Majo no Takkyubin
(Kiki's Delivery Service)
Warning! - This is a story synopsis of Majo no Takkyubin and contains plot elements that may spoil first-time viewers.
A short story outline is also available, as well as Miyazaki's own thoughts on the theme of Kiki.
|On a grassy knoll in the town of Karikiya,
thirteen-year-old Kiki listens to a favorable weather report for the next
few days on a small radio. She quickly considers what she just heard. Her
mind made up, she rushes home. There, she runs into her mother, a witch
who specializes in chemistry and medicinal potions, and Mrs. Dora, an
elderly woman who is there to pick up a potion. Kiki excitedly tells them
both that she has decided to leave that evening, instead of next month,
due to good weather and a full moon. She rushes upstairs to prepare.
Mrs. Dora recalls when Kiki's mother first arrived in Karikiya on her thirteen birthday and Kiki's mother, Kokiri, replies that it is a tradition that when a child turns thirteen and wishes to become a practicing witch, she must leave her home and travel to a new town for a year. However, Kokiri is unsure if Kiki is prepared for the journey.
Up in her room, Kiki packs while her close
companion, the black cat Jiji, tries to caution her not to rush into
things. But Kiki has decided and when she hears her father’s car pull up
with the equipment for their planned camping trip next week, she rushes to
the window to tell him the good news. Flustered, her father nonetheless
runs to the phone and dials all the neighbors with the change of plans.
Kiki wants to live in a city by the ocean, so as soon as she is airborne, she heads in that direction. On her journey, she comes across another witch and cat. The second witch tells Kiki that she is a fortune-teller and is close to the end of her year of training. When asked what her "speciality" is, Kiki replies that she has just started and has not yet made a decision. They fly on together for a little longer, until the second witch banks down to her town and Kiki flies on into the night...
...and right into the teeth of a fierce storm. Caught totally unprepared, she desperately looks for a place to land, deciding on a freight train parked on the tracks below. Kiki sets down in a hay bale and decides to rest until the storm stops.
|She is awakened the next morning by the cows below as
they feed on the hay. She and Jiji climb atop the boxcar and Kiki is
amazed at the sight of the ocean before her. She sees a town by the sea
and immediately heads toward it. As Kiki approaches the city from the sea,
she waves to the fishermen in the bay and flies up to the clock tower. The
caretaker there is surprised to see a witch, and tells Kiki that she is
the first witch he has seen in some time. Delighted that the town, called
Koriko, does not have a resident witch, Kiki decides that this is where
she shall spend the next year and goes down into the city proper to
survey. She blithely sails down the main street, nearly getting clobbered
by a bus (look carefully at the sideboards as it goes by) and generally
causing traffic havoc as she tries to bring herself under control.
Settling down before a group of stunned onlookers, Kiki introduces herself
and Jiji and says that she loves their town and hopes to live here.
A police officer comes up and berates Kiki for reckless flying. He takes out his notebook and asks Kiki her name and address to report her actions to her parents. Suddenly, someone yells "thief" and the policeman, with a warning to Kiki to stay put, rushes off to investigate. Kiki has no such intention, and ducks out as soon as the officer is out of sight.
As she and Jiji walk down a side street, a young boy on a bike come up beside her. The boy, Tombo, informs Kiki that he yelled "thief" to get the cop to leave. He says that he saw her flying and that he had never seen a witch before. Kiki ignores him at first, but when a group of friends drive by and jibe him for chasing girls first thing in the morning, Kiki brusquely thanks him for her help, but states that she did not ask for it and it is rude for him to talk to her without first being properly introduced. He continues to try and engage her in conversation, but she jumps on her broom and flies off.
||After her encounter with Tombo, Kiki sets out to find
a place to stay. She tries the local hotel, but being only thirteen she
cannot secure a room by herself. Sitting underneath a statue, Jiji tells
Kiki to find a new, friendlier town. From across the street, the baker
Osono emerges from her shop and calls out to her customer, who
inadvertently left her baby’s pacifier behind. However, the woman is out
of hearing range, and Osono apologizes to her other customers and says she
must leave the store to return it.
Seeing this, Kiki comes up and offers to deliver it for her, so Osano does not have to leave her bakery customers. Kiki takes the pacifier and leaps off the ledge...and flies off, much to Osono’s amazement. Kiki delivers the pacifier to the lady, who hands Kiki a letter, and then returns to Osono’s Bakery to deliver the letter. Kiki makes to leave, but Osono invites her to stay for some coffee. Kiki tells Osono that she does not think the town is very friendly. Osono replies that she likes witches and offers Kiki a place to stay at the bakery for the night.
