Kiki's Delivery Service

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This article is about the anime film. For other uses, see Kiki's Delivery Service (disambiguation).
Kiki's Delivery Service
A young girl accompanied by a black cat is flying on her broomstick over a city with seagulls surrounding her. To the right is the film's title and credits.
Theatrical release poster
Japanese 魔女の宅急便
Hepburn Majo no takkyūbin
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Produced by Hayao Miyazaki
Written by Hayao Miyazaki
Based on Kiki's Delivery Service 
by Eiko Kadono
Starring Minami Takayama
Rei Sakuma
Kappei Yamaguchi
Music by Joe Hisaishi
Cinematography Shigeo Sugimura
Edited by Takeshi Seyama
Distributed by Toei Company
Release dates
  • July 29, 1989 (1989-07-29)
Running time 102 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese
Budget ¥800,000,000 (estimated)
Box office ¥2,170,000,000 (estimated)

Kiki's Delivery Service (魔女の宅急便 Majo no Takkyūbin?, "Witch's Delivery Service") is a 1989 Japanese animated fantasy film produced by Studio Ghibli. It was written, produced and directed by Hayao Miyazaki as an adaptation of the 1985 novel of the same name by Eiko Kadono. The film features the voices of Minami Takayama, Rei Sakuma and Kappei Yamaguchi, and tells the story of a young witch, Kiki (Takayama), as she moves to a town with her talking black cat, using her flying ability to earn a living. According to Miyazaki, the movie touches on the gulf between independence and reliance in teenage Japanese girls.[1]

Kiki's Delivery Service was released in Japan on July 29, 1989,[2] and won the Animage Anime Grand Prix prize.[3] It was the first Studio Ghibli film released under the distribution partnership between The Walt Disney Company and Studio Ghibli;[4] Walt Disney Pictures recorded an English dub in 1997, which premiered theatrically in the United States at the Seattle International Film Festival[5] on May 23, 1998. The film was released on home video in the U.S. and Canada on September 1, 1998.[6] It received very positive reviews from critics worldwide.


Thirteen-year-old Kiki leaves home to train as a witch with her talking black cat Jiji. She flies on her broomstick to the port city of Koriko. While trying to find somewhere to live, Kiki is pursued by Tombo, a geeky boy obsessed with aviation who admires her flying ability.

In exchange for accommodation, Kiki accepts a job from Osono, a kindly bakery owner, making deliveries by broomstick. Her first delivery goes badly; she is caught in a powerful wind and loses the black cat toy she is to deliver. Jiji pretends to be the toy until Kiki can retrieve the real item. She finds it in the home of young painter, Ursula, who repairs and returns it to Kiki so she can complete the delivery and rescue Jiji.

Kiki accepts a party invitation from Tombo, but is delayed by her work and, exhausted, falls ill. When she recovers, Osono gives her a new delivery. Kiki finds Tombo waiting for her; Osono tricked Kiki into taking the delivery to him in person. Kiki apologizes for missing the party. Tombo shows her a flying bicycle of his own invention and they take it for a test ride. Kiki warms to Tombo, but dislikes his extroverted friends and walks home.

Kiki becomes depressed. She discovers she can no longer understand Jiji, who has befriended a pretty white cat; she has also lost her flying ability, forcing her to suspend her delivery business. Kiki gets a surprise visit from Ursula, who determines that Kiki's crisis is a form of artist's block; if Kiki can find a new purpose, she will be able to reclaim her powers.

While Kiki is visiting a customer, she witnesses an airship accident on television. A strong gust leaves Tombo hanging in mid-air. Kiki regains her flying power and manages to rescue him. She regains her confidence and resumes her delivery service. Kiki's parents receive a letter saying that she and Jiji are happy.


There are several aspects of Kiki's behavior and appearance that have been the focus of commentary. One theme that is apparent from the beginning of the film is Kiki's transition into adulthood,[7] particularly in relation to the dynamics typical in Japanese families.[8] While being raised by loving parents who wish to allow her be on her own, Kiki is faced with questions common in adolescence such as dealing with finding a job, seeking acceptance from her peers, and being able to take care of herself.[8] Related to these questions, the concept of vulnerability is also examined closely in the film. Critic Mark Schilling noted a scene during Kiki's first night away from home, staying with the bakers: At night, she quickly steps out of her room into the outhouses and, sheepishly peering out, notices the husband, Fukuo, stretching his muscles. Upon him leaving the scene, Kiki rushes back to her room and slams the door behind her while she gasps for air. "The scene does absolutely nothing to advance the plot and the humour in it is wordlessly — and eloquently — expresses Kiki's youth, vulnerability, and isolation."[9]

