I have watched this movie many many times since it is one of my favorite Miyazaki films, so why not write a review? I have also read the book, which takes a much different direction than the film does. And yes, it may seem like I rate highly but for some i was between 9 or 10, and I have explained things that I disliked that may not reflect in my number ratings.
Story: the story is about a girl named Sophie who gets turned into an old woman and ends up living with a wizard named Howl in his moving castle. The story is the
only part I felt was lacking in this movie. Though I have to admit I see more flaws with the story after reading the book (even though I find the movie much better). Overall, I felt many of the war scenes were overdramatized and left a lot of questions. There were also a lot of small things throughout that they could have done a better job at explaining. Even after watching the movie so many times I cannot fully explain some scenes and still have questions about the movie.
Animation: The animation is absolutely stunning and many of the backgrounds look realistic. I also have to say that I am impressed with how Sophie is animated, and how it is so easy to tell when she is aging/regressing just simply by looking at the animation (her voice also helps). Overall this is the most impressive Miyazaki art I've seen and I really haven't seen much that can top it.
Sound: I'll just start off by saying the music in this movie is so beautiful. I love every single background music in this movie, and the only song I don't like so much is the theme with the words that plays at the end. Aside from the beautiful soundtrack, the sounds in the movie are so dead on. Hearing Sophie's bones crack as an old woman is really painful, and as much as I don't like Sophie's voice, her seiyuu does a great job at portraying the character and how she fluctuates between young and old so frequently throughout the movie. I think all the seiyuu in the movie were good as well.
Character: The characters in this movie make up for all the lack of closure in the plot. Each character has their good points, even the Witch of the Waste. I personally adore almost all the characters, though I actually like Sophie the least of all. Calcifer, Heen, and Turnip head are such adorable and fun characters to watch (and Heen and Turnip have pretty much no lines in the whole movie). Howl is also another loveable character as well. The characters have such different personalities that you will probably like at least one character or more.
Enjoyment: Obviously I enjoy this film a lot. I've watched it so many times! Each time I sit there in awe of the animation and empathize with the characters. It's one of those movies that I love to watch and I have not gotten bored of it yet. I do have to say that towards the end I get slightly bored with the stressed focus on the war, but that only lasts at most 15 minutes.
This movie is defenitely worth watching, and even if you watched it and didn't like it, you only spent two hours watching it since it's a movie. I think it's defenitely one of Miyazaki's better works. If you have time or interest, I think it's worth checking out the book, since it's a completely different take on the story. It's got a lot less romance between Sophie and Howl in it, but it brings a lot more character development to Markl and Sophie's sisters (she has more than one in the novel). But if not, just watch the movie!!
I'd figured that waiting so long to see this made me a bad Miyazaki fan, but after seeing it, I wasn't much bothered by my long delay anymore.
STORY - This movie was apparently based off a book, but as I haven't read the book, I'm judging this movie as a work all on its own, for better or worse. So I suppose this was, in a way, a story about courage and facing one's fears, but it was approached in such a roundabout way that I'm really not sure, even now. The premise of the movie -- Sophie getting bewitched into an old woman --
seemed almost completely random, and I was left wondering why? and what was the point of that? Those questions were, for me, repeated a ridiculous number of times throughout the course of the movie. Indeed, most of the scenes seemed haphazardly spliced together with little rhyme or reason connecting them. Eventually, the focus of the movie fell onto Howl and his troubles, which was fine, except that we seemed to forget entirely about Sophie's initial dilemma because of it.
In some ways, Howl's reminded me of Spirited Away, what with its eclectic assemblage of characters, all with their own problems and goals. But while Spirited Away maintained and remembered its initial story and theme, Howl's Moving Castle was seriously all over the place. The further we progressed into the movie, the more it seemed like Sophie's problems were taking a backseat to Howl's, and even her position as a member of his castle and one of his helpers didn't seem very important. One of the things that annoyed me the most was also the fact that the spell placed on Sophie was never explained the depth -- all you knew was that she couldn't tell anyone about it (which was pretty useless since most characters seemed to be able to tell anyway). Nothing was explained as the spell seemed to gradually fade; when Sophie randomly appeared to be her old self, you were never sure whether it was for real or a dream. Eventually, you sort of accepted that she was slowly regaining her old self, but even then, you weren't sure why.
There's also the matter of the war. Throughout the entire movie, it seemed like more of a background element more than anything else. We were never told why the war was going on or against whom they were fighting; thus, it didn't seem like all too important of a thing, even when leaders were requesting the aid of magical folk. In a way, I find this impression interesting as there seems to be a distinct separation between the affairs of our characters and the world around them. Despite the war, they're in their own little world, even with airships attacking every so often and Howl's subsequent injuries. I'm not sure why that is or whether it's a positive or negative element, but it's there all the same...
CHARACTER - I wasn't really all that impressed by any of the characters in this movie. Most of them seemed to be typical of Miyazaki both in personality and goals and were consequently predictable. Sophie is an all around "good" character who only wants the best for her family and friends. Howl is the mysterious one with great power and internal insecurities. Calcifer is the sharp-tongued, sarcastic one who just wants to be free, despite a seemingly good relationship with his master. And Markl is just a good kid, more or less in the same vein as Sophie except younger, and the Scarecrow was a similar personality as well. The Witch of the Waste is a completely stereotypical semi-villain, as is Suliman.
Though there are certainly attempts at expanding on some of the characters' very flat personalities, I don't really feel as if any of them are successful. Sophie's fascination and eventual love for Howl was a little interesting, but the feelings could be attributed very easily to the typical goodness of her personality, and it didn't seem like Howl was very special to have her affections. Similarly, Howl's feelings for Sophie seemed generic, or perhaps he (and all the other characters) could not help but be attracted to her goodness, as there didn't seem to be very many flaws in that purity at all.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION - This is easily what contributes the most to the entire movie. As we have come to expect from Studio Ghibli, Howl's Moving Castle was an exceptionally beautiful film. The highly detailed background renders were superb and featured all sorts of fantastical elements, giving the environment a wonderful personality. The streets and storefronts were inviting and cheerful, and the darker alleyways held a mystery of their own. The characters were all wonderfully animated, especially Howl, who transformed slickly between his human and harpy-like form.
The design for the castle was especially fun. As more or less a gigantic heap of metal parts, its lack of uniformity gave the viewer a lot to look at, and all of it was interesting. It was also great to see rooms and halls within the castle shift, contract, and expand as Howl magicked them around.
MUSIC - I don't remember anything especially extraordinary, but I think it's safe enough to say that most of the music was satisfying and fitting for their scenes.
