Howl’s Moving Castle is one of those films that will always be remembered as a colorful adventure that shaped our childhoods. Studio Ghibli is renowned to be a creative studio that consistently challenges itself, especially due to the fact that its helmed by none other than the incredible artist; Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki’s done some amazing works of art and created many different worlds and characters that we can never forget.
From My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service to Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, Miyazaki San consistently gets better with each film. However, Howl’s Moving Castle is a film that fits right in the middle of it all, even though it was released after all of these.
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The Movie Review
The film follows the story of Sophie, who lives her life working with her father at his hat shop. However, her life quickly changes completely when she is introduced to Howl, a young man who lives within a floating castle that soars through the skies.
As their friendship begins to deepen into affection, the evil Witch of Waste casts a curse on Sophie that ages her prematurely. To stop her from overly aging and losing her life entirely, Howl must do whatever it takes to fight off the evil Witch. Sophie and Howl’s journey to restore Sophie to her former beauty and young age is an emotional rollercoaster ride that I honestly can’t get out of my mind.
Hayao Miyazaki has always had a penchant for creating things that we can admire and get bewildered by, yet relate to and find comfort in. Howl’s Moving Castle does this better than any of his previous works, by crafting a film around a loving relationship between two young people who have to battle against not just an evil witch, but the very concept of aging and death itself.
There are of course elements such as magic, amazement, and absolute wonder that are always ever-present in any Miyazaki film. Howl takes all of this up a notch, by making the film center on the main magician as its hero.
Miyazaki makes a statement with Howl’s Moving Castle, showcasing that he’s an artist unlike any other. The film has a strong message of anti-war circulating within it, as he was one of the few people who heavily opposed the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003. Howl’s shown as a freedom fighter, fighting for the king’s resistance.
Not to mention, it also has themes of feminism and aging, both of which go hand in hand here as Sophie’s not just a woman, she’s a woman who is aging rapidly. It’s a film full of metaphorical themes that fill it with amazing content that is a bit mature for a children’s film.
In terms of the overall art direction and animation in Howl’s Moving Castle, the only way I can describe this film is through the term ‘fragrant’. There’s an aura in the way the skies are shown here, or the way the seas glisten, the way wind swoops in and goes through anything in its path.
The film’s art is so beautiful that you can almost envision yourself within its world; you can smell it just from visualizing. The characters are distinctly made; each one is memorable and different in their art style. It’s a film that requires all senses to be sharp for the full experience.
The voice acting in Howl’s Moving Castle is exceptional, to say the least. It has one of the most popular voice acting casts in the US dub of the film, along with some of the best Japanese voice actors in the original Japanese voice-over.
The soundtrack is phenomenal; there isn’t much to complain about the soundtrack as I can still hear the jingles and the piano themes from a Walk in the Skies. The one thing I have to say to sum the soundtrack up is, Joe Hisashi and Hayao Miyazaki working together have always lead to a visually and sonically profound experience unlike anything else.
The Bottom Line
So to conclude this review, Howl’s Moving Castle is Hayao Miyazaki’s favorite film that he’s ever created, and for very good reason too. This is a film that has messages to send forward, it has motivations behind it that are true and pure. It has a production team of artists that are absolutely passionate about what they’re creating, a storyteller who cares about the story he’s writing. It’s a film that has so much love put into it that you simply cannot point out a single flaw without sounding like a nitpicky ne’er-do-well.