Kiki's Delivery Service (FAQ)

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What does "Majo no Takkyuubin" mean?

It means "Witch's Delivery Service." "Takkyuubin" is actually a word created by Yamato Unyu (Yamato Transport, Co., Ltd.) when they started their new service, door-to-door home delivery. Yamato uses black cats (a mother cat carrying a kitten in her mouth) as its trademark, and has a catch phrase, "Black Cat Yamato's Takkyuubin". Yamato sponsored the movie, though there was a controversy inside the company at first. Ms. Kadono, the author of the original book, used the word "Takkyuubin", without permission from Yamato, and they were unhappy about it. However, people loved the movie, and it helped Yamato's company image, so everybody was happy in the end.

Is it based on a manga or a book?

It is based on a children's book, Majo no Takkyuubin, by Eiko Kadono, illustrated by Akiko Hayashi, ISBN 4-8340-0119-9, 1290 yen. It is written in fairly simple Japanese, since it's a children's book. So it might be a good book to read if you are studying Japanese.

There is also a sequel to the book, Majo no Takkyuubin sono 2: Kiki to Atarashii Mahou." (Kiki and Her New Magic), by Eiko Kadono, illustrated by Takako Hirono, ISBN 4-8340-1174-7, 1500 yen. It was written after the movie, probably because the movie was so popular. Kiki delivers a magician's magic bag, a hippopotamus, and so on.

Spoiler Warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

The "new magic" of the title is that near the end, Kiki goes home for a visit (her year is over) and learns how to make her mother's medicine. She then returns to Koriko.

Spoilers end here.

You can see illustrations from the original books here.

Is it true that the author of the original book didn't like the movie?

Ms. Kadono was not particularly happy with the changes Miyazaki made. The book is episodic, consisting of small stories about people and incidents Kiki encounters while delivering things. Nothing really bad or dramatic happens to Kiki. She never loses her powers, and there is no blimp accident in the book. Miyazaki made these changes since he needed a story that would hold up a film, and he wanted to tell a story about the process of growing up. Miyazaki writes, "As movies always create a more realistic feeling, Kiki will suffer stronger setbacks and loneliness than in the original." Only after overcoming such setbacks and loneliness could she grow up.

It is said that Ms. Kadono was so unhappy with these changes that the project was almost scrapped at the screenplay stage. Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki, the film's producer, went to Ms. Kadono's house, then invited her to the studio, and finally persuaded her to give her consent to the movie.

Where is Kiki's town, Koriko?

According to Miyazaki, it's "a mishmash of various locales, like Napoli, Lisbon, Stockholm, Paris, and even San Francisco. Therefore, one side is like the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, but another side seems to border on the Baltic sea." Miyazaki and his main staff visited Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland, and they also visited Stockholm. They shot 80 rolls of film in Stockholm and Visby, gathering location images as inspiration for the scenes in Koriko. For the most part, Koriko is composed of images of Stockholm. A side street in Stockholm's old city, Gamla Stan, is one model.

Sweden was the first foreign country Miyazaki ever visited. It was for the Pippi Longstockings project, back in the 1970s. The trip didn't achieve its purpose (getting permission from the author of "Pippi"), but Visby apparently left a strong impression on him, so he later used its images in "Kiki".

When did it take place?

It is said that it was set in an alternate Europe in the 1950s where World War II never occurred.

There were bells put on the trees near Kiki's home. Why?

In the book, it was explained that Kiki's mom put bells on the top of every tall tree in town. The reason for this was that Kiki would sometimes get lost in thought and start to lose altitude without noticing. The bells went up after she had a head-on collision with a telephone pole, totalling her broom and bruising herself. It was the only wish of Ms. Kadono, the author of the original book, that these bells be rung when Kiki leaves her hometown.

Why was it so important for Kiki to know that there was no witch in the town?

Because that's the requirement. A witch girl has to leave her home at 13, and has to live a year in a town with no witch to establish herself as a full witch. Witches are now rare and weak, compared to ancient times. This custom of leaving home at 13 was established to make sure that witches wouldn't become extinct. By doing so, the "survival of the species", or the "continuation of witches" will be ensured. It seems that this "one witch" rule was to spread witches as far as possible.

Why did the radio speak in English?

There are many theories. The radio may have been picking up short-wave programs. Or Kiki might have been listening to the programs for American troops stationed there (there are such radio stations in Europe and Japan).

It was probably to show the audience how lonely and isolated Kiki felt at her new town (in the beginning of the film, the radio spoke in Japanese). At the beginning of her journey to independence, Kiki was still surrounded by familiar things: her father's radio, her mother's broom, and her closest existence, her "other self", Jiji. But one by one, she loses these. The radio speaks in a foreign language (to Kiki and the Japanese audience), she breaks the broom, and Jiji no longer speaks to her. Only after that does she gain her true independence. She now has her own broom (rather, deck brush), has a new relationship with Jiji (and his family), and has her own friends in her town.

Did Kiki regain all her powers in the end?

