Movies / Animé and Toons

Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle

By Hervé St-Louis
May 15, 2013 - 10:11

Caught in fight between wizards and witches, Sophie, the heiress of a hat store is transformed into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste. Exiled from her home, and escaping an upcoming war, Sophie finds refuge in the gigantic Moving Castle, where she becomes its cleaner and caretaker of its owner, Howl, the wizard who first stole her heart. Can Sophie break the charms and be youthful again?

Howl’s Moving Castle is an incredible movie directed by Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki and adapted from a novel from British author Diana Wynne Jones. Originally released in Japanese in 2004, the movie, like other Studio Ghibli films has been translated to English by Disney, who owns the distribution rights of this film in many locations outside of Japan and Asia. Released previously as a DVD, this is the first Blu-Ray edition.

Howl’s Moving Castle is a love story based on the fantastic fairy tale premise that love can break evil magic spells and curses. Although the film starts with Sophie as a damsel in distress saved from arrogant soldiers and henchmen of the Witch of the Waste, quickly the table turns on Howl and Sophie and the latter becomes the main heroine and protagonist who literally has to pick up the male hero when he breaks down in fear and sorrow.

For viewers that are unaware, Miyazaki is a feminist and a pacifist. Although some of his films do feature women and girls that have to be saved by men, many of his best films, such as Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind and Princess Mononoke feature strong female leads. Here, Sophie is not a warrior or a sorceress, unlike her counterpart in the novel. She is simply a young woman of strong resolve, trapped in the body of an old woman who fights for her principles, and believes in others, even the to point of helping the evil Witch of the Waste, several times.

It is Howl who is the flamboyant and self-absorbed character who cringes at any defeat and fears his duty to the extent that he sends Sophie to represent him at court on his behalf. Other magnificent characters include Turnip Head, Markl and Calcipher, the fire demon that powers Howl’s Moving Castle. I really liked Calcipher the most. He s both funny and untrustworthy!

What can I say about the animation? Well, it’s standard Miyazaki stuff, with blowing wind and flight being major themes of his characters. The transformed Howl has the same giraffe-like long neck and vacuous slimy features as the Deer God in Princess Mononoke. Here, Miyazaki relies on a standard star system of character, much like one of the cartoonist who influenced him – Osamu Tezuka. Sophie’s old woman looks resemble the old women in Spirited Away and Castle in the Sky. Howl and Sophie, of course, have the typical prepubescent look of Miyazaki’s heroes and heroines.

The new Blu-Ray compilation comes with a few interviews and behind the scenes on the film’s production, but not much else which may leave fans of Miyazaki’s film hungry for more.

Last Updated: September 6, 2021 - 08:15

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