Later that night, Kiki takes stock of her finances. Though Jiji still feels that leaving for another town might be a wise idea, Kiki decides to stay a little longer. Night falls...
||The following morning, Kiki offers to help out in the
bakery. She tells Osono that her experience the other day makes her think
that a delivery service might be an excellent way for her to earn a living
for her year’s stay. Osono and Kiki agree that, in exchange for Kiki
helping out around the bakery, Osono will give Kiki free room and board
until she can build a clientele.
Kiki spends the afternoon cleaning her new home and then she and Jiji go out to shop for housewares and supplies. On the way home, they run into Tombo and his friends. Once again, Tombo tries to engage her in conversation, but Kiki runs off.
Once she gets back to the bakery, Osono informs her that she has a customer who would like to hire her services. Kiki drops off her goods and rushes downstairs. The new client, Maki, is a regular customer of Osono’s and wishes to hire Kiki to deliver a birthday present of a stuffed black cat doll in a birdcage to her nephew’s party.
Kiki lifts off just as Tombo appears on his bike and asks Osano if she knows the witch girl...
Kiki climbs high in the sky and heads for Maki’s nephew’s home. They meet up with a flock of geese, and Jiji tells Kiki that the geese are reporting a big wind coming and that they are going to climb to avoid it. But before any of them can take action, the gust slams into them all, knocking Kiki from the sky and causing her to crash into the forest below. She lands near a crow’s nest, and the birds angrily attack her, thinking her an egg-thief. She and Jiji escape, only to realize that the cat doll was left behind. They turn back, but are driven off by the crows. Since they cannot wait for nightfall to search, Kiki puts Jiji in the cage and tells him to substitute for the doll until she can go back and get the doll. Kiki delivers the doll and immediately returns to the forest whilst Jiji questions the wisdom of the plan...
||In her searches, Kiki finally comes across the doll
in the window of a cabin. She sees no one, and calls out. A voice answers
from the roof, and Kiki scrambles up to find a young girl, Ursula, drawing
a picture of a crow. Ursula explains she found the doll and returns it to
Kiki, who is dismayed to find that the crows ripped it. Ursula says she
will fix the doll if Kiki does something for her...
Back at the house, Jiji is doing his best to act like a stuffed doll...
Kiki arrives at the house, and Jiji and the stuffed cat trade places...
Kiki tells Jiji about Ursula and that Ursula asked her to model for her. When Jiji asks if Kiki will be naked for the picture, Kiki calls him an idiot.
||It is a quiet day at the bakery. Kiki is worried
because she has generated no business and they are having to live off of
pancakes. Jiji does not mind, but Kiki warns him that he might soon look
like a pancake. Kiki soon gets a phone call from a customer for her
delivery service to perform a job later that day.
Tombo appears and purchases a pastry, receiving Kiki’s trademark warm customer service. Undeterred, Tombo informs her that he is a member of an Aviation Club and that he would be honored if she would attend a formal gathering they are giving that evening. Another delivery customer appears, and Kiki ignores Tombo to take care of the new arrival. Tombo, unperturbed, informs Kiki that he will be by at 6pm should she decide to attend.
Kiki speaks to Osono, unsure as to whether to attend the party and again depressed to only have her black dress to wear. Osono tells Kiki that the dress shows off her beauty and that she should attend. She asks how the delivery business is doing, and Kiki realizes she has a delivery to make in a few minutes and rushes out. After making her first delivery, she heads to her second client.
Arriving at a large mansion, she is escorted by Bertha to meet the Madam of the house, who is distressed because her electric stove will not heat and she cannot cook the herring-and-pumpkin pot pie she wants delivered. She pays Kiki anyway, since it was not Kiki’s fault the pie is not ready.
Kiki does not feel right in taking money for a job
unfinished, however, and recommends they use the old fire-driven stove,
since she knows how to work one. It needs to be cleaned and prepped first,
and Jiji reminds Kiki that she needs to get back to the bakery for the
party. Kiki replies that she has plenty of time. Until Madam points out
that the clock is ten minutes slow... The pie is done and Kiki rushes off
to deliver it through a rainstorm. She delivers it to the Madam’s
granddaughter, who is less then thrilled to receive it.
|The following morning, Kiki awakes with a fever and
severe cold. Osono makes some warm gruel. She also tells Kiki that Tombo
came by and asked to visit her, but that Osono correctly assumed Kiki did
not want to see him right then and politely declined for her. She tells
Kiki to rest for the remainder of the day.
The next morning, Osono has another delivery for Kiki to the Kopori residence. She notices that Jiji seems to have finally made friends with Lily, the cat next-door and heads off to make the delivery. Lost, she is looking around when Tombo appears. He asks if she is out for a walk, and she replies she is looking for the Kopori residence. Tombo replies that his last name is Kopori, and that he will be right down. Looking at the slip, Kiki realizes that Mrs. Osono set her up.
