nothing about animation. I appreciate it, and, in many cases, love it,
but I’m no expert. I do, however, know Hayao Miyazaki, and Studio
Ghibli. And there’s a reason behind the accolades the name and studio
have garnered. Turns out? The guy’s a genius.
Part fairytale, part wartime story, Howl’s Moving Castle is the story
of a plain, ordinary hatmaker–Sophie. When Sophie is rescued from an
attack by a gorgeous, mysterious wizard, she attracts some dangerous
attention. A powerful, vindictive witch curses Sophie, turning her
into an old woman. Fleeing from her home and her family into the
wastelands far from her town, Sophie finds herself a new home, and a
new family in the strangest of places. A walking ‘castle’ created by
magic, and fueled by a fire demon… And the castle belongs to none
other than Wizard Howl, himself. Sophie’s rescuer, yet again.
Howl’s Moving Castle is a spectacular fairytale. Overflowing with
magic and warmth, wit and humour, it’s an absolute delight.
It’s sentimental and sweet, but never sappy. It’s funny and charming,
but it’s intelligent and never patronizing. It resists the urge to
spell it out to the viewer, but instead allows the story to unfold,
and allows you to discover its mysteries along with it.
Sophie is a fabulous character, who’s layered and vulnerable, but has
a spine of steel. Cursed and adrift, she’s a damsel in distress who
rescues herself, and Prince Charming. Meanwhile, our gorgeous,
charming, magical hero is flighty and capricious, and needs rescuing
every bit as much as Sophie, but needs to find the strength outside
himself. There’s a wonderful reversal of the classic Disney-princess
and Prince Charming myth, one that recurs in Miyazaki’s work, and
we’ve seen before in the equally splendid Spirited Away. I fell in
love with these characters. I cackled along with a sentient fire,
loved and lived and laughed with Sophie, and Howl… I loved him. I
loved his caprice and kindness, his shallowness and depth. My heart
broke as he found something his heart could break for.
Like every good fairytale, Howl’s Moving Castle is rich in moral
lessons, but never preachy. It’s a tale about believing in oneself,
and about finding home and family where we make it. It touches on
outward verses inner beauty, and there’s a hint of Beauty and the
Beast in it’s gorgeously drawn scenes.
What drew me in and wouldn’t let me go, though, was the imagination.
Sophie and Howl live in such a gorgeously imagined world. Magic is as
real as every breathtaking mountainous backdrop and wonderful, quirky
side character. Imagination, life and spark populate every flower,
word, movement and moment of this extraordinary film.
Howl’s Moving Castle is simple perfection. Beautifully animated,
extraordinarily imagined, and brought to life with a spark of magic
both deep moving and familiar, yet uniquely its own, it has something
for everyone: Romance, action, pure unadulterated fun and laughter. If
you’re interested in Anime, but don’t know where to start, start here.
If you’re not interested in Anime, watch this anyway.
Great story-telling transcends medium. There’s a universal feeling of
bone-deep satisfaction when you’ve turned the final page in a
wonderful book, or watched the credits role in an extraordinary
film… Closely followed by wanting to read it or watch it all over
again. I never want to leave Howl’s behind me. I want to watch it over
and over again until I’m intimately familiar with it’s every cadence,
nuance, rhythm and detail. Howl’s Moving Castle is, for me, perfection
A wonderful, wonderful, wonder-filled film I hope you’ll love every
inch as much as I.