Howl’s Moving Castle

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Anime film “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Hayao Miyazaki, based on the novel by Dianna Wynn Jones released way back in 2004. With two kids both in love with Anime, how did I miss this one until now?

Howl’s Moving Castle is classic Miyazaki, from the stunning scenery (much like Kiki’s Delivery Service,  1989 which is my favorite by the way) to the weird, leech like monsters (reminiscent of the strange beings met in Ponyo,  2008).  This was a perfect story to be brought to life by Anime as Jones’ strange, Baba Yaga like castle fits perfectly into the Miyazaki world of weirdness.

Sophie, is a 19 year old girl who sees herself as a plain Jane. She seems to have resigned herself to living an ordinary life in her family’s hat shop, until she is bullied by soldiers in the street and rescued from their unwanted attention by a handsome young wizard. Due to this meeting she is put into the path of the Witch of the Waste who puts an ageing curse on Sophie who subsequently runs away from her home and her family in search of the cure. Her adventure leads her to mysterious Howl and a variety of other wonderful characters who become her new family.

Howl’s Moving Castle is a love story. We see both main characters faced with life changing and growth inspiring challenges.  For me, it was the characters more than the plot that made this movie entertaining. There were many holes that left me wondering if perhaps there was much left “on the cutting room floor”. Both my kids kept asking me why these two countries were at war, which actually turned out to be kind of important to the story, at least to one of the characters. We are also left with not enough background information on Howl, what is the nature of the relationships he has with both the Witch of the Waste, as well as the King’s court Sorceress.

We all loved the movie with its fascinating and at times very amusing characters and a very plucky and brave heroine, but I was left with the impression that there is much more to the story so I’ve ordered the novel. Perhaps when I read it to my daughter all those questions will be answered.

4 responses »

  1. I thought the point of the war was that it had been going on for so long that they didn’t even know why they were at war anymore. Howl makes a point to talk about how pointless the war is, I don’t see how giving a reason why they were at war would change things for any of the main characters. I think this is probably my favorite Miyazaki movie, though I haven’t seen Ponyo yet, and I’m really looking forward to the Borrowers (I can’t remember the actual name yet).

  2. Huh, that just may be, but it’s pretty subtle, kids certainly wouldn’t get it. It doesn’t change for the MAIN characters but certainly for one of the supporting. I have to be careful here not to give any spoilers… when he pops out of his curse there has to be a line explaning who he is and why he’s there. Just out of the blue without any forshadowing at all. See what I’m getting at?

  3. Howl’s Moving Castle is absolutely brilliant. Many Studio Ghibli films have an underlying message that children generally miss but the adults or aware young adults watching them do catch. This is one of my favorite Miyazaki movies that I have seen several times. I have seen Ponyo (own it), Porco Ross (check it out if you haven’t), The Secret World of Arrietty (that’s coming out tomorrow!), and the list goes on. I’m glad you are getting into anime, it’s a wonderful world.

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