Kiki apologizes for not making the party, but Tombo is too excited showing her the reason they held the party - to celebrate their new self-propelled flying machine. He explains that the wings and fuselage are being built someplace else. Tombo asks if she would like to come see the dirigible down at the beach, and Kiki agrees. Tombo decides to take their bike/power source out since he needs to train. Kiki states she has never been on a bike before, and is unsure what to do.
They launch into the street on a wild ride (showcasing some of the awesome artistry that is Studio Ghibli) and end up flying off a ledge and soft-landing into the grass. Both are unharmed, and Kiki actually bursts out laughing with relief at making it. Tombo asks her if she used her magic during their "flight", and Kiki replies that she is unsure.
On the beach, Tombo asks Kiki what it was like when she first flew, and Kiki replies she was too young to remember. Kiki admits that Tombo is a nice guy and not the juvenile delinquent she first thought him. Tombo laughs, remarking his mother happens to think that he is a delinquent, too fixated on the skies. A car of Tombo’s friends pulls-up, and they tell Tombo they are giving tours of the dirigible. Tombo is anxious to go, and invites Kiki, but she declines.
Back at home, she comments to Jiji that even though she just became friends with Tombo, she was already being spiteful to him. Jiji walks off, however, without responding.
At dinner that evening, Kiki berates Jiji for being late, and Jiji replies with a meow. Suddenly, Kiki realizes she can no longer talk with Jiji. She tries to fly on her broom, but fails. She runs outside and tries again and again, but she just ends up breaking the broom.
||The next morning, Kiki informs Osono that her magic
is exceptionally weak. She can no longer fly or communicate with Jiji.
Osono asks if her powers will return, and Kiki is unsure. They all go
outside to watch the dirigible pass and see Tombo waving to them from the
gondola. Tombo calls Kiki that afternoon asking if she had seen him on the
dirigible. Kiki asks him not to call her again and hangs-up the phone.
Kiki returns to her room to start work on a new broom when Ursula shows up to visit. Kiki plays the hostess while Ursula asks how the delivery business is going. Kiki quickly states she is taking some time off, but Ursula suspects it is something else.
Ursula and Kiki head out into town to run some of Ursula’s errands. She invites Kiki and Jiji to come back to the cabin with her. Kiki agrees, while Jiji decides to stay behind with Lily.
They take a bus and then hitchhike the rest of the way, with Ursula upset that the driver thought she was a boy with legs like hers. Once inside, Kiki is amazed to see the latest painting Ursula is working on. Ursula explains that Kiki was the inspiration for painting it, but that she cannot get the face right. She asks if Kiki will sit and be a model for the face in the painting.
As she sketches, Ursula explains that her "gift" sometimes leaves her as well and she has to go do something else until it comes back. She explained that she had decided to become an artist when she was thirteen, but that she soon grew disenchanted with her work. She realized that she was just imitating the work of others, and had to create her own style. They talk more throughout the night, and Kiki begins to feel better.
|At the bakery, the television reports that the
dirigible "Spirit of Freedom" has completed repairs and will be
departing for the South Pole that afternoon.
Osono is on the phone with Kiki, informing her that the Madam wants Kiki to stop by if she can.
At the madam’s house, she gives Kiki a cake as a thank you for her help with her granddaughter’s present.
On the television, a large wind gust catches the "Spirit of Freedom" and starts to whip it around. The mooring crew tries to bring it under control, but the dirigible breaks free and rises upward, shedding the mooring crew until only Tombo and a patrol car used to help anchor the dirigible are left hanging. Seeing the images on television, Kiki rushes off to help him.
Tombo loses his grip and slides down the rope. His impact breaks the bumper free of the patrol car, which falls to the plaza below. On the dirigible, the crew start to release helium from the rear to try and balance the dirigible, which is not standing on it's nose. Kiki grabs a broom from a street sweeper and tries to lift-off, but with no luck. Concentrating her energy and focus, she finally succeeds and takes off to rescue Tombo.
The dirigible, helpless in the wind, drifts towards the clock tower. People on the clocktower try and grab Tombo as the dirigible grows closer, but the nose crashes into the tower itself and the dirigible’s rear, now heavier due to the helium release, crashes down on the other side of the square. The impact snaps the bumber off, and Tombo is left dangling from the end of the rope, his grip slipping.
Kiki, still struggling with controlling her flight, tries to grab Tombo, but she is unable as Tombo's hand slips off the rope.
Kiki dives down in chase and catches his outstretched arm. The two settle softly onto a safety net to the cheers of the crowd.
||Back home in Karikiya, Okino and Kokiri read the
latest letter from Kiki.
"Father. Mother. How are you?" Jiji and I are both very well. My work is on the right track and I am confident. It’s been hard sometimes, but I love this town."
Synopsis by Chris "Tigger" Wallace. Based in part on a translated script written by Nikaku Animart and transcribed by David Moisan.