VOICE ACTING - I've only seen the movie subbed. The voices were about average, but I would say that's more because of the characters' flatness more than lack of talent on the part of the actors. Calcifer is the only one that had a particularly memorable voice -- it was a little whiny and a little scratchy: absolutely perfect for his grumbling character.
OVERALL - Howl's Moving Castle was a very fun movie to look at. The visuals were gorgeous and everything smoothly animated. Unfortunately, the story and characters definitely left a lot to be desired; there was so little substance that I might have gotten about the same impression if I'd seen the whole thing on mute (or without subtitles). I've been told that the original novel is better, and I wonder if Miyazaki's downfall is only in that he was trying to adapt someone else's work, because certainly I know the man's capable of telling a story better than this.
NOVEL, ANIME: Howl's Moving Castle was originally a young-adult fantasy novel written by Diana Wynne Jones in 1986. It won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award in 1987, and was also was designated an ALA Notable Book for children and young adults.
Howl's Moving Castle was produced by Studio Ghibli (Ponyo on the Cliff, Spirited Away), and directed by Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind). Howl was released in theatres in Japan on November 20th, 2004, and showed dubbed in theatres Stateside starting on June 10th, 2005, courtesy of Disney, and is available both subbed and dubbed
STORY: Sophie Hatter is a young, self-conscious young woman who, after a chance encounter with the wizard Howl, is cursed with the body of a ninety-year-old by the spiteful Witch of the Waste, and is unable to tell anyone about the curse. She ends up going into the Waste, and, with the help of an animated turnip-headed scarecrow that she helps, ends up finding Howl's home; a legged, walking, amalgamation of a castle. In order to break her spell, she makes a deal with the fire demon who powers the castle, Calcifer; if she can break the spell on him and Howl - which he also can't tell anyone about - he will break hers.
Howl's Moving Castle isn't necessarily one of Ghibli's strongest movies, story-telling wise. There are a lot of disparate plot elements floating about, with not a lot of explanation given, or even development, for that matter; the movie kind of just drifts from scene to scene, as if it can't decide what plot element it wants to focus on. Probably the biggest example of this is Sophie's curse. There are times in the movie where she'll appear younger or older; it's hinted that this difference in physical appearance is tied to her self-confidence, but it's never explained, it just happens. The ending is kind of unsatisfying, as everything's quickly wrapped up in a neat package with even little to no explanation of sudden plot elements that end up popping up.
The characters themselves are all fairly well fleshed out, though, and are at least intriguing to watch; the moments in this movie that center around the characters alone are where it really shines, such as Sophie going through and cleaning the house, Markl going to market with Sophie, or Calcifer and Howl talking by the fire.
Taken in terms of the original novel, Howl is a nice retelling. The basic plot elements from the novel are mostly intact, though a great deal of the actual plot has been changed around. If you don't mind a looser retelling of the novel, then you should be fine with this; however, if you're looking for the novel translated exactly onto the screen, then you may not want to see this.
ART: As always with Studio Ghibli, the art for this is beyond beautiful, that goes without saying. There are three big things that stood out for me with the art, though:
-The castle. I can't say enough about how intricately this was done; just the design itself is amazingly thought out, and the animation of the movement and all the little parts moving and operating on their own and as a part of the larger whole is incredibly steampunk.
-Anything to do with magic being used. Incredibly created, especially in how it manifests from character to character, and with beautifully intricate detail.
-The war sequences. Incredibly realistic and devastating, though it should be noted that production on this was happening while the Iraq War and the bombings were just beginning.
MUSIC: Joe Hisaishi does the composing work on this, as he always does. While his music has most of the normal chords and progressions it normally does, the music here tends to be variations on several instruments of the main theme song, which, while not my favorite ever, is passable. Not the greatest soundtrack he's ever done, but still fairly solid.
SEIYUU: The cast for this is fairly new to voice work, but it doesn't show; there are some excellent performances in this, especially the voice actor for Calcifer. I actually like the sub and dub about equally, so I can't state preference here for any one cast. I do like that there is a single seiyuu for Sophie, whether she's young or old, as it just shows you the range of the seiyuu.
VOICE ACTORS: The English dub for this has some fairly big names for the performances; Christian Bale does a pretty good job (and even utilizes the Batman!growl) as Howl, Jean Simmons does an amazing job as the older version of Sophie (even though I don't really understand why there needs to be two separate voice actors here), Billie Crystal does a good job of being the comedic relief in Calcifer, Lauren Bacall is an amazing Witch of the Waste, and Crispin Freeman even shows up for a few lines. Overall, a solid performance.
DUB: I have absolutely no criticism whatsoever for the dubwork on this. Translations are done accurately, there's no intentional flubbing of the original meaning, and it's fairly well done.
LENGTH: The movie does tend to drag at times, especially with how the movie tends to float from scene to scene. The whole thing feels kinda dreamy, though, and you tend to not notice where the time's gone at the end of it.
OVERALL: Not Ghibli's best story or score, but still has wonderful characters, amazing animation, and a fairly solid dub, and cast in both languages. A dreamy sort of film, good for a rainy afternoon.
Based on the book by Diana Wynne Jones, I approached Howl's Moving Castle after seeing Spirited Away (another Miyazaki film). Watching the opening scene we are introduced to a massive walking metal shack, the "moving castle" of the title. I honestly didn't know what to make of the film initially, but just that scene demonstrated to me the film's animation was going to be as good as, if not better than Spirited Away.
We are introduced to a young girl named Sophie Hatter and her town Ingary, where she runs a hat shop. Apparently there is a war going on with a neighboring country, so we
get to see spectacularly animated warships of many kinds (including Final Fantasy-esque flying warships). In the middle of all this is a wizard called Howl, who is being pursued by a witch called the "Witch of the Waste". Anyway as many stories go, Sophie lands in a bit of trouble and ends up being saved by Howl - but the mere fact she had some association with Howl seems to upset the Witch of the Waste so she puts a spell on Sophie. This is where the main part of the story kicks off.
As expected from a Miyazaki film we are constantly being wowed with lush landscapes and detailed scenery, and in fact a lot of scenes are put there merely for the "isn't that lovely" factor, which at times makes the film move a bit slowly. Being it's 2 hours long though, this does not deprive the film of it's story. This film is full of lively and interesting characters, including little animal sidekicks, talking fires, enchanted scarecrows and shapeshifting wizards. So if you watch this film, you are definitely in for a treat.
