Howl’s Moving Castle

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Photo by D. Tempesta

I do not hesitate to say Howl’s Moving Castle is one of the best animated movies I have ever seen, and we all know how much I like Disney. Everything about the movie is just so well done. It was a great pleasure to watch. I am fairly certain I owe something significant to the great soul who recommended this movie to me. Like my firstborn. Or at least some ice cream. Back to the main point, there is not a bad aspect of this movie.

My three favorite aspects, in no particular order, are the characters, the story/storytelling, and the music. Howl’s Moving Castle not only expertly creates characters but develops them perfectly. Sophie is delightfully plain yet perfectly likeable when she is first introduced. However, by the end of the film, she is one of the most dynamic characters. It is nearly impossible to not fall in love with Howl after his first interaction with Sophie. He is exceptionally wonderful in this scene, but we quickly realize he is not as carefree and confident as he appears to be. Following much the same pattern, albeit from a different starting point, the Witch of the Waste is easy to hate but is surprisingly sympathetic by film’s end. Even the scarecrow had an unexpected level of personality.

Howl’s Moving Castle fits these characters into a unique and mesmerizing story. We journey with Sophie through a world filled with wonder and fantastical happenings that rivals those of Mary Poppins and Willy Wonka. We see Sophie cursed by a spiteful witch and fall in love with a youthful wizard. She travels to four different destinations using a single door. We follow her through a dream and even travel in time with her. All this leads to her returning Howl’s heart to him after the deal he made with Calcifer. Are there some questions left unanswered at the end of the film? Somewhat, but nothing we cannot work out for ourselves. Also, in a world filled with wonder, it seems okay to leave some conclusions to the viewer. If all is explained, the marvel is lost.

Finally, all this amazement and character development is accompanied by the best soundtrack I have heard without vocals. The music is exceptional on its own. But the subtle orchestral backing matches the mood and feeling of each scene throughout the film seamlessly. Everything working together is creates an excellent animation that I am better for having watched. I would also like to point out two features of the movie that I wish to not go unnoticed, the humor and the animation. I found myself chuckling heartily at several points throughout, something I was not expecting at all. The dialogue was delightfully clever. And the film was aesthetically captivating. I found my eyes devouring the animation and beautiful scenery, always eager for what I would see next. And who knew Christian Bale has that much range as a voice actor? My goodness! All in all, the film is incredible, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone with an adventurous heart and a few hours to spare.

My name is Chuck, and these are my thoughts. Now I would like to know what you think. What was your experience upon first viewing of Howl’s Moving Castle? Did you enjoy the characters and their stories? Does anyone know of a Myazaki cult I can find, or do I need to start one? Leave a comment down below, and we’ll talk. Enjoy the day!


9 thoughts on “Howl’s Moving Castle

  1. The most profound take-away for me was the concept of family and how you don’t have to be defined by your family nor do you always get to craft who becomes your family…who loves you into being. The great soul who recommended the movie also has a quote on his desk about how we all have someone(s) in our life who has/have loved us into existence, into our current iteration. We don’t get to choose the form or function of that love nor how it will transform us. Our only job is to be open to navigating it with gratitude and a sense of wonderment.

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    1. Thanks for the comment 🙂 And a huge thanks for using the word “wonderment”. I tried to fit it into the post, but nowhere I placed it felt right. The idea of not-family being family has always intrigued me. Tarzan, The Jungle Book, Lilo and Stitch, and, strangely, The Lord of the Rings all approach that topic well. On another note, in a Naruto episode, Shikamaru sighs about how he’d rather be a cloud, listlessly floating where the wind takes him. Conversely, Naruto challenges all outside forces on his life and brashly forges his own path. I think it is important that we do both. But it was a nice reminder to do both, indeed. Much the same, sometimes we effortlessly walk on the air with Howl and sometimes we go through great pains to restore the heart of one so dear.

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      1. “restore the heart of one so dear” is an apt phrase and exactly the process I thought I was going through with my current partner. What I didn’t realize until later was that restoration of his heart brought about transformation of my own, which is the personal connection I felt with this movie when I watched it. I had never thought about LOTR addressing family-not-family until now, but it makes sense!

        Watching Naruto, I would go a few episodes (which was more like 25 episodes) thinking I was a wanderlusty Shikamaru, then a bold Naruto, then a quiet-but-impactful-Hinata, then a paragon-who-avoids-responsibility Kakashi….until I realized what was important was to – as Bruce Lee would say – be water, be formless and open to filling the needs of the moment.

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      2. One of my favorite arguments for the positive impact of fiction, regardless of medium, is how it can sometimes teach us more about “real life” than real life can. I’m not sure I fully understood the value of the relationship between fluidity of personal character and diversity of character relation in fiction. It is good to have different characters to which to relate depending on the current status of our life.

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    1. Thanks for the comment 🙂 And I appreciate the compliment! I got lucky and had a very nice person allow me to borrow the film. A Google searched produced a few sites that seemed safe enough to stream it, but I have hesitation in regards to their legality. For that reason, I don’t wish to advertise them here. The DVD itself does have a decent price on Amazon.

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    2. Update: I foolishly did not think of this sooner. In speaking with a friend today, it occurred to us that a local public library may have copies of various anime films. College libraries are likely to have them, as well.

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