What it’s about: Tradition dictates that every young witch spend a year away from home working on their talents before they can become a full-fledged practitioner. Kiki strikes out with her broom, a handful of cash, and her sarcastic talking cat to find her fortune. With no particular talents other than her proficiency at flying, she starts up a delivery service to pay her own way in the big city, meeting a variety of characters from different backgrounds on her journeys.
Why you should watch it: It’s a classic Ghibli film, magical and whimsical enough to entertain children but with a solid story and enough characterisation and development to keep adults engaged as well. Kiki’s Delivery Service is relatively uncomplicated as Miyazaki movies go, but it manages to turn that very simplicity into a strength, using the lack of distractions to provide a tale with rich thematic content. The English dub is excellent, with Kirsten Dunst voicing the lead role and Phil Hartman as her cat sidekick
Caveats: The film is 25 years old now and while the animation still holds up excellently, the age is definitely apparent. It is also, at its heart, a kid’s film, so don’t expect things to get too dark or serious.
Themes: Adolescence and letting go of one’s childhood. The conflict between tradition and modernity.
Similar works: Within the Ghibli corpus, Howl’s Moving Castle and Porco Rosso are probably the most similar that I’ve seen. If you want something with the same kind of premise and general atmosphere, there’s also Little Witch Academia.