As a final point, don't make the same mistake as I did and compare this film to Spirited Away. They are nothing alike (for one thing, this film doesn't even take place in Japan). Even though I enjoyed Spirited Away, I like this film just as much, if not more, for different reasons.
I'm currently on a quest to watch every Miyazaki movie and I'm almost done. Miyazaki has the highest batting average of any writer/director in anime as far as I'm concerned. I guess it was inevitable that eventually even he would swing and miss. This is the beautifully animated mess called Howl's Moving Castle.
Firstly, Miyazaki is at his very best when he writes his own material and creates his own original stories. He has shown he CAN do brilliant adaptations like Kiki's Delivery Service and Castle of Cagliostro, but the source material needs to mesh well with his own writing style, preferred themes, and tone. With
Howl, Miyazaki decided to adapt a very mediocre children's book and force his own unique quirks and traits into it. It just felt like a square peg being hammered through a round hole. It was also 2004, so Miyazaki changed the script halfway through production to shoehorn in a war sub-plot that wasn't in the novel and doesn't remotely fit the narrative and tone of the novel. Come on Miyazaki! I know you were mad about the Iraq War. We all hate the Neo Cons. This didn't fit in a children's story with an absurdist plot that ONLY worked because it didn't take itself seriously! This felt as wildly out of place as inserting Glenn Greenwald's anti- US Imperialism diatribes into Green Eggs and Ham.
Howl is an elusive wizard who lives in a moving steampunk castle. Everyone tells terrible rumors about him, but it's all bullshit. He's actually a nice guy for the most part, just a bit selfish and cowardly. Our heroine is a young hatmaker named Sophie, who is cursed by the evil Witch of the Waste to have the body of an old woman. Even worse, the curse makes it so she isn't allowed to tell anyone her true identity. Sophie journeys into the Waste to find a way to reverse the curse and ends up stumbling upon Howl's castle. She decides to just start living there and offers to be his cleaning lady, which he accepts. Howl is constantly running from the Witch of the Waste because he once was in love with her beauty, but left when he realized how evil she was. She has been doggedly pursuing him in order to steal his heart...literally. This was all from the novel. The first half is a straightforward adaptation that improves upon a lackluster story by adding Miyazaki's trademark playfulness and sentimentality.
Now we start the 2nd half and everything goes to shit. Howl is called by multiple countries to turn himself in and transform himself into a monster to be used in a massive World War. This war is being orchestrated by Howl's evil former teacher, who wasn't in the book. She wishes to drain other witches and wizards of their powers and transform them into monsters to create a glorious war. She has no clear plans for global domination like the villain in Laputa, she just really loves war I guess. Howl ends up sending Sophie to meet this evil lady and she drains the Witch of the Waste (the actual villain from the book) of her powers and relegates her to comic relief. Howl ends up swooping in to save Sophie along with the Witch of the Waste and evil Warmonger witch's dog...for some reason. Howl is slowly transforming into a monster, but this is never really explored and leads nowhere. The Waste Witch tries to steal Howl's heart and Sophie ends up inexplicably risking Howl's life to save the evil bitch. Then Sophie falls into a canyon and inexplicably survives. She finds a random door which leads into the past, so she can see how Howl gained his powers. She then pops back to the future and finds Howl there injured but alive. Howl gives up his powers to restore his heart and the Warmonger witch, who has apparently been spying on them via the dog, just randomly decides to end the war and give up. The End.
Sophie is easily the worst Miyazaki heroine. She starts the story wise and resourceful. She doesn't have a character arc to complete. She doesn't really have any interesting traits or characteristics. Howl starts off with very clear flaws, but his journey to fix those flaws is horribly executed because the 2nd half of the film is a beautifully animated, explosive taco shit. The Witch of the Waste was clearly evil and then after getting her powers drained becomes a senile goofball. The warmonger witch just turns good out of fucking nowhere for no reason. I know Miyazaki wanted to have a pacifist theme, so he didn't want a traditional violent confrontation with the villain. That worked in Princess Mononoke because the antagonist was clearly established as morally complex and not simply evil. Howl is like if the villain in Laputa gained the flying death fortress after killing hundreds of soldiers and then just suddenly turned good! If you establish a villain as an evil warmonger and you don't want a violent resolution, have Howl encourage the people to stand up to her! Maybe the soldiers throw down their arms and refuse to shoot the civilians, which causes her to flee. Don't just have her turn good at random!
Art: The ONLY reason I gave this a 6. The art is absolutely gorgeous.
Sound: Pretty good. Not great, but pretty good.
I haven't seen Ponyo yet, but I'm willing to bet this is going to be the worst Miyazaki movie for me by a country mile. The art and animation is beautiful and it clearly tried hard, but nothing in this film worked. The characters, the story, the themes, were all a mess. Yet somehow this piece of shit might be the highest rated Miyazaki film on MAL. HOW?! Did people just give it a 10 back in 2008 because Miyazaki made it and then everyone forgot about it? I guess people actually talk about how good Naussica, or Spirited Away or Porco Rosso is and this inspires backlash and rating bombing from random assholes. This manages to escape unscathed because nobody online goes on and on about how amazing this movie is. This is NOBODY's favorite Miyazaki film. It's a wonderful looking mistake.
I love the Studio Ghibli films. So far I think it is safe to say that Miyazaki is my favourite anime author, and I doubt anyone will ever take his place because I have grown so attached to the work of this man and his ideals reflected on the way he conceives animation, that I can't think of a deeper connection with one's style in any way.
That is the reason why "Howl's moving castle" was, at my first viewing, a serious disappointment. It was the first time a movie by Miyazaki didn't transport me to the world and imagery it showed. Almost two years later,
however, and trying to bring another perspective about this film, I have watched it again, and while this has worked with some other works, it seems "Howl" is still my thorn in Miyazaki's filmography and will always be.
Of course the world introduced here is amazing. This is probably the most gorgeous and visually powerful film Miyazaki has ever done, just watch the scenery, the many traces of impressive imagery, and of course Joe Hisaishi with another solid performance. It's a pleasure for the senses, such a beautiful experience to look at and hear that surely makes it worth viewing.
But that is not an excuse for the many plot holes and sudden changes in character behaviour. That is, in the same way we have a really eye-candy experience given only by the -already known- technical skills of Miyazaki and his group of animators, the story is always lacking.
I would seriously like to be able to fill my review with interpretations and theories about this fascinating world, but quite honestly, didn't find any thread to follow or to keep my interest on. I just can't sit through what in my opinion are clear character and story inconsistencies sucking the emotion or the involvement in whatever the movie is trying to tell me. I won't go with specific scenes to avoid spoiling anyone, but will just say that I find it really disappointing to find that Sophie, the girl who is supposed to introduce me to the story and let me see the events from her eyes, looks so incoherent and variable in her interaction with many of the elements, say the Witch of the Waste or the reactions at some magic events happening around her.
