Welcome, or How Kiki's Delivery Service Taught Me About Emotional Logic

Um hi hello and welcome to this blog that I made. I plan to talk about things that scare or bother me, which is everything all the time, but for your sake I will limit my posts here to the subjects of books, movies, other storytelling media, and possibly current events. I won't post often. I will undoubtedly make changes to the blog and to the style of my posts as I continue to maintain this site. For now, let's just talk a little about a really good movie about a 13-year-old witch girl named Kiki.

Hayao Miyazaki is rightfully one of the most celebrated Japanese filmmakers alive today, but young adult fans like myself can have a tendency to focus on his more violent, adult-oriented films. For most of my teens and early twenties my friends who were Miyazaki fans and I reserved most of our praise for Princess Mononoke, a movie in which a guy shoots an arrow from a longbow so powerfully that it takes both his target's arms off at the elbow. (There used to be a link to a clip here, but it got pulled from YouTube by a copyright claim, and you know what? Good for those copyright claimers for protecting artists' intellectual property. You'll just have to take my word for it. He totally shoots a dude's arms off with an arrow.)

The truth is that Miyazaki's gentler movies with younger protagonists are at least as wonderful as his more "adult" films--if not better. Spirited Away is possibly his best--heck, I might post about it too--but  Kiki's Delivery Service has a special place in my heart, and I only realized how special it is to me recently. Kiki is a young witch who moves away from home for a year to "complete her training," which apparently all witches do at 13. Why do they do this? What does "complete her training" even mean? Who cares? It's a story about growing up and you get to see Kiki crash into things on her broom and get sassed back by her talking black cat. Get on board.

I'm a 25-year-old dude, to be clear. Possibly it is not the "coolest" thing in the world to admit to deeply loving an animated movie about a 13-year-old girl that has a sweet and quiet tone and is marketed to a very young audience. But I think the cool ship sailed for me a while ago, and now here we are on blogspot dot com. My parents first showed me this movie when I was in elementary school, maybe seven or eight years old. I liked it enough to watch it a few times, but it was only upon returning to the movie recently that I understood how deep an impact it had made. There is very little action in Kiki's Delivery Service. The most exciting thing that happens to Kiki physically is that at one point she pisses off some crows. There is very little music in the movie--Joe Hisaishi's score briefly appears during quiet moments, and rarely plays during dialogue. This means that unlike most animated movies, even those made by Hayao Miyazaki, a great amount of the viewer's focus must be on Kiki's facial expressions, and on her actions. Viewers do not receive the movie's message from watching spectacles, but by watching Kiki herself.

This "small things matter" approach to storytelling is exemplified by a scene where Kiki, shy and reserved as any 13-year-old by herself in a new city might be, has finally opened herself up to friendship with an interested boy named Tombo. Kiki and Tombo ride a bicycle to the beach in this scene, and they seem to be having fun until Tombo's friends show up. Tombo's friends are not cruel to Kiki. They don't throw things at her, they don't yell insults. They are merely loud, excited to hang out with Tombo, and unsure of who Kiki is. Watching Tombo talk to his friends, Kiki's face darkens. She lowers her eyebrows and her mouth becomes small. This is all that happens--again, there is no music. But after this moment she tells Tombo she is going home, and the scene marks a huge shift in Kiki's story--soon after this scene, she discovers she has lost the ability to fly.

There is no logical reason why Kiki should react this way. Tombo's friends would probably be nice to her if she gave them a chance. And yet, because the scene is presented in a straightforward way, with the focus on Kiki's feelings, the viewer must accept the scene as truth.

For a very long time I have based my understanding of people on the concept that behavior can be based on either logic or emotion--a person can apply for a job, for example, because it makes the most money for them or because they have an emotional attachment to the workplace, even though they would make less money. I like to call emotion-based behavior "emotional logic," and I have carried with me for almost as long as I can remember a belief that "emotional logic" is powerful and inherently part of human beings. I'm sure there are many reasons that I have this idea, but when I try to think of movies I have seen that could have taught me about this concept, that scene from Kiki's Delivery Service is one of the few memories that stands out. For this reason alone, the movie deserves to be celebrated by movie fans of all ages, genders, and levels of coolness alike.


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