Review: Howl’s Moving Castle

This year, I had the goal to watch all of the anime movies of Studio Ghibli and I made a long list of them. I started with Howl’s Moving Castle since I really want to know if it’s worth the watch or it’s just a hype since I usually see it on Facebook recommendations and movie lists a lot. Let’s start!

Howl’s Moving Castle or also known as Hauru no Ugoku Shiro in Japanese is one of the films of Studio Ghibli that has not been released in July and has been aired on November 20, 2004 instead. This film gained a lot of reactions, won the Osella Awards for Technical Achievement in the 61st Venice Film Festival, Best Japanese Movie Overall in Mainichi Film Awards, Excellence Prize, Animation in the Japan Media Arts Festival, Animation of the Year in Tokyo International Anime Fair, Audience Award in Maui Film Festival, and Best Script in Nebula Award. It was also nominated as Best Animated Feature and Best Animated Film in the 78th Academy Award.

Howl’s Moving Castle was based on Dianna Wayne Jones’ novel that was a lot different than of the film. The movie’s setting was at Wales, a fictional kingdom, that has a combination of magic and 20th century technology and the antagonist would be the upcoming War of 2 kingdoms. Even if the movie was based and set on a fan-fiction or fantasy-type of setting, the characters still showed common routines that normal people would do like cooking, cleaning, and taking a bath.

Director
Hayao Miyazaki

Main Cast                                            Japanese Voice Cast
Sophie                                                  Chieko Baisho
Howl                                                      Takuya Kimura
Witch of the Waste                         Akihiro Miwa
Calcifer                                                 Tatsuya Gashuin
Markuru                                              Ryunosuke Kamiki
Madame Suliman                             Haruko Kato
Turnip Head                                       Yo Oizumi

Genre
Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Plot
The story started when 18-year-old Sophie who was an ordinary mad hatter stumbled upon a rumored womanizer, Howl and rescued her from advantage-taking men when she is to visit her sister, Lettie. Jealousy and haste of the Witch of Waste, which that time was searching for Howl for an unfinished business, triggered her to cast a spell to Sophie. She was cursed with a spell that she cannot state to anyone and became a 90-year-old grandma. Being as calm as she should be, she decided to leave her town and headed to the hills and met a cursed turnip-head that lead her to the abstract piece of scraps and metals with steams hissing and joints like a bird creaking which was the castle of Howl. Looking for a way to break the spell, she found herself being the cleaning lady of the house and accompanying Howl, Markuru (Markl), Calcifer and the Witch of the Waste in a dangerous adventure as the wars sparked from kingdoms and towns.

Storyline
This movie’s storyline was excellent and not confusing. It is indeed good not just for kids but also to adults. The plot was not predictable and the sequence was great. It’s a progressing story which means that the sequence of events happens after another. The story was great since it shows that even characters have the possibility to change from being a protagonist to antagonist and vice versa.

Characters’ Acting
Sophie and Howl’s character enticed me on how an ordinary cursed lady kept up with a coward, insecure wizard that made a bargain with a demon. It’s amazing on how patient Sophie became after living with Howl for months from being the grumpy and impatient she was. For the voices of these characters, they were really great in reading the scripts and making it feel real too!

Props/Effects
Since this is an anime movie, I would focus on the way they animated the movie and their graphics. It was really good though, it always has this Studio Ghibli feel and trademark in anime movies in which the colors used, how the wind strikes the grass, the sound effects of steam and war, the details of shadows and whites, and many more felt really familiar if you’ve been watching other Studio Ghibli movies.

Cinematography
I would again focus on the animation and I think it’s great. I haven’t seen any flaws o n the way they walk, sit, cook, run or fly. It was smooth-sailing and doesn’t seem to be rushed because as you look closely, every movement could be seen unlike other anime movies in which tiny bits of movements were skipped. Even the mouth openings were perfectly synced!

Music
Since this is a Japanese movie, expect it to have Japanese songs to be used but this one is different. Majority of the music used were composed and played through piano and violin. It was instrumental. It did had one Japanese song but it was only at the finale. I am really not good into describing music but for me all the background music felt like old, sad and tragic. The tunes were something like you hear on the 60’s or 70’s songs. And I’m really not a fan of oldy music. 

Verdict
Overall this movie is a boon for me. The movie was not that old enough but it felt like a vintage anime which impressed me on how Studio Ghibli maintained that kind of feel and mood in their movies. It had clear and high resolution graphics and animations. The storyline was unique and nothing compared to usual plots. It was really unpredictable which I love the most on films. It had an interesting entrance that kept me finishing the whole movie in a one sitting. I really recommend this movie to all since it doesn’t contain any scenes that are violent and distracting. Personally saying, I was really attracted on the character of Howl. He was a fictional character that I wanted. Even he’s intimidating by looks, a coward, a rumored womanizer, in the movie, you’ll get to know the real Howl once he enters his castle. He’s cool, romantic, kind, funny, over-reacting, and has a soft heart. I think I fell in love on Howl’s character and demeanor.

To summarize and wrap all things up that I want to say about this movie, here’s the list:

1. Studio Ghibli did a great job about this movie and they really deserved all the rewards they won for this movie.

2. The plot and storyline was really unique and has never-seen-or-heard-before type of story.

3. Even if Hayao Miyazaki stated that the movie was made to learn the lesson of having wars are bad, I think another lesson that the movie taught is to still value people even if they had made mistakes in the past or they still have bad intentions. These are evident on the scenes on how Sophie was so patient, still accepted, and took care of the witch that cursed her.

4. Howl’s character was meant for something else, I believe, because it’s evident on how coward he was but later transitioned into a man with dignity to finish what he started and never escape again on his shortcomings.

5. The music is a bummer of me because I’m not a fan of oldy music and tunes.

6. This movie is understandable enough if you look at it as it is but if you’re being a philosophist or what, there are things in this movie that symbolizes events in the real world.

And I think that’s all of the things that I really wanted to say in this movie review. Have you watched this movie? Do you think there is something else that I missed? Feel free to put your statements in the comment box below.

Overall rating

Storyline                              ★★★★★
Acting                                   ★★★★★
Props                                    ★★★★★
Effects                                  ★★★★★
Cinematography              ★★★★★
Music                                   ★★☆☆☆

References

1, 2, 3, 4

5 Comments

  1. I followed right away when I saw this review kase ugh, I love anime so much and I just wanna say that almost all anime film of Studio Ghibli are worth watching 😍💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I was planning to just give it a try and not continue if no one likes it but thank God, someone did and that’s you. Now i’m more inspired to continue doing anime reviews 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Just continue what you love doing and if it includes writing reviews about anime, then just do it. Ako personally, I love anime so much. It’s a distressing hobby for me that’s why I was so happy reading this post. And it’s Howl, he’s really pogi hahahah LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. yes naman but it takes so much time and effort kasi to write one anime review cause i need to do a little research pa but i love the output naman after all the effort i put in one review and kind of satisfying din knowing someone likes what i’m doing. nakaka flutter 🙂 hahaha kinilig nga ako sa first appearance nya sa movie eh. anyways, marami pa akong upcoming reviews, stay tuned 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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