The construction of the storyline is pretty poor, and that is fully shown at an ending scene that feels rushed and ridiculous, where there is not any hint to follow why some characters make some relevant decisions, and looks just plain lazy writing. Really, really lazy, and unsatisfactory. I don't know the original source, but I know Miyazaki far enough to be sure that the fact the novel may or may not be good shouldn't affect the quality of the movie, as in his adaptations he chooses to change stuff freely in order to adjust it to his own subjects and concerns.
It has been said that in this case the plotline is secondary, and it should be seen as a fascinating travel around a world full of magic, where the logic is not needed and if it appears it doesn't make any effect in the enjoyment of the movie. I couldn't disagree more with that statement. During my experience in Miyazaki's works, I have found often this recurrent idea about him, seeing his films as powerful visuals with messed up plots, and as far as I can tell I have never conceived them in that way. Even -and specially- at his least linear and most complex narrative, "Spirited away", every event tries to follow an internal logic, therefore the plot is here and is unavoidable. It also should happen with "Howl"; the fact that it's filled with fantastic and strange elements isn't a valid excuse to make the storytelling lackluster and inconsistent, and of course doesn't change the fact it is needed. More so when it's so clearly intended to be.
In conclusion, and while I can say this work is extremely powerful and memorable at the artistic aspects, I still see it as an unsuccessful attempt that becomes evident at the many plot holes and lack of competent character writing. As entertaining as it could be, it is my biggest disappointment with the otherwise excellent work of this director and the only one that has never fulfilled my expectations.
Howl's Moving Castle is, ultimately, just one example in the ever-growing pile of evidence as to why the word "miss" is never associated with Myazaki.
Story: 10 (Outstanding)
It's hard to say that Howl is original when not only does it draw very heavily from established conventions and tropes from high fantasy and nostalgic works but also happens to be the anime adaptation of the British book of the same name, but it manages to be surprisingly original nonetheless. The story begins with Sophie really just minding her business when she happens to cross paths with an ornery witch who curses her with advanced aging. Desperate to
find a cure, she later bumps into another magical being, the mysterious magician Howl and his moving castle. Howl quickly reveals his true colors as a friendly and simple nice guy and shelters Sophie while he helps her track down the witch responsible for the curse, who just happens to have been jilted by Howl in the distant past. All of this gets swept aside as Sophie, Howl, the witch and their companions are caught up in a devastating war between two powerful nations and are left to fend for themselves and remain a step ahead of warfare's perils.
Art: 10 (Outstanding0
Nothing more can really be said other than "it's Myazaki". As usual and par for the course for him, the scenery is breathtaking, and is just as much a part of the actual storytelling as the narrative. Myazaki went all out for this one and his imagination went full tilt to give us a world populated by early 20th century European sensibilities with just the right amount of magic thrown in.
Sound: 10 (Outstanding)
Once again, Myazaki is an expert in terms of choosing who to score his work, and the musical score is just as outstanding and breathtaking as the visuals they compliment.
Character: 10 (Outstanding)
The characters are both lovable and deep, from Howl to Sophie to the scrappy little Calcipher (brilliantly voiced by Billy Crystal, perhaps one of his most memorable roles period) to even the mean-spirited but later gentle witch responsible for cursing Sophie, who is also very memorably voiced by none other than Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall.
Enjoyment: 10 (Outstanding)
Anything less would be an outright failure for a Myazaki work, and Howl's Moving Castle is certainly not a failure. It's a solid work through and through, and there's little wonder as to why Zack of Anime News Network's Answerman column would adopt the personality of Howl as his favorite.
Howl's Moving Castle is a movie which is greatly acclaimed and loved. I wanted to see what I was missing out on so I watched it.
This movie is about a woman named Sophie who owns a hat shop. On the way to meet her sister, Sophie is saved from shifty men by a handsome, wizard named Howl. The witch of the waste then decides to intervene and casts a spell on Sophie out of jealousy. On a journey to recover her old self, she ends up on the moving castle as a cleaner. Then there's lots of magic, secrets, an adoptive family and a
Story 6/10 - Many will say that I am scoring the story with too much of mercy, I agree that I am. The plot of this movie was all over the place. When a storyline started to pick up, it would get drowned out with something else. There was nothing that was thoroughly solved or even explained. I liked the magic and the occasional humor but they never led to anything. At the end I was left feeling cheated and deprived of an actual ending.
Art & sound 9.5/10 - This is where this movie shines. The art and sound were both exceptional. The scenery at every single scene was so detailed, my favourite scenery being the intricate details of Howl's room. The art was perfectly done and the music also kept up in pace with the art. The music was well timed and set the mood perfectly.
Characters 8/10 - I absolutely loved the heroine, Sophie. She had an entertaining personality and I liked her comments and reactions to situations. The witch of waste, Calcifer, Markl and Turnip also had really good characteristics, they kept the show entertaining. I don't think that Howl was portrayed in the best way, at times he was a very weak character and instead of mysterious, he came off as lacking which was a let down.
Overall, 7/10, I couldn't score it any less due to the art perfection. I don't think I enjoyed this anime as much as other viewers but it is still worth a watch, if you enjoy kisses solving all the world's problems.
Howl's Moving Castle has to be the most overrated of all Miyazaki's films. While it produces legendary animation and a wonderful soundtrack, the story is dull with characters that are difficult to get attached to at all. There is very little character development and many of the characters seem absolutely useless to the plot. The relationships between the characters are also sloppily done with a rushed feeling to them, making them feel like nothing special. Also, not enough is learned about ANY of the characters' pasts and many of their actions seem inconsistent with the personalities you previously thought you knew, making it unpredictable in
a bad, random kind of way.
Based off a novel I never read, this is continued proof that Miyazaki just fails to deliver great films when the story is not of his own writing. It is obvious that these characters are not that important to him.
I do think this is one film that wouldn't be a complete waste of time to pick up because of the incredible and colorful animation. It's excellently done and it's a shame it was wasted on such a lousy story.
