Credits: 2004 Diana Wynne Jones, Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli, TOHO
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In Hayao Miyazaki's latest animated masterpiece, journey beyond imagination and enter a "breathtaking fantasy world" (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times) filled with adventure, humor and heart. Sophie, a quiet girl working in a hat shop, finds her life thrown into turmoil when she is literally swept off her feet by a handsome but mysterious wizard named Howl. The vain and vengeful Witch of the Waste, jealous of their friendship, puts a spell on Sophie. In a life-changing adventure, Sophie climbs aboard Howl's magnificent flying castle and enters a magical world on a quest to break the spell. Featuring the voice talents of Jean Simmons, Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall, Blythe Danner, and Billy Crystal, Miyazaki's artistry comes to life on DVD with inventive characters, unique storytelling and richly detailed animation.
Let the child in you explore...>>> by skysenshi
Based on the novel Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, this movie is one of Hayao Miyazaki's best works to date. While it wasn't as groundbreaking as Spirited Away, Howl definitely carved its niche.
We are introduced to yet another plain-looking heroine, Sophie, who is young but as stiff as an ironing board. She meets the dashing, yet overly narcissistic Howl, and her life changes drastically. While wondering about the mysterious stranger, she unwittingly grabs the attention of an old witch who then turns her into a crone in order to catch the elusive Howl. Sophie, knowing full well that she cannot remain where she stood, sets out — back pains, rheumatim, and all — to search for Howl.
There are many conventions that this motion picture deviates from. For one, Howl isn't your typical Miyazaki male protagonist. He isn't very strong and reliable. In fact, he is hopelessly flawed. He is vainglorious, moody, spoiled, and his personality changes when his hair color does. He is cordial and formal when blonde, temperamental when red-headed, and silly when raven-haired. Why do you think every other bishounen fangirl drools over him? There are so many facets to Howl that one can't help but fall in love with him. I, for one, completely understand Sophie's fascination with the guy.
Sophie, on the other hand, carries the same dynamism that Howl has. For someone so conservative and prudish, she certainly attracts a lot of interesting friends. Her experiences with these magical beings help her grow as a character, and ultimately as a heroine. I had a wonderful time watching her get flustered by the supporting characters' antics. What many adults consider her weakness — her overly kind heart — I find to be her biggest strength. Normally, I would balk at seeing such an underdog, but her persistence remains under the radar. She does get sly when needed. That, for me, defines what a true backbone is. One doesn't need to be a certified bitch to express one's clout, and Sophie proves it many times in this animated feature.
The plot itself is fantastic, enough for me to want to buy Ms. Jones's book. Like Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle has that Alice in Wonderland feel, wherein you drop your real-life activities, set off for a dream world, and embark on a grand quest that defies time and space. The castle, with its walking spider legs, will take you to different places that have varying rules and nuances. The experience is incredible. Similar to all previous Miyazaki masterpieces, Howl is full of symbolisms — many of which overaged and overly jaded critics will never comprehend. You just have to learn to sit back and enjoy the film for what it's worth. If you are a person who overanalyzes, stop thinking and let the child in you be entertained.
Howl's Moving Castle made me thank heavens for DVDs. Before Spirited Away, I couldn't fully appreciate Miyazaki's productions because I watched nearly all of them through a VHS player. You just have to see Howl on DVD. The wondrous textures, playful colors, and crisp artwork are nothing short of superb. The musical scoring is equally as brilliant.
Individual Rating: Art/Animation 10; Story 10; Characters 10; Sounds 10