Another theme examined in the film is the transition from the traditional to the contemporary. In this light, Kiki is shown to balance both qualities. For instance, while Kiki observes the tradition of witches wearing black, she also adorns her hair with a bright and noticeable red bow.[10] However, Kiki also engages traditional methods; in one scene, she bakes a fish pie on behalf of an older woman using an antiquated oven in their kitchen when the modern oven is broken.[10]

Kiki's loss of her ability to fly is also the subject of discussion, and is considered the worst crisis Kiki has to face during the film.[11][12] In addition to sending Kiki into deep sadness, this loss of flight also reflects the harm dealt to Kiki's own self by her self-doubts.[11][13] However, this loss of flight is what causes Kiki, through the help of others in the film, to realize that being vulnerable does not always lead to failure. Rather, such vulnerability can help one learn valuable lessons and better understand one's self.[13] Kiki in fact, does not face any real external adversaries in the film,[14] though some have argued that the crashing dirigible — from which she rescues Tombo — is a feasible example.[10][7] In the Japanese version of the film, Kiki also loses her ability to talk with her cat, Jiji. This loss is permanent, and is thought to represent Kiki's growth into maturity, where her friendship with her cat was considered an artifact of her childhood. This loss is not permanent in the English version, and is restored during the film's finale.[15]

In relation to Kiki's portrayal as a witch, some have drawn comparisons to historical or contemporary views on witches and witchcraft. The film itself incorporates some conventions from fairy-tales such as a black cat companion for Kiki,[16] Kiki's use of a broom for flight, and her black dress.[17] Outside of these external similarities, however, few negative attitudes about witches are present in the film, such as the perception that they are threatening or seductive. They are instead argued to be regarded more traditionally as healers and as the holders of conventional wisdom in society.[17]

Kiki has also been compared to many other characters in Miyazaki's films. While there are overt differences in demeanor in comparing Kiki to characters such as San from Princess Mononoke, who is motivated by anger and a desire to battle the entire human race, both characters take control over their own lives. This theme of remarkable independence is also true of Miyazaki's earlier works, such as in Nausicaä in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.[18] Kiki is also compared to Chihiro of Spirited Away in the sense that they are both young girls attempting to seek independence and individuality in a manner that does not require them to be rebellious or reject their parents. Chihiro is able to develop her independence through her friends and parents just as Kiki leaves her village not because her parents forbid it, but because they encourage her to do so.[14]


In 1987, Group Fudosha asked the publishers of Eiko Kadono's novel to adapt it into a feature film directed by Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata of Studio Ghibli. However, both were busy working on 'My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies respectively.[19] Miyazaki took the role of producer while the director was not yet found.[20] Nearing Totoro's completion, members of Studio Ghibli were being recruited for senior staff for Kiki’s Delivery Service. The character design position was given to Katsuya Kondo, who was working with Miyazaki on Totoro. Hiroshi Ohno, who would later work on projects such as Jin-Roh, was hired as art director at the request of Kazuo Oga, who was part of Miyazaki's Totoro team as well.

Miyazaki, busy with Totoro, looked at many possible directors, and chose Sunao Katabuchi, who had previously worked with Miyazaki on Sherlock Hound; Kiki's Delivery Service would be his directorial debut. Ghibli hired Nobuyuki Isshiki to write the script but Miyazaki was dissatisfied by the first draft, finding it dry and too divergent from his own vision of the film.[21]

Osono and Kiki serving customers at Gütiokipänja Bakery. The name of the bakery was a joke by Eiko Kadono, making reference to Guchokipa, an alternate name for jankenpon, or Rock, Paper, Scissors.[22] In the English dub, the bakery is referred to as Good Cooking Pan Bakery.

When Totoro was finished and released, Miyazaki began to look more closely at Kiki’s Delivery Service, and wrote a screenplay. Since the novel 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, the Swedish island of Gotland and Adelaide, South Australia.[23] Eventually Miyazaki took over as director when Katabuchi became intimidated.[clarification needed]

The original Japanese opening theme is "Rouge no Dengon" (ルージュの伝言 Rūju no Dengon?, "Message of Rouge"), and the ending theme is "Yasashisa ni Tsutsumareta nara" (やさしさに包まれたなら?, "Wrapped in Kindness"), both performed by Yumi Matsutoya (credited as Yumi Arai).

