress of a small bakery in Koriko. She is heavily pregnant throughout the film and can be seen feeding her baby in the end credits. She is the first person in Koriko to treat Kiki with kindness and respect. She also acts like a mother to Kiki. It is under Osono that Kiki first works as a messenger. She is voiced by Keiko Toda in Japanese, Alexandra Kenworthy in the Streamline dub, and by Tress MacNeille in the Disney dub.
  • The baker is Osono's nameless husband; he is tall, strongly built, and almost entirely silent. Kiki is intimidated by him at first, but warms to him after he makes a gift for her: an advertising wreath for her delivery service. He has only one line in the play.
  • Ursula is an artist in her late teens, who lives during summer in a one-room cabin in a wooded area outside of Koriko. She takes an "older-sister" role to Kiki, explaining Kiki's temporary inability to fly in terms of "artist's block", and telling her that giftsincluding the ability to paint, to be a witch, or to bake breadmust be used, not rejected. She is voiced by Minami Takayama in Japanese, Edie Mirman in the Streamline dub, and Janeane Garofalo in the Disney dub.
  • Oku-sama ("Madame" in the English version) is one of Kiki's customers. She is elderly and aristocratic, but warmhearted and kindly, and hobbled with arthritis. She is voiced by Haruko Kato in Japanese, Melanie MacQueen in the Streamline dub, and Debbie Reynolds in the Disney dub.
  • Bertha ("Barsa" in the English version) is Oku-sama's housekeeper and friend. Her name is often rendered as "Bassa", an alternative spelling of "bāsa", the Japanese pronunciation of "Bertha". Bertha was voiced by Hiroko Seki in Japanese, Edie Mirman in the Streamline dub, and Edie McClurg in the Disney dub.
  • Okino is Kiki's father; according to Miyazaki he is a professor of folklore. He has no magic lineage, but met Kiki's mother when they were both young, when she came to his town on her traditional witch-training year. According to character designer Katsuya Kondo, he based Okino's appearance on actors David McCallum and Akira Terao. Okino is voiced by Kouichi Miura in Japanese, John Dantona in the Streamline dub, and Jeff Bennett in the Disney dub.
  • Kokiri – Kiki's mother, a witch and town herbalist. She worries that Kiki is not equipped to spend a year on her own. The success of Kokiri's potions appears to be dependent on her concentration; interruptions inevitably cause them to instantly turn black and expel rings of smoke, much to her frustration. Kokiri is voiced by Mieko Nobuzawa in Japanese, Barbara Goodson in the Streamline dub, and Kath Soucie in the Disney dub.


The first official English dub of Kiki's Delivery Service was produced by Carl Macek of Streamline Pictures at the request of Tokuma Shoten for Japan Airlines' international flights. Kiki was portrayed by voice actress Lisa Michelson. This dub is only available in the Ghibli Laserdisc Box Set.

Kirsten Dunst voiced Kiki in the 1998 English dub. The English dub was also Phil Hartman's last voice-acting performance (as Jiji) before his death. There is a tribute to Phil Hartman after the credits of the English dub, dedicating the film to his memory. The dub received mixed reviews—although it was mostly showered with praise, other critics and fans jumped on it for its minor alterations. Despite this, the dub has proven popular, selling over one million copies on video.

In Spain, Kiki was re-christened "Nicky", and the film re-titled "Nicky la aprendiz de bruja" (Nicky the Apprentice Witch), because in Castilian Spanish, the phonetically similar quiqui carries unintentional adult connotations.

A live-action movie version based on the original books has been set for a 2009 release.

Differences between versions

Although the plot and much of the story were translated as exactly as possible, Disney's English dub of Kiki's Delivery Service contained some changes, which have been described as "pragmatic". There were occasional additions and embellishments to the musical score overlaying some of the previously silent sequences. The extra pieces of music (provided by Paul Chihara) ranged from soft piano music to a string-plucked rendition of Edvard Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King. In addition, the original opening and ending theme songs were replaced. The new songs, "Soaring" and "I'm Gonna Fly", were written and performed by Sydney Forest.