First off this is another great film from Hayao Miyazaki I personally loved this film the characters are bright, and vibrant with great personalities which is one of the things that makes me whatch this film over and over again.The film is also good because it can be watched by an entire family and be enjoyed on many diffrent levels,the enviroment in the film are beautifuly rendered and the range from beautiful fantasy, to early modern war periods I would reccomend this anime for anyone first off who is a Hayao Miyazaki but most importantly who is intrested in seeing a masterpiece of its own
It’s never a good sign when I finish a film and the first thought that pops into my head is, “What the hell was that?” Unfortunately, that’s the situation I found myself in upon completing Howl’s Moving Castle, a film which started out promising enough before proceeding to baffle and confuse me at pretty much every turn. I’m almost convinced there was some critical plot element or thematic undercurrent that I somehow missed, to the point where I wonder if I should really be writing this review without first having a second watch to make sure that my aggravated confusion is genuinely on the film’s
shoulders and not my own lack of observational skills. Because as is, it feels alien to me that Miyazaki, the master of bringing subtle reality to the limits of imagination, could direct a movie that feels this incoherent. Sure, even the greats have their off days, but the faults of Howl’s Moving Castle are so bizarre to me that were it not for the unmistakably Ghibli design sense and character faces, it would be hard for me to even consider this a Miyazaki film, born from the same hand as the maestro of Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, Naussicaa, and so many more legitimate masterpieces that forged something real and valuable out of their fantastical cores. I’d call myself angry, but that word feels too harsh; I’m too confused to really be angry at all.
The story, for what it’s worth, takes place in a fantastical world reminiscent of turn-of-the-20th-century London. Witches and wizards are commonplace, wandering the land or setting up shop in pursuit of their individual goals; some are friendly, some are decidedly less so, but everyone’s aware of their existence as a matter of course. Perhaps the most infamous wizard of them all is Howl, a mysterious recluse with no shortage of bizarre rumors swirling around his name. He wanders the earth in his titular moving castle, which is by far the best part of the film. It’s a masterpiece of mechanical and artistic engineering, a lumbering mass of steampunk contraptions that bucks and heaves exactly as a massive, ramshackle object of its size would. If there’s a reason to see the film at all, it would be for the incredible design sense that makes this remarkable mammoth of a magical doodad come to life, and the many scenes that allow you to just soak in its gargantuan presence. In fact, the animation overall is stellar, which, yes, it’s a Ghibli film so you come to expect that, but it’s especially noticeable here for its sheer creativity. The magic wielded by the various wizards and witches we meet along the way is realized in hog-wild expressionist fever dreams, streaking through surreal tableaus that really mess with your mind and play with your perception to create instantly striking images. There are no shortage of brief snippets and frames throughout Howl’s Moving Castle that hint at a much better film, one that committed more fully to the impressionist eclecticism of its presentation and created something truly unique.
Sadly, that’s not the case, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong about Miyazaki falling back on his trademark whimsical profundity once again- it’s worked wonders in the past, after all- its implementation here feels more unfocused than it’s ever been in any of his past films. Sophie, our protagonist, is a simple girl who works at a hat shop before a chance encounter with Howl unwittingly envelops her in his personal struggles and long history of mistakes and bad choices. A jealous witch curses her to turn old, and she chases after Howl in hopes he might have some way to break the curse. But from there, I find describing the plot a near-impossible feat, as it just starts spiraling in a million different directions, none of which seem to have anything to do with each other. There’s some sort of ill-defined war going on between equally ill-defined forces, and the king is trying to conscript all the local magic-users into his army, there’s a subplot about Sophie falling in love with Howl and finding a family with his ever-growing motley crew of servants and tag-alongs, but we don’t spend enough time watching that bond grow to really get invested in it, there’s a running theme of beauty and age that spins its wheels without really going anywhere, Howl has a secret dark side wherein he might be turning into a monster, and it’s connected to something he did in his past that we’re not sure about until the last ten minutes, there are a bunch of different villains who all have a different grudge against Howl, and at some point the amount of Stuff Happening in the plot grew too unwieldy for me to keep up with, and I just sort of buckled under its weight and never really recovered.
To summarize that point a little more succinctly, this is the first Miyazaki film where I feel like the whimsy and lovable characters get buried under plot mechanics and busywork. So much time is spent adding more and more subplots and characters, yet paradoxically not much time is spent fleshing the already existing ones out, and it feels like the film’s attention is constantly bouncing back and forth with no real grounding or focus. But what really kills my ability to comprehend the plot is its shocking lack of context for anything that happens. Howl’s Moving Castle is really bad at explaining why things happen the way they do, why certain characters make the choices they do and why those choices matter, or what you’re supposed to be taking from any of this. Sophie’s curse will fade in and out at times, so she’ll occasionally switch between old and young again or end up somewhere on a sliding scale in between, but I never got why she was changing at the moments she did and what the contrast between her old and young selves was supposed to represent. There’s a villain who causes Sophie a lot of grief before suddenly becoming friends with her in the next scene they share, and then turning briefly traitor again in the finale for reasoning I didn’t get. The magic is all cool, but I never got a sense that it was grounded in any sort of consistent ethos or framework. Hell, it even feels like the characters themselves can shift drastically from scene to scene; I never got a sense of how everyone’s relationship to each other was evolving, because I never understood what events were propelling them to change in the way they did. Tons of stuff happens in this movie, but I don’t get why any of that stuff happened And the result is a constant stream of frustrations where it felt the movie was expecting me to take for granted the logic behind its world and mechanics and internal life, and all I wanted was for it to slow down, take a goddamn breather, and explain what any of its disconnected series of thoughts was supposed to mean.
There’s a comparison to be made here to Spirited Away, I think. Both of these films feature a fantastical world with a lot of wildly mystical occurrences that are never fully explained, asking you to fill in the gaps as you see fit. The difference is that Spirited Away makes me ask questions, while Howl’s Moving Castle makes me demand answers. Spirited Away’s world is so well-realized, so richly textured with just constant detail upon constant detail, that I feel I could live in it and walk around in it. It feels like a place that could theoretically exist with its own internal logic, and thus, it’s really fun to imagine what might be outside the bounds of what the film’s scope chooses to show us. How DOES the Noh-Face spirit get a voice by eating people? What WOULD lie at the end of that train ride out of the bathhouse? Where DO all these spirits go when they’re not slacking off? I don’t have the answers to any of those questions, but because of how well the film paints its world, they’re questions that I can imagine having a logical answer to, and wondering about that answer enhances the part of the world that’s shown on screen. In contrast, Howl’s Moving Castle doesn’t feel like it has an answer to any of the confusing questions it raises, and instead of making me daydream about what the explanations for some of these mysteries might be, it makes me aggravated that the movie isn’t explaining itself better and giving me something of substance to hold onto. Miyazaki at his best is able to capture a kind of mystical whimsy that frees the imagination; this, in contrast, feels like it’s severely limiting my ability to dream in the same manner.
