Interviewer: First, I’d like to ask about the intention behind creating the film “Kiki’s Delivery Service.”
Miyazaki: The initial starting point was to create a story about adolescent girls. Moreover, these girls would be from rural areas in Japan, like those around us, who have moved to the city and are living there. The idea was to depict the stories that symbolize what girls might encounter in contemporary society. Although the story takes place in a fictional world, it’s a tale where hardships arise. What we aimed to portray is the story of girls who have come to the city, managed to secure their own room and job, but now wonder what to do next. With that hypothesis in mind, we thought that if we could create it well, viewers would be able to empathize with it.
Furthermore, there was also a kind of determination to response to the notion of “all the girls you depict are princesses.” It (the film) was like saying, “It’s not just that” (laughs).
Interviewer: Indeed, Kiki is a multifaceted girl in many ways.
Miyazaki: In this film, the characters are fundamentally different from the protagonists in our previous works, where their lives are entangled with matters of life and death, where they must overcome difficult challenges in perplexing situations. So, if I were to describe the biggest characteristic of this film, it’s that various types of “individuals” (personalities) come forth. They behave strictly as children in front of their parents, but when they are alone, they can be quite serious and contemplate matters. They may speak roughly with boys their age, but when it comes to someone they respect and consider important, particularly if they are their superiors, they interact with proper etiquette. It’s not something they consciously calculate; it comes naturally or is something they were taught by their parents. We thought that the ability to use different expressions and adapt accordingly is one characteristic of individuals during adolescence.
Interviewer: So, the protagonist of this film is a girl with various facets, right?
Miyazaki: In everyday life, it’s completely natural to have various faces. Even if there’s an element of calculation involved, it’s just an inevitable folly of youth (laughs), something that’s taken for granted, I believe. Rather than constantly pointing it out and complaining about it, I wanted to make such girls happy (laughs). That’s what I wanted for this film.
However, there’s one thing I want to be cautious about, and that’s when Kiki loses her ability to fly and falls into a slump. The heroine Kiki will continue to experience moments of despair. She will fall down, but she will also crawl back up from there. I wanted to end it in that way. I didn’t want it to end with her business thriving or her becoming the idol of the town, like a simple happy ending. It’s about going through ups and downs, falling down and getting back up repeatedly. From the beginning, I was careful not to turn it into a story of professional success.
Interviewer: That ending was certainly not a straightforward happy ending.
Miyazaki: Regarding the ending, it’s true that I wanted the viewers to feel reassured by the imagery. I also wanted to include Osono’s baby somewhere. And the thing I thought was most important to include was Kiki making friends with girls her own age.
Storyboard of cuts 850 to 853 by Director Miyazaki. Kiki suddenly becomes unable to fly and is left in a daze.
Interviewer: The girls she meets in the town, right? Kiki was resistant…
Miyazaki: Rather than resistance, Kiki had some kind of inner conflict. If Kiki just let go of that inner conflict, it’s not like mean spirited people around her will disappear. When she delivers the pie to the girl and is treated coldly, that’s just how it goes when you work in delivery service. It’s not like she experiences something terribly harsh, but those kinds of experiences are part of the job.
That’s what I believe, and Kiki realizes her own naivety in that situation. She had mistakenly assumed that they would appreciate her efforts. But that’s not the case. She has to deliver it because she received payment for it. If she were to meet kind-hearted people there, that would be a fortunate thing, but it’s not necessary to think that way… Well, the film doesn’t explicitly say that (laughs). Even we don’t say things like “It must be tough, come on in and have some tea” to the delivery person when they come, right? (laughs) We hand them the stamp (hanko), say “Thank you for your hard work,” and that’s the end of it.
Interviewer: But if it’s a delivery girl, it’s different, isn’t it?
Miyazaki: No, it’s the same. That’s why I like the way the girl at the party talks. It’s an honest way of speaking without lying. She really doesn’t want it, saying something like “I don’t need it,” but then the grandmother sends food again, you know? That kind of thing happens a lot in society. In that case, it might be shocking and damaging for Kiki, but in this world, there are many things you have to swallow and endure.
What is Kiki’s magic?
Interviewer: How should we interpret the magic depicted in this film? For example, Kiki’s ability to fly or her inability to fly?
Miyazaki: Why do you think Kiki can fly? Is it because she’s a witch?
Interviewer: In the film, it’s mentioned that she flies because of “blood”…
Miyazaki: What exactly is “blood”? It’s something you inherit from your parents, right? It’s not something you acquired on your own. Talent is the same for everyone. From the period when you can unconsciously use it without any problem, there’s a process of consciously making that power your own. It’s the same as what Ursula is saying. You could draw countless pictures, but everyone would realize that what they thought was truly their own was actually something they received. It takes years of continuously assessing your own abilities in your twenties, thirties, and forties to reach a certain level of understanding. So, when something you used to do effortlessly and unconsciously becomes very difficult, it also means that unconscious growth becomes impossible.
Therefore, in this film, I detached the concept of magic from the traditional notion of magic and limited it to a kind of talent she possesses. By doing so, it becomes possible for her to lose the ability to fly. And then the question arises, whether we need a reason for why she can’t fly anymore or not.
Interviewer: Well, maybe it’s because she had a fight with Tombo there.
Miyazaki: But just because we come up with a reason doesn’t mean the problem becomes clear. Instead, I thought that the current expression would be more satisfying for the girls watching. Until yesterday, she could fly, so why did she suddenly fall? Why do people’s words affect her so much? Why did she lose her energy like that? Isn’t it more about these things? Even when we’re animating, there are often times when we can’t draw anymore. At those times, we forget how we used to draw. Why does that happen? It’s not about reasoning. But such things happen all the time.