While girls with magical powers are common in Japanese television, Miyazaki noted that, "the witchcraft has always merely been the means to fulfill the dreams of young girls. They have always become idols with no difficulties." In contrast, Kiki cannot use her powers as a means of wish fulfillment.[24]

Kadono, the author of the novel, was upset with how Ghibli planned to portray Kiki, but was later satisfied with the character.[25] In the novel, Kiki overcomes many challenges based on "her good heart" and consequently, expands her circle of friends. She faces no particular traumas or crises in the episodically-organized events of the novel.[26] In the film version however, in order to more clearly illustrate a theme on the struggles with independence and growing up, particularly with young girls, Miyazaki intended for Kiki to face tougher challenges and create a more potent sense of loneliness.[26] One such challenge was Kiki's sudden loss of ability to fly, which is only loosely paralleled in the novel, where Kiki's broom breaks and merely requires her to fix it.[9] Miyazaki has also commented that Kiki's plight of having to move to a new place to prove to others that she is a proper witch is similar to the challenges of being an aspiring cartoonist in moving to a large city such as Tokyo.[24]

Inspiration for Koriko[edit]

Miyazaki has noted that the town of Visby on the island of Gotland, Sweden is the main visual inspiration for the city of Koriko.[27] Fictional Koriko is, however, much larger than Visby. Generally the buildings and shops have the look of Stockholm.

The film is set in an idealised trouble-free northern Europe . The name of the city is not actually used in the movie (except in writing on the side of a briefly visible bus) and it is often spelled "Coriko" in publications from Ghibli.

Kiki and Jiji illustrated by Akiko Hayashi from Majo no Takkyūbin. For the film, Kiki's hair was cut short to make the workload easier for the animators.[28]

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.[29] 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 airship 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".[1]

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.[30] Miyazaki finished the rough draft of the screenplay in June 1988, and then presented it in July 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.[29]

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?, "home-delivery-mail"). The company not only approved the use of its trademark, though its permission was not required under Japanese trademark laws,[31] 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.[32]

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.[33]


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.[34] Kiki was portrayed by voice actress Lisa Michelson. This dub is only available in the Ghibli Laserdisc Box Set.[35]

Kirsten Dunst voiced Kiki in Disney's 1997 English dub, released in 1998. This dub was also Canadian comedian and actor Phil Hartman's last voice-acting performance (as Jiji) before his death in 1998;[36] the dub is dedicated to his memory. Reviews of the dub were mixed; although reaction was mostly favorable, others objected to script changes compared to the original Japanese.

In Spain, Kiki was renamed "Nicky", and the film re-titled Nicky la aprendiz de bruja (Nicky the Apprentice Witch), because in Castilian Spanish, the phonetically similar "quiqui" is commonly used in a slang expression: "echar un quiqui" which means "to have intercourse".

Differences between versions[edit]

Disney's English dub of Kiki's Delivery Service contained some changes, which have been described as "pragmatic".[37] The changes were approved by Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.

There are a number of additions and embellishments to the film's musical score, and there are several lavish sound effects over sections which are silent in the Japanese original. For example, compare the "wild geese" adventure in both versions. The extra pieces of music, composed by Paul Chihara, ranged from soft piano music to a string-plucked rendition of Edvard Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King.[38]

The original opening and ending theme songs were replaced by two new songs, "Soaring" and "I'm Gonna Fly", written and performed for the English movie by Sydney Forest.

The depiction of the cat, Jiji, changed significantly. In the Japanese version, Jiji is voiced by Rei Sakuma, while in the English version Jiji is performed by Saturday Night Live alumnus Phil Hartman, and 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.[39] A number of Hartman's lines exist where Jiji simply says nothing in the original (such as in the scene where Jiji approaches Lili along the top of the wall). Jiji's personality is notably different between the two versions, showing a more cynical and sarcastic attitude in the Disney English version as opposed to cautious and conscientious in the original Japanese.

Kiki and Jiji (sitting on Kiki's back) flying by the clock tower in Koriko just after arriving. According to Helen McCarthy, the "vibrant" Stockholm-inspired city gives a sense of safety as well as independence.[40]

In the original Japanese script, Kiki loses her ability to communicate with Jiji permanently, but in the American version a line is added which implies she is once again able to understand him.[41] Miyazaki has said that Jiji is the immature side of Kiki,[42] 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 teenage habits of the day include Kiki drinking hot chocolate instead of coffee and referring to "cute boys" instead of to "the disco".[43]

The English subtitled script used for the original VHS subbed release and the later DVD release, more closely adheres to the Japanese script, but still contains a few alterations. 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, believing this was the script that Disney worked on.[44]

Third English version[edit]

Kiki's Delivery Service received a new Region 1 DVD in March 2010, the same day Miyazaki's Ponyo became available on American home video. This English audio production is something of a combination of the original Japanese version (which is fairly minimalist and has basic sound effects) and the 1998 Disney English audio production (which has newer sound effects, some new incidental music, and the many entirely new lines of dialog, particularly from Hartman).

In the 2010 version, some of the 1998 changes and additions remain and some are gone, reverting to the original audio production. The opening and closing songs from the English version have been changed to the original Japanese pop songs. Hartman's final line which implied that Kiki could understand Jiji again has been removed.[45]


A manga book series using stills from the film was published in Japan by Tokuma Shoten. An English translation was published in 2006 by VIZ Media, in 4 volumes.


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 Katsuyuki 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.