I know this is one of the more popular Ghibli films out there, so if you’re a fan of it and have made it to the end of this review, well, first of all, thank you for your patience with a dissenting opinion, but also, let me know why this film is so special to you. I can’t imagine it got to be as popular as it was through sheer dumb luck, and I’m curious as to what everyone else sees in it that I missed. Perhaps a re-watch at some point with additional context may lead to a more positive outcome overall. But until then, Howl’s Moving Castle was a frustrating experience for me, a film that I never grasped onto yet charged ahead regardless before I ever got a chance to get in the saddle in the first place
Hayao Miyazaki is rightfully considered one of the great artists working in the anime form. Eschewing the hard-edged violence that many American viewers (rightly or wrongly) associate with the form, Miyazaki creates painterly, pastoral visions filled with beauty and eccentric charm. And unlike much of anime, his characters are really animated: they live and breathe and move; they don’t just stand there filling up the composition while the extreme camera angles, moody lighting and striking character design strive to compensate for minimal movement. Moreover, the writer-director is not just a painter of pretty pictures; he fills his films with deeply felt themes (environment, war, etc)
that are expressed through the grandness of the visuals. Unfortunately, the narrative thread binding these themes together is almost never as important as important as how beautiful the billowing white clouds look while cresting the snow-capped mountains and throwing their shadows on the verdant valleys below.
In this regard, HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE is a perfect epitome of Miyazaki’s work, in all its strengths and weaknesses: it’s beautiful and filled with numerous heart-felt story elements and themes (about greed, cowardice, and the futility of war), but how these elements connect on a plot level is subjugated to how beautifully they are rendered on screen.
The story follows Sophie, a young woman who is rescued from being accosted by two soldiers when the mysterious and handsome wizard Howl intervenes, literally flying her through the sky. Howl has a reputation for devouring the hearts of beautiful women, but Sophie doesn’t feel threatened because she doesn’t believe herself to be beautiful. Unfortunately, being rescued by the wizard is a case of going from the frying pan to the fire, as Howl is being pursued by the minions of the Witch of the Waste. The Witch puts a curse on Sophie, turning her into an old hag and preventing her from explaining what has happened. Unable to face her mother, Sophie leaves home and stumbles upon the titular castle, where she takes up work as a cleaning lady.
Domesticity takes a back seat when war breaks out and Howl is ordered to report for duty. Howl admits to Sophie that, despite his powers, he is a coward; even his magnificent moving castle is just a way to run from trouble. He sends Sophie to turn down the call to arms. Along the way, Sophie meets up with the Witch of the Waste, who has her powers stolen from her (we have no doubt that the same would have happened to Howl had he reported for service as ordered).
When full-scale war breaks out, Howl finally decides to stop running, but when his defense of the castle brings him to the point of death, Sophie destroys the castle so that he will no longer risk his life. More through luck than design, Sophie manages to lift a curse that has been binding him to the fire demon Calcifer that powered his castle. She also lifts a curse on a missing prince (whose disappearance was the cause of the war). And she herself returns to her youthful appearance (although her hair remains silver-hued.
The film is filled with sweeping visuals that pull the viewer along: the castle tromping across the countryside, a fiery aerial bombardment, Howl in bird form swooping through the skies as he is battered by the enemy. But the logic behind these events is frustratingly vague, and you’d be hard-pressed to explain the logic of the film’s happy ending (at least three curses are lifted in the last few minutes, but the details of how this is achieved are glossed over). Howl seems to recognize that the old woman who cleans is castle is the same young woman he rescued, but how or even exactly when is not clear. Sophie seems to regain her youth when she expresses concern for others, but this carries little dramatic weight, since she was never particularly self-centered to begin with. Apparently Howl’s problem has something to do with trading his heart to Calcifer (in exchange for what?), but the exact nature is never clarified, so it’s hard to tell how Sophie figured out a way to undo the damage.
Perhaps detailed explanations are not necessary. On a simple, primal level, it is clear that the characters are being rewarded for their altruistic behavior, even if the exact mechanism for how this works is never explained: if we know the “why,” the how is unimportant. But in some cases, even this emotional attachment is lacking: for example, there is a throwaway “plot twist” wherein Sophie’s mother betrays her, but this thread is cut before it can develop — it might as well have simply been cut out completely for all it contributes to the story.
The animation is all beautifully done. Miyazaki uses the screen lke a canvas, filling it with breath-taking vistas that are populated by amusing characters and bizarre images: including a legless scarecrow hopping about on its wooden post and an asthmatic dog that befriends Sophie. Both of these are the sort of cute characters that are immediately endearing, lighting up the screen whenever they appear, regardless of story deficiencies. Even if the plot points are not always clear, the visuals tell us what’s happening in a way that feels emotionally right (as when the formerly imposing Witch of the waste is turned from villain to victim, reduced to flabby, diminished version of her former self).
The English dubbing is very effective. Emily Mortimer and Jean Simmons seamlessly integrate the two versions of Sophie, young and old. Billy Crystal doesn’t overdo the jokes too much as Calcifer, and Lauren Bacall strikes the properly haughty tone as the witch. In the title role, Christian Bale is suitably enigmatic and ambivalent as Howl, alternating between awesome and alluring on the one hand and childish and craven on the other. Sadly, the look of the character seems to become increasingly boyish throughout the film, until it starts to resemble the familiar cliché of the too-cute wide-eyed anime hero.
Ultimately, HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE is not as impressive as Miyazaki’s
ambitious PRINCESS MONONOKE, but it captures the pastoral beauty and charm that we have come to expect from the creator of LAPUTA: CASTLE IN THE SKY and MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO. That’s more than enough to make it worth seeing.
Howl's moving castle, the creator seems to enjoy making his movie have many slice of life elements such as a family atmosphere. While that is nice when it gets too prolonged, it starts to become unnecessary filler and ruins pacing, which I believe you need a good in a film. There was no exciting moments, especially with a film like this we could see more glimpses of the world, rather than focusing too much on the characters.
The movie's storyline didn't seem to have been resolved properly as it conclusion was too rushed and there seems to be deus ex machina. Characters were weak and their
motives and actions didn't felt well written. Overall a lackluster movie that I felt wasn't all that great.
Previously, I've reviewed another Ghibli movie where I did explain that although it was a 5/10 and that it was mostly gonna overview the fact that I didn't like it because I was the wrong audience and give some information for some likeminded individuals. It is absolutely not the same situation here because there's plenty of things wrong and to criticize.
