The teamwork of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki never disappoints. Howl’s Moving Castle is another great animated film filled with interestingly unique characters and a very beautiful story of love, sacrifice and acceptance.
This film directed and scripted by the great Hayao Miyazaki is based on the novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, a British writer. Howl’s Moving Castle made it to the international scene with its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 5, 2004. It was then released in Japanese theaters on November 20, 2004. This film had a gross of $190 million in Japan and $235 million worldwide making it, one of the most financially successful Japanese films in history. This was also dubbed in English by Pixar’s Peter Docter and distributed in North America by Walt Disney Pictures. Just like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle also received international recognition via nomination for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 78th Academy Awards in 2006. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howl’s_Moving_Castle_(film))
The story revolves on the heroine, Sophie, who is an ordinary 18 year-old teen, working as a hat maker until he got involved with Howl- a handsome wizard with his own moving castle. Because of her involvement with the latter, the Witch of Waste who is apparently hooked with Howl, cursed her and turned her into an old lady.
Knowing that she can no longer stay and work looking like that, Sophie decided to leave. She travelled until she reached the land of the wastes where she met Turnip, a ‘living’ scarecrow who helped her step on Howl’s Moving Castle.
The young lady didn’t really plan to live in Howl’s Moving Castle. Fate brought her there. She met Calcifer and Makl whom she later got attached with. Being an old woman didn’t stop her in doing what she has been doing for years- cleaning the house. I really love the part where she started cleaning the whole house and the amount of dirt she collected was just ridiculously terrible.
Howl’s Moving Castle looked more like a house now with a family because of Sophie. Makl really got attached to her and expressed how he didn’t want her to leave anymore. Calcifer on the other hand, may be one selfish fire- always wanting to be free from the curse, but at the same time is obedient to Sophie. Okay, let’s admit that blackmailing has something to do with Calcifer’s so-called obedience, but in the last part, I really saw how he strived to get them going and catch up with Howl (Howl’s lost in a battle that time).
I love how Sophie adjusted to her situation. My favorite line from her is this one: “The good thing about being so old is you’ve got little to lose.” It’s true, isn’t it? Once we get old, we kind of just let everything be. We get less conscious of our physical appearance and just live each day as if it’s our last. Sophie did make the most out of it. She later turned back into an 18-year old young lady though her hair stayed brilliant silver.
On the other hand, Howl who was a blonde at first (thanks to all the spells he put on himself) had learned to accept his true self. I find one really hilarious scene during the first half of the film. Because Sophie had been totally dedicated in cleaning the whole castle, of course she also cleaned Howl’s room. She did her job really well resulting to Howl’s tantrums! It turned out that the spell in his room was changed and confused because of Sophie’s diligence. That tantrums though was a serious one as Howl was shown summoning spirits of darkness. The latter was petrified when his blonde hair turned back to the original one (I think it was dark blue in color). Makl said that this incident happened before when a girl dumped him – now this is hilarious!
The last part was truly heartwarming. Because of love, Sophie was able to get into that door which showed Howl’s past (Sophie didn’t mind if Howl was a monster really). That gave her the idea on what to do to finally save Howl- bring his heart back and release him from the curse. Turnip turned out to be locked in a spell as well and was freed from it after Sophie gave him a kiss on the cheek. Turnip is a Prince from another kingdom and going back to his place is an important factor in stopping the war.
Just like what Makl had wished for, Sophie stayed with them and had a beautiful relationship with Howl. The last scene showed all of them enjoying their life in the new flying castle. It was such a great sight.
It may be shallow, but towards the end, I find myself crying. The last minutes of the film was just perfection. That part where Howl said that he’s done running from the enemies because he finally found someone to protect was one of the best. Sulliman finally ending the ‘idiotic war’ filled me with so much joy. Thanks to the musical scoring as well – the melody was more than enough to touch my heart.
I had a great time watching this movie. I enjoyed every minute of it. More Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli films to watch soon! 🙂
(Photos not mine, credits to their rightful owners)