It’s not just talent, it’s also about emotions. Kiki is overwhelmed by herself. Adolescence is a time when we feel overwhelmed by ourselves. Even though no one intends to argue, when we exchange words, unexpected harsh words come out or we say stupid things. We do things that are the opposite of what we think would be better, and we do various things…
Interviewer: So, that’s what adolescence is?
Miyazaki: Well, nowadays, even in their thirties or forties, there seem to be people who do the same things… That’s why a person who truly establishes their own identity should be able to maintain the same attitude wherever they go and whoever they interact with. Or maybe everyone wants to have the same attitude. However, when they are on duty at a store, they may fidget when they have nothing to do, but suddenly become cheerful when someone passes by… But that doesn’t mean she’s cunning. Going out into the world means you have to do many things like that. It’s not about whether things go well or not, but rather about the unsatisfied parts. At such times, what will satisfy ourselves the most? Of course, having a successful career and gaining confidence, earning more money than others and dressing up to feel superior, there are various ways, I think. But for a child like Kiki, what becomes most necessary is a kind of refuge.
What is the folly of youth?
Interviewer: What was Kiki’s refuge and where was it?
Miyazaki: I think it’s about meeting someone who respects her while she struggles with something she herself doesn’t quite understand. That’s why Kiki occasionally asks if it’s okay to visit Ursula. Ursula responds that she can stay for the summer, and for Kiki, that becomes the most necessary place for her to recover. It would be a source of joy for her to have the old lady make cakes for her. But even more than that, what makes her happiest is when a friend visits her room for the first time, not as a landlady, but as a friend who positively understands her own worries. I thought that was much more important to her than whether her business succeeds or not.
That’s the same for the animators around me. They sit around drinking alcohol late at night and talk about things like “Should I quit?” or “Should I go back to my hometown?”. They must be searching for a refuge in their own way and doing various things. But if you ask whether they become energetic as a result, it’s not that easy. In the end, they often end up feeling defeated again. That’s how we live our lives, I guess. Everyone reading this book will probably go through the same things, but as Kondo-san (Kondo Yoshifumi) said, “Ah, that’s the theme,” (laughs).
Interviewer: So, in other words, Kiki is not the typical witch girl protagonist who makes everyone around her happy, but rather a normal girl who wishes to find her own happiness. It seems that this is the theme that Mr. Miyazaki presents.
Miyazaki: Yes, she receives help from the people around her. It happens without her even realizing it. The most important thing for Kiki is not whether her business goes well or not, although that is important too, but rather how she can connect with various people on her own. When she rides her broom and flies with her cat, she is free. She keeps her distance from people. But living in a town, in other words, undergoing training, means becoming more open about oneself. In Kiki’s case, it means being able to walk through the town alone without a broom and a cat, being able to talk to people. It’s about whether she can become like that. In reality, everyone is trying to do that in their own way, whether by dressing in trendy fashion, reading “Pia” (Japanese cinema magazine) so they can find their way to the cinema without asking for directions (because they don’t want to embarrass themselves). The reason why information magazines sell is because of that. Everyone doesn’t want to embarrass themselves, so they diligently do rehearsals.
I understand this very well because I’m a person with strong self-consciousness. There are times when I can’t even ask a station attendant if this is the right ticket gate, and it’s embarrassing to stop and look around the town to see which way to go. I end up walking down the wrong path and going somewhere completely unexpected. Because I’ve done many foolish things like that… Originally, I didn’t intend to depict such things in my works, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become able to observe and appreciate them with a sense of warmth and objectivity.
Interviewer: That’s the folly you mentioned earlier, right?
Miyazaki: I think everyone has experienced it, doing various foolish things. So, I don’t think it’s possible to say that it’s not good or not right. It’s not about being able to do anything you want (it’s better not to do some things), of course. We do things that make us feel embarrassed and sometimes we want to shout out loud in the middle of the night. But that’s also necessary. It’s like, “I have to do these things too, I have to experience these things.” After a parent dies, there are times when we wonder why we said such things back then, but I think that a parent must have thought the same things when they were young, and I imagine that I’ll experience similar things myself. So, I start to have a different perspective on those things. Well, this is my adult impression, and I sometimes think that it’s because of my age that I started making these kinds of films…
Interviewer: So, as a director, you didn’t intend to create a success story.
Miyazaki: It’s different from the past. In the days of being an apprentice, daily life was extremely harsh and tough. Adolescents in that era must have suffered greatly, wanting to become independent quickly or go home early, being closely associated with poverty… Nowadays, even if not everyone is like that, there are foolish parents who say things like, “If things don’t work out, come back home” even when it comes to getting married (laugh). And they go out with a certain amount of money. So even though I use the term “training,” it’s different from the training in the past, but I still thought that the emotional aspects were the same, so I tried to portray that.
We have many girls like that in our workplace. So Kiki’s behavior and mannerisms are mostly based on observing and learning from young female animators that I have trained. I’m sure there are things that people can relate to while watching it (laugh). It would have been better if I could have incorporated more humor into it. There’s also the question of whether it’s good to depict such things in animation… But I thought it would be nice to try making a small-scale, everyday story like this once in a while. I thought this one film was already enough, (laugh).
Interviewer: So, if you were to make the next film, what would it be?
Miyazaki: This time, I’d like to create something more silly and simply enjoyable. That’s how I feel now. Well, I don’t know what will happen, but that’s how I’m feeling.
(End of Interview)