The character of the cat Jiji changed slightly. In the Japanese version, Jiji is voiced by a female actress, while in the American version Jiji has a more distinct male voicepossibly for fear audiences would think he is female, until he develops a romantic interest in the white Persian cat living nearbyand also has more of a wisecracking demeanor. In Japanese culture, cats are usually depicted with feminine voices, whereas in American culture their voices are more gender-specific.

In the original Japanese script, Jiji loses his ability to communicate with Kiki permanently, but in the American version a line is added that implies he is able to speak (or she to understand him) again. Miyazaki has said that Jiji is the immature side of Kiki, and this implies that Kiki, by the end of the original Japanese version, has matured beyond talking to her cat.

More minor changes, to appeal to the different demographics, include Kiki drinking hot chocolate instead of coffee and referring to "cute boys" instead of to "the disco". All changes were approved by Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.

The English subtitled script used for the original VHS subbed release and the later DVD release, is also not accurate, but can more accurately be described as a combination of dubbing and subtitle. It is based on the original Streamline dub, and has resulted in several additions from that dub to migrate into the script regardless of whether they are present or not (such as Herbert Morrison's "Oh the humanity!" line during the blimp sequence). This came about because Tokuma gave Disney the script for the original dub, thinking it was an accurate translation, leaving this as the script that Disney worked on..


Majo no Takkyūbin opened July 29, 1989 in Japanese theaters; the total box office receipts were ¥2,170,000,000 ($18,172,849.38), proving to be quite a financial success and the highest grossing film in Japan of 1989. Upon the release of the English dub of Kiki's Delivery Service by Disney straight to VHS video on September 1, 1998, it was the 8th-most-rented title at Blockbuster stores during the first week of its availability. This video release also sold over a million copies. A few weeks later, Disney released another VHS of the movie, this time with the original Japanese soundtrack and with both English and Japanese subtitles. A Laserdisc version of the English dub was also available at this time. The Region 1 DVD was released on April 15, 2003, alongside Spirited Away and Castle in the Sky.

The conservative Christian group Concerned Women for America boycotted Kiki’s Delivery Service screenings and released a press release on May 28, 1998 titled “Disney Reverts to Witchcraft in Japanese Animation”. Calling for a boycott of The Disney Company, the group said the company “is still not family friendly, but continues to have a darker agenda”.

On September 4, 1998, Entertainment Weekly rated it as Video of the Year, and on September 12, 1998, it was the first video release to be reviewed as a normal film on Siskel and Ebert rather than on the "Video Pick of the Week" section. Siskel and Ebert gave it “two thumbs up” and Roger Ebert went on to rank it as one of the best animated films of 1998.

Other reviews were very positive as well. On Rotten Tomatoes, Kiki’s Delivery Service scores a "fresh" rating of 100% approval, out of a total of fourteen reviews.

  • 44th Mainichi Film Competition
    • Best Animated Film
  • Kinema Junpo (Prestigious Japanese film magazine)
    • Best Japanese Film of the Year (Voted by Readers)
  • Japan Academy Award
    • Special Award
  • 7th Annual Golden Gross Award
    • Gold, Japanese Film
  • The Movie's Day
    • Special Achievement Award
  • The Erandole Award
    • Special Award
  • Japan Cinema Association Award
    • Best Film and Best Director
  • Japanese Agency of Cultural Affairs (a government agency under the Ministry of Education)
    • Excellent Movie
  • 12th Annual Anime Grand Prix
    • Best Anime
  • Other awards
    • Tokyo Metropolitan Cultural Honor
    • 7th Annual Money Making Director's Award


In 1993, a musical version of the story was produced. Yukio Ninagawa wrote the script and Kensuke Yokouchi directed the show. The role of Kiki was originated by Youki Kudoh and the role of Tombo was originated by Akira Akasaka. Akasaka was replaced by Katsyuki Mori (of SMAP fame) within the year. There was a cast recording produced by the original cast, and the show was revived in 1995 and 1996.


  • In the English dub, when the scene shifts to Tombo stood outside the bakery in the rain (waiting for Kiki to come back for the party, just before he leaves), you can see the sign for Kiki's Delivery Service in the bakery window. In the English Dub, the sign remains in Japanese, despite clearly being English when first seen earlier in the movie.
  • Barsa's design was later used for the captain of the pirates, Dola, in Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Kiki's dress was, similarly, re-used for Sheeta's design in the same movie.

Notes and references

External links

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