“Reviewing witch movies all month was a great idea!” I thought to myself. “I can’t wait. I’m definitely going to sit down and take a really good look at Kiki’s Delivery Service.”
It was then that I remembered that Ace and I had already reviewed the beloved Ghibli film three years ago.
I won’t lie: I’m still really disappointed that doing another review of the film would be extraneous (although I recommend you check out ye olde review). So in lieu of that, I decided to look up some Kiki’s fic and came to one conclusion—there ain’t much there. Maybe it’s because the film was crafted in such a way as to not leave the audience wanting fix-it fic or needing to mend potential plotholes that the fic scene for this movie is so sparse. Yet though the metaphorical crops were not plentiful, what was there was bountiful in heart and fluff. My perfect combination.
I’ve lived on the northeast coast of the U.S. for my entire life, so October has never been just a month for festive frights, but also the herald of winter and snow. So me indulging in some Yuletide fic just seems right. sorcerous_encampment’s How Kiki Brought Home Every One of Ursula’s Paintings hits that mid-season balance just perfectly for me—it’s not quite a Christmas/holiday fic, but it still keeps that sort of warm feeling to it, like family gatherings or sitting in front of a fire with hot chocolate.
Much of the film focused on Kiki herself—and as the main character, rightly so—however sorcerous_encampment takes this as an opportunity to look further into Kiki’s friend Ursula’s psyche. We know a few things about Ursula from the film: she lives in the forest alone, she’s a fantastic artist, and she supports Kiki through her depression. So, as friends, it’s wonderful that Kiki takes care of Ursula during her hard times as well. In the fic, Ursula has spent the earlier part of the day trying to sell her paintings to an art museum in order to, you know, eat and live. However, the museum wants nothing to do with Ursula’s paintings and sends her on her way. Though she understands that the art world is especially tough, it doesn’t stop Ursula from getting down on herself, and that’s where Kiki and all the people at the bakery step in to raise their friend’s spirits, reminding her that she and her works still have worth, despite the critics.
While Ghibli’s film portrays one girl’s struggle with depression, sorcerous_encampment’s fic, in turn, portrays the struggles of being an artist in much of the ways Ghibli’s other film Whisper of the Heart did. Though having broken out on her own, Ursula still remembers her time at art school and how she lost her sense of self in the name of being “popular” or being “successful”, and while that worked for some people, it didn’t work for her.
Ursula turned away from her, to the wall, to the city. “I started art school,” she said. “It was a few years ago. I lived art, I breathed art, and — well, I wasn’t much good at anything else, so it was a bit of a relief that I could forget about math and spelling and just do art. And I never expected how much of it wasn’t just doing art. It was talking about your art the right way. It was knowing what was acceptable to draw and what wasn’t. It was having the right clothes and the right friends. And — I don’t mean I was better than that, because I wasn’t. I tried really hard and I was good enough at it, for a while. But without even realizing it, I wandered far, far away from the thing that the compass in my heart was pointing towards.”
“I remember you told me, once. About when you were blocked, and couldn’t paint.”
“That’s it, exactly. Every time I tried putting my brush down, I kept thinking, this isn’t the real me. This is all just fake. I tried as hard as I could to find the real me again, but — she’d gone into hiding. After a while I couldn’t face my teachers, or my friends, or even my parents. So I ran away to the little cabin in the woods that my dad used to visit when he wanted to hunt with his friends.” Ursula laughed, almost to herself. “I didn’t have any plan for after that. I barely knew how to chop firewood or what to do about food. But after a while, I started noticing the way the birds moved, or the way the trees grew, and getting curious. And I started figuring out how to make art, just for myself, not for all of the voices swirling around in my head telling me how to be good or how to be popular.”
“You really thought about that kind of stuff, Ursula?”
“It’s just — when I first met you, it seemed like you were so confident. It seemed like you’d never care what anybody else thought of you. I was so scared of people making fun of me, and being snobby, and I wished I could be like you.”
“Well,” Ursula said softly, “I’ll admit I’ve had some practice. But practice doesn’t always count for as much as you hope. You can believe in making art for yourself, and still think, things would be a lot easier for me this month if I could sell a couple of paintings.”
The struggle between doing what you love and doing what you need to survive is something that many people, and many artists, have to face on a daily basis. While Ursula was able to survive doing what she loved and not compromising, she never talks down on people who ride the trends, or on people who have connections to the art world. She recognizes the differences between all these different artists and realizes she made her own choices, just like they did. Yet these choices don’t equate to indefinite happiness. I believe this is an especially important and mature message that fits right in with the original film.
How Kiki Brought Home Every One of Ursula’s Paintings is a short one-off at just under 3k words, so it’s perfect if you need a brief uplifting moment in your day. Make sure you check it out here at AO3!