But before that, I'll have to get this out of the way. The world looks amazing and the atmosphere set is great. As far as visuals go Ghibli delivers again a set of stunning visuals in a world where magic exists, making everything look absolutely
incredible. There was never a dull moment visually and it was truly a sight to behold. Paired up with good sound direction that was pretty fitting and these factor into making this at least worth watching for the visuals.
But that's all the praise it will get from me.
The story attempts to create a romance between two characters, created through a juxtaposition of a girl with really low self-confidence, cursed to look like a 90 year old and a wizard who's a racially pure proud aryan, with beautiful and long blonde hair and pure pristine blue eyes, probably because this world is an alternative world 10 generations in after World War 2 was fought and the aryans had won the war. As a result of their superior genes they have unlocked the hidden capacities of their bodies and are capable to use magic. At least, that's how I chose to look at it while eagerly awaiting the plot to catch up to me.
In all seriousness, she's represented as a typical girl with typical features and he's presented as a really handsome man. Which happens to be aryan.
Their relationship is supposed to be this relationship where the guy sees through the curse and helps her cope with her low confidence and she sees how wounded and how affected he is affected by all the fighting and how it changes him, with occasional changes in their appearance to represent that.
But quite frankly their relationship makes no sense or rather, the way it's portrayed doesn't. Sophie barely spends any time with him and mostly lives in the same place as he does, but suddenly falls in love with him because plot. As a matter of fact most of Howl's action are unknown or kept hidden to the residents of the castle. And when the time they've spent is so short, I can only look at her as shallow or having a mere crush at best. While Howl simply falls in love with her because she's there, to put it bluntly. Like, Howl has a woman in his home, better fall in love with her.
Which makes their relationship feel shallow. Yes, there is a definite moment, their introduction, you can see how the spark had happened but there's nothing fueling the flame. You have no idea why they've decided to close the gap between each other and why they mean so much to each other than he's hot, she's there, which makes the relationship feel really shallow and without meaning. It's one of those relationship where you fill in the blanks with the metaphors given by the movie and your thirst for handsome princes getting together with wee lasses.
To be quite frank, most character motivations are questionable or poorly explained, or simply going against their actions. Especially the villain's. You see the villain is this old witch who has trained Howl and is trying to get him to stop using his powers, but her actions directly influence him into having to use his powers. I can't explain why without giving some of the movie's plot but when the movie ends, there's a nod to her having more control over what happens in the movie than it was let on.
Most character lack consistency in their motivations and their actions aren't anywhere near rational. I understand that it's a romantic fantasy story but that does not excuse any of it. The world looks magical but that's about it. And I wish I could've had explained more about that without spoiling the movie but the villain directly enforces Howl to be what he is and the relationship presented is shallow and what to be expected from a fantasy romance. That's about the only things I can say coherently so if you're gonna decide to watch it without giving away any plot.
If you're gonna approach Howl's Moving Castle, you're gonna watch a romantic fantasy story about two people falling in love because they are there. Don't worry, the visuals will do a good job at creating visual metaphors which will be more than enough for you to fill in the gaps of their relationship and give the events meaning. Or will they? Because when your story banks mostly on that, let me make a fake extremist and possibly offensive impression of the story real quick based on the lack of information of the world and poorly explained motivations:
"Howl's a tragic tale of the corruption of racial purity where a girl, Sophie, finds the bunker of a proud aryan after he was gentle enough and willing to belittle himself by helping her. This proud aryan is a wizard, just like many aryans that have resulted out of a good chain of racially pure breeding. Sophie then meets this witch that decides to curse her for the sake of our pure noble protagonist, Howl, by making her old and giving her a big nose, a trait jews were known for, an ethnoreligious group that was first eradicated by the proud aryans in order to save the world. As a result of this shaming, Sophie runs away from her town and joins Howl's bunker, where he hangs out after his long struggle to stop the aryans from having a meaningless war that would only kill other aryans in his bird form, inspired by amazing manga, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure where the ultimate life form, Kars, transforms into a birdman too, representing even more racial supremacy from our protagonist."
You can craft anything you want. Maybe I was wrong, this is a masterpiece.
But seriously, just because your story has fantastic elements and visual clicks to point you into the right direction there should be at least a narrative thread that makes sense, a reason for the characters to desire each other. Quite frankly there are other characters of whose motivation you can understand but this is often stumped by the course of action the movie decides to take. And the visual clicks are not gonna be interpreted or be looked at the same way by most people and you could at least keep a basic semblance of what you're trying to convey with the story rather than hope it sticks. Make us understand the characters and the events rather than make us adapt the characters and events to our understanding.
Anyway, since romance is subjective and I can't give you as many details as I wish I could without ruining your experience, I'm afraid I can't be as helpful in this movie as I wished I would've been. I just hope that this was enough for you to decide if it's the type of romance you're looking for or if you're the kind of person who values artistic presence over the storytelling. It could work for you but then again, maybe it won't.
I got the book this move was based off of randomly at the library one day, and really enjoyed it. When I heard this move existed I was quite happy, that is until I actually watched it. It seemed to me that a lot of the plot was cut out, and that the characters just weren't the characters I had come to love.
I even found myself confused by the end. I don't think things were explained enough. A lot of the humor was gone as well. I have never been a fan of Studio Ghibli, but I was willing to give them a chance
with this. I have to say that I have never been so let down with a book to move adaption since The Series of Unfortunate Events. I suppose I am in the minority when I say that this move isn't as good as people make it out too be.
This has to be the most disappointing anime movie I've ever seen. Considering people say this is much better than the book, I can only shudder to think how mind numbingly boring the book must have been. Studio Ghibli's and Miyazaki's prodigious talents are exhausted and wasted in trying to make this movie pseudo-bearable.
To summarize, it's the classic witch curses girl fantasy, but with some meaningless filler war and random side characters and just... ugh. It's a mess. And by no stretch of imagination a beautiful one, save for the visual appeal.
The brilliant art and the passable music do nothing to alleviate the intense
boredom and the unease generated by the confusing, haphazard story and the annoying voice acting. Not to mention it's excessively LONG, in spite of which the characters are completely hollow and insubstantial.
If you want to pleasure your eyes with a studio ghibli production, go ahead. But do yourself a favor and lower your expectations to nil and switch your brain off.
Howl's Moving Castle is a revolutionary masterpiece that defies common plot structure and character development techniques. As a result, some people mistake a number of its best traits for flaws.
