Thursday, June 12, 2014

Howl's Moving Castle - Minireview

Liked this one even better than my first experience of Miyazaki: Princess Mononoke, as it maintained the focus on its main character far longer than the latter (which lost itself in the greater plot.) Visually stunning, I quickly found myself wishing to visit the magical vision of Europe that Miyazaki provides.

Somewhere in the cross between steampunk and fantasy, we're introduced to a semi-industrial city on the borders of a rugged, green waste. Sophie is a young, plain girl who works in a hat-shop, and is, entirely by accident, caught up in the affairs of wizards when a mysterious stranger rescues her from a pair of churlish soldiers. Soon after this Sophie is assaulted by a jealous witch. Left with the fall-out of this encounter, Sophie refuses to feel sorry for herself, but sets off into the waste to remedy the problem, where she meets a number of eccentric characters, including legendary wizard Howl. Romance ensues.

From a character standpoint, Sophie is a marvelous heroine, providing a down-to-earth contrast to the beautiful, self-important wizard Howl, though the romance between the two did not quite convince me (her falling for him made much more sense than vice versa), much like that of Mononoke. I think this would have worked better if Howl had been given more character scenes, he was a little bit too idealized and feminine (Manic Pixie Dream Boy?). The whole relationship felt like Jane Eyre opposite a more perfect Mr. Rochester. But quibbles aside, it's still a lot of fun, incredibly creative and beautiful. Miyazaki, once again, thoroughly wowed me with his sumptuous visuals. I'll be watching again.

4.5/5 stars

Hannah Long


  1. The page deleted my comment again--shoot. I hope to watch this sometime. My siblings are big fans.

  2. Ohh you watched Howl's Moving Castle! How'd you come across it? I personally prefer the big plots and concepts and big raw monsters to the fairytale-tied-up-ending plot of this one, but I guess we just have different focuses! One of my best friends also strongly prefers Howl's Moving Castle :-) I wonder if you would like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind? It is another old film of his with a strong environmental message and a big plot, but it focuses on the most fantastic strong pacifistic savior heroine I have ever seen. I want all my future daughters to love her.

    1. Our library has a lot of Miyazaki's movies, so I've watched both this and The Secret World of Arrietty recently. Howl's Moving Castle strikes me as existing in a Western form of storytelling, though I couldn't quite describe why. Your comparison of fairytales is, I think, apt, since much of the structure resembles that.

      I'll have to be Nausicaa on my list.

    2. Howl's Moving Castle is based on a British book, so your intuition is correct :-)


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