Classic Fantasy Anime On Max Takes Boring Novel And Turns It Into A Whimsical Masterpiece

By Nina Phillips | Updated

Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli as a whole have taken several books and turned them into animated movies loosely adapted from the books. This is shown in the films Howl’s Moving Castle, The Secret World of Arietty, and Kiki’s Delivery Service. Kiki’s Delivery Service, in particular, takes a boring story and brings it to life by showing the main character growing and learning during the movie.

Kiki’s Delivery Service Is Based On A Novel

Kiki’s Delivery Service is based on a novel by the same name, written by Eiko Kadono. For the most part, the two versions are similar in the overarching premise. The story follows a young witch named Kiki (Minami Takayama) and her cat Jiji (Rei Sakuma) as they leave home and try to learn more about their world and their purpose as a witch.

The Film And Novel Tell The Same Story In Different Ways

However, while the overarching plot is the same, the two stories deliver on the story in a vastly different way. Ghibli’s version of Kiki’s Delivery Service focuses on a young witch learning about the hardships of life, finding her place in the world, and growing up. Meanwhile, the book is more of a series of stories about Kiki’s life as a delivery witch and some of the more interesting deliveries she goes on.

A Bittersweet Story

One of the more interesting moments in the Kiki’s Delivery Service anime is when Kiki begins to lose her powers. She experiences so much self-doubt and burnout that she loses the ability to fly. Kiki must learn how to grow up and believe in herself before her magic comes back.

The ending is also rather bittersweet. As Kiki learns to be independent, she no longer needs to depend on her companion cat Jiji. As Jiji meets up with a new cat in the area, he pulls away from Kiki and forgets how to talk, or more accurately, Kiki is unable to communicate with him anymore.

A Lighthearted Story

While the Kiki’s Delivery Service book mentions that this has the potential to happen down the road, it doesn’t happen in the first book, which encompasses most of the movie. There are also not many dramatic moments or much focus on Kiki’s struggle to grow up in the book.

Overall, Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kanado is made for a young audience around middle school age. Because of this, the story is fairly lighthearted but shallow. Kiki goes on some fun adventures, but everything is happy, and it makes the story feel as if there isn’t much progress going on in the book.

The Movie Covers More Of The Story

To be fair, Kiki’s Delivery Service is just one book of a six-book series, so there likely is progress, just on a much slower scale. Unfortunately, only the first book was ever officially translated into English, so it’s hard to know for sure.

Meanwhile, Hayao Miyazaki’s version of Kiki’s Delivery Service is meant to be all-encompassing. Because of this, the story progresses at a faster rate. While this means some scenes had to be cut out of the movie, it also means more exciting scenes throughout, thanks to the improved pacing.

The Book Is Slow

Overall, I found Kiki’s Delivery Service by Kanado to be just a little too boring and slow. I didn’t read it until I was older, in college instead of middle school, which could be a part of it, but overall, there wasn’t much that happened besides Kiki making deliveries. I didn’t feel a sense of growth or development in Kiki at all.

The Film Is Streaming On Max


The same isn’t true for the movie. Miyazaki made sure to emphasize Kiki’s growth in his version of Kiki’s Delivery Service. I think if I had gone in with the impression that the book was more of a slice-of-life and almost like clips of Kiki’s life than an actual storyline, I might have enjoyed it a little more, but for me, it felt a little boring.

If you want to watch Kiki’s Delivery Service, it’s available to stream on Max. Compare it to the book, or relive your childhood with this beloved and whimsical Ghibli movie.