Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, is based on the novel written by Diana Wynne Jones. Once again, Miyazaki delves into the world of fantasy where he explores the nature of magic and wizards in a world where they are well known and utilized in war. In this story, we follow a young girl’s journey after she is cursed by the Witch of the Waste after she meets the wizard Howl. The curse placed on Sophie severely ages her and to top it all off, the curse itself prevents her from explaining the burden placed upon her!
Howl’s Moving Castle is animated and uses Miyazaki’s favorite mix of adventure and fantasy and, in this case, a dash of romance. As the audience watches Sophie’s journey unfold they hold her breath every time she transforms back to her original age before the curse holds her back and like a rubber band, she reverts back to an 80 year old woman. However, this doesn’t stop Sophie from being feisty and even taming a fire demon when the opportunity presents itself.
Just like all other Miyazaki films, this one is very rich in morals and teachings. This one shows the healthy balance of self worth and confidence needed to flourish as a person. It also shows the detrimental effects of greed and vanity on a person. This movie also shows that people can change, not fully in nature but they can still change for the better. This is done through both extraordinary means and also through gradual growth. As Sophie says, “the best blaze brightest when circumstances are at their worst”.
Because growth and change of the characters is so vital to the story, it must be said that the characters are the most vital part of the story. Sophie in particular is such a complex character, it is hard to see any other character in her role. The plot simply wouldn’t suffice without her. She is so incredibly brave, she speaks her mind and isn’t afraid to challenge those who may be more powerful than her. She is an absolute gem, some might even say a star.
This is by far one of the most beautiful Miyazaki films. The details are absolutely breathtaking. It shows a complex dichotomy of the most beautiful fields and seasides to battered battleships and a fiery war-torn town. The animation of How’s castle itself is so intricate you find a new detail every time you watch the film. The movements of the castle are divine and it is a perfect balance of the absolute chaos of how it is put together and the seamless way all the parts function together. It is so aesthetically steampunk and that in itself is way before its time.
The challenges that Sophie faces are many but I feel that the most important one is man vs. self. Although she is so fiery and fearless she doesn’t have a lot of confidence in herself. This is mainly due to the fact that her mother and her sister are portrayed to be very feminine women who always have men milling about her and Sophie doesn’t fit this mold. Because she isn’t like them, her confidence was stunted and she doesn’t take compliments very well. As if this wasn’t enough, she faces a few other challenges such as (one of Miyazaki’s favorites) man vs. nature. Let me tell you, rain shall come and when it rains in a Miyazaki film, it pours.
This film is so strong, it is despairingly hard to find a weakness. The characters are well-written and unique, the graphics are divine, and the plot is fantastic. There is a perfect balance between action and mundane little actions. The music is absolutely beautiful and it is lovely and it helps set the mood during wide shots and as characters trudge forwards.
Howl’s Moving Castle always captivates me every single time I watch it and boy, let me tell you, that is hard to do. I have watched this movie so many times but I love it every single time I see it. This film is so inspiring and reminds the watcher to value themselves. To stand up and protect those they care about and even to forgive those who have harmed them. I can’t watch this movie without smiling so much my face hurts, I simply can’t.
This movie is such a beautiful bundle of what I love about Miyazaki films. It is a transformative journey with great obstacles and well-developed characters. It deals with moral issues of self but it also deals with broader issues such as war and sacrifice. Miyazaki’s drawing style is phenomenal in this film and it deals with the elements and of course, the wonder of flight.
This film is one of my top 3 all-time favorite movies. It is just so strong and wonderful and a delightful pick-me-up. I can’t tell you how stressed and tired I have been this week but this movie made me feel just a bit better. This movie deserves 10/10 strawberries. If you haven’t watched this movie yet, I am literally begging you to do yourself a favor and watch this one. You won’t regret it.