Yes. Jiji doesn't speak (in human words, at least) to Kiki anymore, because they grew up, not because she lost a power. In the original book, it is explained that a witch girl and a black cat are raised together from infancy, and that's why they can "talk" to each other (notice that Kiki's mom never talks with Jiji directly). They are able to talk to each other because of their close relationship, rather than magic itself (a cat being able to live so long could be magic, though). Miyazaki made Jiji not be able to talk to Kiki even after she regained her power to show that Kiki has grown, and doesn't need her "other self" anymore. Miyazaki says, "The most important thing for Kiki is [...] whether she can meet various people on her own. As long as she is flying on the broom with her cat, she is free. But, to live in a town, to get training means that she has to be able to walk the town alone and talk to people, without her broom or her cat." Kiki and Jiji can start a new relationship as independent personalities. They remain friends, with other meaningful relationships (such as Lily and the kittens for Jiji) added on.

In the Disney dub, Jiji says "Kiki, can you hear me?" before he jumps on Kiki's shoulder, but this line is not in the original.

Who painted Ursula's painting?

It was painted by the students at a special school for challenged children. Miyazaki added Kiki's face and Oga, one of the art staff members, also did some touch-ups. It is titled "The Ship Flying over the Rainbow".

Are there in-jokes in Kiki?

Information from the Theater program of "Kiki," which was reprinted in the Archives of Studio Ghibli, Volume 3, p.21.

Widescreen Screenshot

In the scene in Kiki's bedroom where she says good-bye to her father, there is a small toy house in her bookshelf. Mei and Chibi-totoro are painted into the windows. Also, there is a stuffed animal that looks somewhat like Totoro on her bed. In the scene where Kiki was almost hit by a bus when she first came to Koriko, "Studio Ghibli" is written on the side of the bus. The "Ghibli bus" also passes behind Kiki while she is questioned by a policeman.

Pan and Scan Screenshot

In the scene at the end where the street-sweeper is pointing at the TV and saying "that's my broom she used", Miyazaki is in the upper-right corner of the picture looking on. Miyazaki is not visible in pan and scan version such as the Disney VHS release.

I heard that the name of the bakery was supposed to be a joke. Is it?

The bakery is "Guchokipanya" (or Gutiokipanja as spelled in the movie). It's taken from the game of Janken. Rock (Gu) is stronger than Scissors (Choki), Scissors are stronger than Paper (Pa), and Paper is stronger than Rock. Therefore, it is also called the game of Guchokipa. "Bakery" in Japanese is "Panya", so, the name "Guchokipanya" was supposed to be a joke. The name was thought up by the author of the book, not by Miyazaki.

I heard that Miyazaki was not supposed to direct "Kiki". Is this true?

No, he wasn't. At first, Miyazaki was going to just produce the movie, since it was supposed to be a project for Ghibli's younger staff members. However, Miyazaki didn't like the script a young scriptwriter wrote, so he wrote it himself (at first, he thought about using a pen-name, "Oaza Takesato", which can be read "O Ghibli" :) . Then, the young director got intimidated, so Miyazaki ended up directing it himself.

Who did Kiki's voice?

In the Japanese version, Minami Takayama. Amazingly, she also did the voice of Ursula. Ursula is a grown-up Kiki, who now knows her way and is a bit more sure of herself. Takayama also did the voice of Kousaka Sensei, the health room teacher at Shizuku's school in "Whisper of the Heart". To know more about her, see Hitoshi Doi's Seiyuu Minami Takayama page.

In the Disney English dub, Kiki is played by Kirsten Dunst (Jumanji, Little Women, Interview with the Vampire, Spider-Man).

I heard that there is a dub of "Kiki". Is it true? Where can I get it?

Kiki was dubbed into English by Carl Macek (Streamline) and shown on JAL trans-Pacific flights. It is only available in the Ghibli ga Ippai Laserdisc Box set.

Disney redubbed it with Kirsten Dunst as Kiki, Phil Hartman as Jiji, Janeane Garofalo as Ursula, and Debbie Reynolds as the old lady. The VHS was first released on September 1, 1999. A VHS-reissue and R1 DVD release premiered on April 15, 2003.

Recently, the film was again released on DVD in 2010, but the Sydney Forest recorded songs and a good portion of the extra dialogue are both cut, leaving the original Japanese sound mix in place.

For more information, see the film's videos page.

Is there an English subtitled version of "Kiki"?

Sort of.

Disney released a subtitled VHS version sometime in 1998 (now out-of-print), but it's based on the Streamline/JAL English dub. Why did this happen? Ryoko Toyama explains:

Tokuma gave the Streamline script to Disney thinking that it was an accurate translation, and Disney worked on it. Several things that were not in the original Japanese script migrated to the BV subtitles.

All DVDs contain the same English subtitles (more appropriately called dubtitles).

Why does the English dub say "Oh, the humanity!" when the airship is in distress?

This line is in the Streamline/JAL dub, not in the Disney dub. This is a reference to a news report about the explosion of the Hindenburg airship in 1937. The line was not in the original, though.