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Howl's Moving Castle – Review September 16, 2009

Posted by Cello in Anime Reviews.


At this point, we all know that Hayao Miyazaki is a genius. So I’ll begin harshly given his reputation. Howl’s Moving Castle comes close to being another masterpiece, but ultimately falls a little short of that distinction. The film’s story is told from the viewpoint of a 18-year-old girl Sophie, who is working at a milliner’s shop every day. But she can hear the sound of bloody battles from the distance, and it is clear that this beautiful country, where witches and wizards live among humans, is going to see another war sooner or later. The movie begins when the curse of an evil witch turns Sophie, a lonely hat shop girl, into a 90-year-old woman. Wandering the waste land, she encounters the title-giving, four-legged fortress and its inhabitants: Howl, a dashing wizard with rock-star good looks and a dark secret.

Set within an imaginary 19th century European setting where magic and science combine which reminded me a lot of the setting in Steamboy.  Howl’s Moving Castle moves on a little too fast in places, but it’s still a breathtaking, romantic, colorful ride.  However, the story seemed arbitrary and I couldn’t connect the pieces together. When Sophie is turned to an old lady, it actually set her free because the good thing of being old is that one has “so little to lose” She becomes more adventurous and takes control of her life. He made a decision to break with his own storytelling tradition of using adolescent girls as protagonists.


The American voice actors did exceptional work. Especially Christian Bale who did a fine job with what he was given. Pixar’s Pete Docter and Rick Dempsey directed the English voice cast, and did a bang up job. This is really the only aspect of the film that I didn’t have a problem with, coincidentally. This all may generally sound pretty harsh, but Miyazaki’s creations have a way of speaking so strongly through their means that their actual content often is not necessary to capture the spiritual essence of the work. At times, it seems too rushed with little explanation to what had just happened, leaving an incredible amount up to your own imagination.

If nothing else, it proves to Hollywood that its recent failure in the animated realm comes not from old-fashioned hand-drawn animation but from its severe lack of imagination. At points it does show the film’s length, but overall this is a very good film. If you love animated movies, or looking for a good family film, then look no further, Howl’s does not disappoint in those categories. It’s a shame that real life can’t be as exciting as the world Miyazaki creates. But then again, that’s why we go to the movies.



1. glothelegend - September 16, 2009

I loved this movie. For a while it was my favorite anime film (I think you ma know what replaced that). No surprise since I love pretty much anything that comes from Miyazaki.

Cello - September 16, 2009

aye, you were the reason I went out and watched TGWLTT, and it was amazing. Got any other recommendations, pass ’em on through, I think I’m about to run out of Miyazaki films pretty soon here :P/

glothelegend - September 19, 2009

I’m running out of Miyazaki films….the only one I haven’t seen is Porco Rosso. I thought that Perfect Blue was well done. It’s probably one of my favorites.

2. Heather - September 16, 2009

Hooray! Family, animated, AND fantasy. Fantasy is almost as good as Sci-Fi in my book. I can’t handle most of the “family” movies they make on this side of the ocean. Unless it has PIXAR stamped on it, I’m usually an unwilling participant or am dragging my feet.

This is something I will look into, it definitely sounds like my oldest son might like it.

3. Phear - September 17, 2009

This movie is SO brilliant. The first time I watched it was with the original Japanese voice cast and it was beautiful. Afterward, I watched it with the English VAs and just couldn’t get into it as much. Still, this is a gorgeous movie and further proof that Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli can ONLY produce masterpieces.

4. bluedrakon - September 18, 2009

“Hayao Miyazaki is a genius” < You betcha! My son loves his anime and I think we own all his movies that came out on DVD.

His stories are always colorful and has a nice set of lessons that you can learn while watching them

5. Vivek - September 18, 2009

I am a big fan of Miyazaki and I too worry about the time when I’d have seen all his films.
From your site, I hope to get some new leads. Well done with the grades and banners 🙂
Aside from the point, I can recommend some non-Asian animated films if you are interested.

6. Maryann - September 18, 2009

I loved this movie. Have you watched and reviewed Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea? I wrote a very small review of it on my blog:


7. Yi - September 19, 2009

I agree with the rating. I think it fell a bit short of being a classic Miyazaki like Spirited Away or Totoro or Nausicaa or Laputa(Or a bunch of others).
It simply was a bit too confusing.

8. Alisa - September 21, 2009

Great review as always Cello. I will watch it with interest…

… And adore it, because I am an utter romantic and can’t help myself, Miyazaki’s worlds seem to do it for me every time. Speaking of which, still have to catch Ponyo.

9. ironanno - September 21, 2009

I’m surprised how high people rate this film. I didn’t like the dreary european setting, or the basic premise of a girl growing old. Howl’s moving castle is based on a fantasy novel which is perhaps why it seems to fall short. For me this is the Miyazaki movie I liked the least.

Fantasy books to movies are usually problematic which might explain the plot. Most of the time I felt that the story was just floating about not going anywhere.

One of the high points, to say something positive, about the movie for me was the castle itself. Miyazaki does mechanical contraptions extremely well and the castle is a wondrous contraption.

10. Aiden R - September 22, 2009

Thought this was a pretty sweet movie, not Miyazaki’s best, but visually stunning and endearing all the same. Good review, homey.

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