The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Howl’s Moving Castle

Title: Howl’s Moving Castle aka Hauru no Ugoku Shiro
Genre: Drama/Action
Company: Studio Ghibli
Format: Movie; 118 minutes.
Dates: 20 Nov 2004

Synopsis: Sophie was an ordinary girl who made hats. Her life was simple and dull. One day, she had an unsuspected rendezvous with a golden-haired young man. Later that night, a meeting with a sinister witch ends by the wicked woman transforming Sophie into an elderly woman of 90. In order to reverse the spell, she must make way to the moving castle of Howl, a wizard. And thus, her adventure begins.

The Highlights
Story: Appeals to all.
Artwork: Classy as it is magnificent.
Heroine: Both attractive and easy to admire.
Music: Fits the setting perfectly.

Only one with a timeless eye for intrigue and fantasticality, such as the great Miyazaki Hayao, could possibly come up with an immediate masterpiece at almost the bat of an eyelash. Though much more strenuous work was put into Howl’s Moving Castle than an insignificant fan could ever know, Japan’s greatest animator presents us with one of his splendid journeys into a realm of pure fantasy.

As it has become accustomed in Miyazaki’s latest works (such as 1997’s Princess Mononoke and 2001’s Spirited Away), the visuals of Howl are purely astounding and cease to amaze. The vast landscapes and charming character designs remain at an astonishing high throughout the entire film. It seems that, like the story’s witty protagonist, things are getting better with, well, time.

The film’s ultimate high, I must say, lies within the characters themselves. Here we have a relatable and wise heroine, in both the forms of a young damsel and a feisty elder. Her delightful attitude moves with the story nicely, making her yet more human and emotional as it continues. The majority of side characters exhibit a substantial amount of depth as well. Along with the triumphing, thumping soundtrack and the fantastic visuals, everything almost seems too good to be true. Almost.

Howl’s main downfall lies within its fragmented storyline. At times, it seems too rushed with little explanation to what had just happened, leaving an incredible amount up to your own imagination. These moments tend to result in head-scratching and you saying to yourself quite bluntly, “huh?”.

Despite the flaws, Howl’s Moving Castle is a classic, plain and simple. It gives us amazing eye candy, some of Ghibli’s best to date. The characters are both likable and unforgettable, and melodious symphonies fit for a very regal fantasy constantly please the ears. With a significant message that will forever be etched in your mind (that “you are beautiful as you are”), Howl’s Moving Castle will be enjoyed for years to come.

The Rating: 9

Reviewed by: Pachinko

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