Diversity Aboveground: Kiki’s Delivery Service

Today’s Flashback Friday! Woohoo!

If you’re confused by this because you’re reading it on a Monday…

Sorry, but that’s why you should read it when it’s published every Friday.

Do you remember…

Kiki’s Delivery Service     ?

First published in 1985 by Japanese author Eiko Kadono, the children’s book soon caught the idea of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. While the film was released in Japan and much of the world in 1989, it didn’t become known in the United States until Studio Ghibli made a distribution deal with Walt Disney Pictures almost ten years later.

Kiki and Tombo

Kiki found Waldo!

Most people would be able to associate it with anime or Japan. Jiji, Kiki’s black cat, has made a resurgence in Hot Topic merchandise. Otherwise, it’s a childhood memory and not much more but should Kiki’s Delivery Service get more respect than that?

At first glance, Kiki’s Delivery Service is much more lighthearted than Studio Ghibli productions that came after it. Jokes come a lot more often than Spirited Away and blood is almost non-existent compared to Princess Mononoke. The cast seems to have wandered over from filming Small Soldiers and there’s no evil villain to triumph over. She’s a thirteen year old going off to live on her own for a year. What parent in their right mind would send a thirteen year old off on their own? That’s barely legal for even Facebook.

Kiki is not your usual thirteen year old. She cooks, has rudimentary business skill and studies to become a witch. Her life experiences are more common to adults or those going off to college. The lack of a true villain keeps more of the focus on Kiki and her trials with dealing with life. Her work problems are similar to our first job where we didn’t know what we were doing.  There was that first crush we didn’t want to admit or that time where the entire world seemed against us. Like Kiki, we prevailed. The closest role to a true villain is Kiki herself when she either doubts her abilities or tries to ignore her personal life in favor of her professional one. It’s important to show how personal triumphs can be just as valuable as the Avengers defeating Ultron.

Like many Studio Ghibli protagonists, Kiki is a strong female who tries to solve most of her problems on her own and often succeeds in that endeavour. However, Kiki is also surrounded by positive female role models. Osono has her own bakery. Her husband takes his orders from her and is almost non-existent to the film. Ursula is an artist successful enough to afford to visit the city from time to time. The majority of her clients are also women. All of these positive role models are able to help Kiki and advise her on her life journey. In fact, there are very few males of any note in the film and only one gets to have more than a few lines of dialogue.

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Maybe it’s time you watched Kiki’s Delivery Service again.

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Arwen

Arwen is said to have the exact likeness of Luthien.

In fandom, it’s not polite to fault someone for their ignorance of the source material. As such, it’s not the fault of so many that they know so little about Luthien or her bad-assery. It’s Peter Jackson’s fault along with with those who made all six films based off J.R.R. Tolkien’s work.

Frodo: Who is she? This woman you sing of?
Aragorn: ‘Tis the Lay of Lúthien. The Elf-maiden who gave her love to Beren, a mortal.
Frodo: What happened to her?
Aragorn: She died.

This is all there is. It’s almost as though Luthien is “fridged” just to provide Aragorn additional angst for his relationship with Arwen.

Luthien as written by Tolkien is so much more than that. Loosely based upon his own wife, Luthien is the female by which all other females in his work are compared to. Her mother is one of the lesser Gods who helped create Middle Earth and everything around it while her father is the Elven king of Doriath. She’s known to be the most beautiful in Middle Earth, even more so than her first cousin, Galadriel.

In the old fairy tales, men often set a very high price for their daughters when they felt the suitor was unworthy. Luthien’s father is no different and sets an impossible price for her human lover, Beren. Here is the difference. Beren becomes the damsel in distress, imprisoned by Sauron of all people and Luthien decides to be his knight in shining armor by rescuing him. Naturally, her plan is discovered and daddy dearest locks her in a tower like Rapunzel. Unlike Rapunzel, she is part goddess so she grows her hair long, makes an invisibility cloak out of it, magically puts her guards to sleep and makes her escape.

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After some misadventures, Luthien and a wolf confront Sauron and beat him so badly that she gains his tower and he’s forced to flee. Yes, that Sauron, whose bodiless eye took at least three films to kill, she forced him to flee. Then, they go to complete her father’s task for him together which includes facing Sauron’s even more evil mentor, Morgoth. They survive but complications aka a large werewolf later take Beren’s life. Luthien doesn’t just accept this either. She goes to the head administrators of the deceased citizens of Middle Earth and demands at least one last visit. Assuming that she will accept the status quo like a proper Elf and not want to give up her immortality, they offer her a deal of going home to Middle Earth with him if she becomes mortal. She accepts which sets a precedent for all of her descendants including Elros, Elrond and Arwen.

Plus, she sings and dances like a goddess as well. She’s practically perfect in every way so she deserves to have people know her name and that’s there more to her than “She died.”

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Tom Wilkinson, Vince Vaughn, Nick Frost and James Franco

Unfinished Business was universally panned as soon as it arrived in theaters. However, the raunchy trailers of sex and drugs don’t reveal the true point of the film. This film is about the horrors of bullying and how they don’t always end when you graduate. Vince Vaughn’s character was bullied at work so he created his own company only to be bullied by his former boss now as a competitor to his business. It’s a cycle that repeats over and over which is how he comes to realize that moving his overweight son to a new school won’t help his torment. It’s just going to mean brand new tormentors. Instead, he learns and tries to teach his son that it’s about how you deal with your bullying and surrounding yourself with those that love you as much as possible that matters. It’s a beautiful insight into life but the R rating and adult material will prohibit the most important audience from seeing it: those in middle school.

Perhaps Unfinished Business should be re-edited into a PG-13 version and marketed in the same vein of Adam Sandler films.

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Just as awesome African Americans shouldn’t be relegated to February, the end of March won’t bring a stop to fantastic females appearing in this column.

What’s your favorite Studio Ghibli film?

Next week will bring a review of Home and more…

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