Character Japanese English (Streamline version) English (Disney version)
Kiki Minami Takayama Lisa Michelson Kirsten Dunst
Jiji Rei Sakuma Kerrigan Mahan Phil Hartman
Osono Keiko Toda Alexandra Kenworthy Tress MacNeille
Ursula Minami Takayama Edie Mirman Janeane Garofalo
Tombo Kappei Yamaguchi Eddie Frierson Matthew Lawrence
The Baker Kōichi Yamadera Greg Snegoff Brad Garrett
Kokiri (Kiki's mother) Mieko Nobusawa Barbara Goodson Kath Soucie
Okino (Kiki's father) Kōichi Miura John Dantona Jeff Bennett
Madame Haruko Katō Melanie MacQueen Debbie Reynolds
Barsa Hiroko Seki Edie Mirman Edie McClurg
Senior Witch Yūko Kobayashi Wendee Lee Debi Derryberry
Ket Yuriko Fuchizaki Lara Cody Pamela Adlon
Ket's mother Mika Doi Diane Michelle Julia Fletcher
Jeff Unknown Unknown Pat Fraley (uncredited)
Lily Unknown Unknown Kirsten Dunst (uncredited)


Kiki's Delivery Service premiered on July 29, 1989 in Japanese theaters; the total distribution receipts were ¥2,170,000,000[46][47] ($18,000,000), proving to be quite a financial success and the highest grossing film in Japan of 1989.[48] The Japanese DVD was the best selling anime DVD for February 7, 2001.[49]

An English dub of Kiki's Delivery Service was released by Disney which had its theatrical premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival on May 23, 1998. On September 15 1998, it was released to VHS video, becoming the 8th-most-rented title at Blockbuster stores during the first week of its availability.[50] This video release also sold over a million copies.[51] 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 conservative Christian group Concerned Women for America boycotted Kiki’s Delivery Service screenings[52] and released a press release on May 28, 1998 titled “Disney Reverts to Witchcraft in Japanese Animation”.[53] Calling for a boycott of The Walt Disney Company, the group said the company “is still not family friendly, but continues to have a darker agenda”.[54]

The Region 1 DVD was released on August 16, 2005, alongside Spirited Away and Castle in the Sky. It was again reissued on Region 1 DVD in March 2010 along with My Neighbor Totoro and Castle in the Sky as a tribute to the home release of Ponyo. The version of this 2010 release was slightly edited to match the original Japanese version. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment will release Kiki's Delivery Service on Blu-ray Disc on November 18, 2014[55]

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.[50] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it “two thumbs up”[48][56] and Ebert went on to rank it as one of the best animated films of 1998.[57] The film ranked #12 on Wizard's Anime Magazine on their "Top 50 Anime released in North America".[58]

Other reviews were very positive as well. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Kiki’s Delivery Service scored a perfect 100% rating based on 25 reviews.[59]


Year Award Category Result Recipient
1990 12th Anime Grand Prix Best Anime Won Kiki's Delivery Service[60]
Best Female Character Won Kiki[60]
Best Anime Theme Song Won Yasashisa ni Tsutsumaretanara[60]
44th Mainichi Film Award Best Animated Film Won Kiki's Delivery Service
Kinema Junpo Awards Readers' Choice Award Won Kiki's Delivery Service
13th Japan Academy Prize Special Award Won Kiki's Delivery Service[61]
Popularity Award Won Kiki's Delivery Service[61]
7th Annual Golden Gross Award Gold, Japanese Film Won Kiki's Delivery Service
The Movie's Day Special Achievement Award Won Kiki's Delivery Service
The Erandole Award Special Award Won Kiki's Delivery Service
Japan Cinema Association Award Best Film Won Kiki's Delivery Service
Best Director Won Hayao Miyazaki
Japanese Agency of Cultural Affairs Best Film Won Kiki's Delivery Service
Tokyo Metropolitan Cultural Honor Best Film Won Kiki's Delivery Service
7th Annual Money Making Director's Award Best Director Won Hayao Miyazaki[62]



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  21. ^ The Art of Kiki's Delivery Service: A Film by Hayao Miyazaki, "Part One: In the Beginning", Page 8. VIZ Media LLC; 1 edition (2006-05-09) ISBN 1-4215-0593-2, ISBN 978-1-4215-0593-0. Retrieved on 2007-01-05.
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  34. ^ Kiki's Delivery Service News-Old
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  59. ^ Rotten Tomatoes Kiki's Delivery Service (1989). Retrieved on 2013-09-06.
  60. ^ a b c "第12回アニメグランプリ". Japan Academy Awards Association (in Japanese). May 1990. Retrieved 2012-05-13. 
  61. ^ a b "List of award-winning films at the 13th Japan Academy Awards". Japan Academy Awards Association (in Japanese). Retrieved 2012-05-13. 
  62. ^ Credits // Kiki's Delivery Service //

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