The story is a “typical” Hayao Miyazaki female coming-of-age plot (if you can call anything that Miyazaki does as typical), and has an air of magic and wonderment very like a fairytale. His extensive use of metaphors and symbolism, as is typical of much of his work, leaves the viewer feeling that the movie is extremely thought provoking. The themes he addresses, love, war, forgiveness, self-confidence and self-deprecation, are all explored multi-facetedly
and in great depth. At the same time, rarely is anything specific mentioned that drives the reader to a certain conclusion. What Miyazaki does instead is present facts in abstract ways that leave a sense of wonderment and encourages each viewer to come up with their own conclusions about each subject.
One of the unique features of this story is that, at times, the story doesn't appear to make sense. Usually, that would mean that the story is lacking or not fully developed; however, in the case of Howl’s Moving Castle, it actually enhances the charm and beauty of the story. The mysterious and sometimes confusing reaction it creates will leave you thinking about the movie long after you are finished watching it. Another characteristic of the story is its pacing, which may appear at times to be disjointed or questionable, but upon further reflection, actually adds a little bit of reality to this otherwise fantastical masterpiece.
Art: 10 (Sound and Animation)
Flawless. Perfect. Intricate. Amazing. Everyone should watch this at least once, even if it is only for the art.
Howl’s Moving Castle definitely has some unconventional, albeit amazing, character development. There is very little back-story of the supporting characters, and even some of the main characters have much less back-story than usual. Instead of the movie focusing on the characters history, it focuses much more on their souls. You get to know the characters simply by the actions they take, what they say, and the way they act and react. Again, this method adds a touch of realism to the magic of the story.
It is a true work of art, and one of my favorites.
I'll say it again, this is not your traditional story. It leaves you wondering "what was that about?" and "How did that happen?" at some parts. Some people think that this detracts from the movies quality. I, on the other hand, think that it is the true genius of this movie. I would definitely recommend this to everyone, but would also suggest leaving any expectations you might have on how a story should be aside, and let yourself take this masterpiece in with a clear mind.
This movie is bad. The whole experience was boring to me, the beggining seemed ok, but as the movie progressed it kept getting worse and worse. Nothing that was going on was explained, while somewhat interesting things were happening (for some people), there was no meaning behind them. The story was just pale withouth any explanation.
The characters were dumb in my opinion, not a single character had a great developmemt and their actions were just random. Not a single back story or a flashback either. It's like a slice of life with some random fantasy that doesn't make any sense. Not a single character
was likeable, the story didn't even tell us what they are. I don't see anyone getting attached to any of the characters, except for the dog.
The art was horrible too, some people might say "oh, the art is amazing for a 2004 movie" but it really isn't. While sometimes the background will look really good, you can't forget the fact that the whole animation is CGI. It may look somewhat good to some people, but in my opinion it's not a very good CGI anime, even for it's time. For example, I liked Serial Experiments Lain's art style & animation better, even tho it was from 1999.
The soundtrack in my opinion is the only good thing in this movie. There are some really good elements, but what does a good soundtrack do for a movie with an unexplained story and dull characters.
In conclusion, I didn't enjoy this movie, because most of the time, I had no idea what was going on, the CGI was bothering me and I didn't like the characters at all, the movie didn't seem to have a goal.
Howl's moving castle is a raved about movie from the notorious and respected Studio Ghibli. Well Studio Ghibli has made numerous fantastic films, some which i've watched countless (ok 11) times, this one left me disappointed and conflicted.
Howl's moving castle is about magic, and a girl transformed into an old woman by an evil witch. Theres some romantic interests and what not, but honestly, thats it! I felt the movie honestly just developed poorly, it felt like it didn't end with any climax or revelation, nor did I feel some infatuation with the charecters. When It ended, I felt as though I was looking at
a painting, its pretty no doubt, but after I look at it long enough, it loses my attention and I move on to other things.
Howl's moving castle was a bit scattered, from slow subtlety to fast paced action. I just find myself grasping for some connection from scene to scene. The reputation of this movie suprizes me, maybe I just wasn't as drawn in as to many other Ghibli movies, but of all of them, this is the only one I dislike.
The art was beautiful, the sound was beautiful, all typical of the studios fine craftsmanship, but the story was sub-par to that of Nausica, Arriety, Marnie, Spirited away, Princess mononoke, kiki etc.
If you loved this movie, im glad, as it has respectable qualities, I just cant slap this with anything higher than a 6 as frankly, I just didnt enjoy it. Personally, the characters, development, pacing, and overall direction was not impressive, and left me feeling dissatisfied.
If your curious whether you should watch this, my answer is yes. Many people love this movie, and you may be one of them, but I humbly offer my opinion, that if its not for you, you arent mad. Well this is a beloved movie by most, to me, and a small selection of others, this was a movie that poorly represented that of a truly fantastic studio.
A friend of mine who is a huge fan of the Studio Ghibli works recommended this to me. And thank goodness she did. This movie remains one of my favourites, even after watching most of the Studio Ghibli works and quite a few from other studios.
The movie starts with Sophie, a young girl working as a hatter at her late father's hat shop. She meets Howl by complete chance, and catches his attention, much to the irk of the Witch of the Waste who wants Howl's heart for herself. The With of the Waste then casts a curse on Sophie, transforming her to the body
of an 80-year old woman. Finding Howl once again, this is the story of how she regains her youth and gains Howl's love in a moving tale set around a fantasy world in the midst of war.
While a lot of questions remain unanswered, and it's a lot less focused on the romance than that of the story it's based on (by Diana Wynne Jones and well worth a read) this movie remains a fantastic epic abstract in only the way Studio Ghibli can pull off.
The sound matches the movie perfectly. The main theme almost seems to swoop through the bars of endless strings and piano, lulling you into the tale, wanting for more. The sound effects are amazing as well, although I have only seen the dubbed version, so I'm guessing they are as up to scratch as the original.
I loved Markl and Calcifer. Calcifer, a fire demon who made a deal with Howl when he was a young boy, is a comedic character who will never fail to put a smile on your face, brilliantly voiced by Billy Crystal. Markl is explored in a lot more depth than that of the book, and he's so sweet and innocent, while trying to remain serious and idolize Howl.
A lot of questions remain unanswered, and no character is really delved into in depth, apart from Howl and Witch of the Waste (though not nearly enough if you ask me). But then again, would this ever be a true Studio Ghibli film if they did?
All in all, this is a movie I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend to anyone. Even the anime-haters among you (though, on a site recommending anime you will be few-and-far-between) should watch this brilliant film. It will definitely change your outlook. Beautifully drawn, wonderfully cast, and bittersweet story.