Hauru no Ugoku Shiro
- Howl’s Moving Castle
- by Hayao Miyazaki
- Studio Ghibli
- based on novel by Diana Wynne Jones: Howl’s Moving Castle
That chaotic moving piece of architecture is the castle of the wizard Howl who is famous for being a womanizer and having magical, supernatural skills. In fact, those are the rumors Sophie Hatter’s town is talking about. Sophie, an unadorned daughter of a hatmaker, does not have any great plans for her future but she is looking forward to keep being engaged in the shop. Moreover, her life completely changes after she meets a mysterious man/wizard with the name Howl. In fact, this meeting has some negative consequences on her life, the ‘Witch of the Waste’ is filled with jealousy and puts a horrible curse on Sophie: turning her into an old lady. Sophie’s only hope to get back to normal is to accompany Howl and other companions such as a living scarecrow on a dangerous adventure.
The plot of the movie is very creative, unique and easy to follow: it follows the story of an old woman. The hero of the story is Howl who is depicted as a beautiful young man who wants to help her. The storyline kinda remembers a bit of the famous fairy tale ‘Cinderella’: Sophie thinks of herself as not being beautiful (as an old lady), however the young man Howl (most cherished man in town) chooses her. One can compared it to the prince choosing a housemaid like in ‘Cinderella’. In fact, Sophie also works as a housemaid in Howl’s castle.
‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ is a mixture of rural and future aspects. This can especially be seen in one of the first scenes: a farmer and his sheeps are passed by a high technology moving castle. Another example are Sophie and her family who are working as hatters where the hats are handmade in contrast to flying battleships and Howl’s castle.
Many fantasy elements are included: different creatures and spells. Besides witches and wizards, there is also a moving scarecrow which has a funny appearance. Also the fire demon ‘Calcifer’ who lives in Howl’s castle is amusing. Especially the disagreements between the old lady Sophie and the fire demon are very funny. A further funny scene is where Sophie has to carry an old dog while going upstairs. The most amusing aspect is Sophie’s personality as an old woman.
The main topic or rather motto is: love instead of war. Love is the only way to stop the hatred and war. The movie also shows how war destroys mother nature: everything is burning. Sophie’s caring for Howl is also very dominant, as she sees him suffering, she tries everything to help him.
Furthermore, the characters in the movie are really entertaining and various. Sophie owns a warm-hearted attitude and is kind to everyone even to the ‘Witch of Waste’. We really like her strong personality because she quickly accepts her state as an elderly lady. In fact, Sophie tries to do the best out of it and does not seem to be depressed. Another interesting character is Howl. A wizard who has to travel through different worlds with a more or less selfish personality. He only cares for himself especially when it comes to his physical appearance. However, after meeting Sophie he somehow changes in a warmer person.
A further Studio Ghibli movie which astonishes with its animation art. The anime is filled with fascinating sceneries especially the environment and nature pictures. The landscapes are really breathtaking and therefore represent the highlight. The art contains very fluid movements and a beautiful mixture of bright and dark colors. We are very fond of the depiction of the castle and the characters especially Howl.
Nonetheless, the movie is a bit too long, it could have been made into 90 minutes instead of 2 hours. Therefore, it almost borders on boredom, especially at the end. In addition, the ending is a bit kitschy and more or less foreseeable. In other words, it is neither surprising nor unexpecting.
Even though the ending was a bit long, the movie was enjoyable to watch. Especially the fantasy elements such as the witches and the walking scarecrow make the movie amusing. We recommend ‘Hauru no Ugoku Shiro’ if you want to see how Sophie manages her life as an old lady.