Go to contents

Howl’s Moving Castle

Posted December. 15, 2004 23:02,   


An 18-year-old girl, Sophie, turns into a 90-year-old hag one day by a witch’s curse. To break the curse, Sophie gets into the “Moving Castle” where a very good looking wizard, Howl, lives, and adds a touch of love and hope to the messy and gloomy castle. Sophie becomes attracted to Howl, who will disappear into the night and come home all messed up with cuts and bruises, and ultimately, she finds out about his secret.

Released by Hayao Miyazaki (63), an animation director from Japan, three years after “Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi),” “Howl’s Moving Castle” runs along the same line with all of Miyazaki’s other animations in terms of themes; they are about co-existence with nature, and antiwar. The delivery of the message, however, is done in a rather different way. It is very to-the-point.

The new animated feature has Sophie’s love story on one axis and the antiwar message in Howl’s lonely rebellion on the other, tugging hard from either side, making the movie both romantic and melancholy, while being subtle and blunt at the same time.

This film does not make a great deal about the moments when the curse is put on and lifted from Sophie. On the contrary, Sophie finds good fortune and new meaning from the changed reality when she is transformed into an old lady, saying, “The good thing about being old is that I’ve got nothing to surprise me.” It is a profound and beautiful imagination that says adapting ones self to the curse is a greater victory than breaking the curse. Supporting characters like “Calcifer,” the fiery demon, “Heen,” a dog suffering from asthma that is more subtle than he appears to be, and “Turnip,” the jumping scarecrow, show once again Hayao Miyazaki’s sense of humor and his world view with his belief in spirits hidden in every part of nature.

The heap of junk, or the castle of Howl, tottering on four legs with all of its parts miraculously propped up against each other, reaches the ultimate limit of 2D animation with human touches that can only be achieved with Hayao Miyazaki’s artisanship. Another interesting fact is that Japan’s most charming singer and talent, Kimura Takuya, is the voice behind the wizard, Howl, who cries, “There is no point in living anymore,” over his hair color that turned out right rather than wrong,