Skip to content

Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazak)

Howl's Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazak)
Studio Ghibli and Walt Disney Pictures

Studio Ghibi is Japan’s premier animation studio, having given the world such pictures as Nausicaa, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away, and the great feature Princess Mononoke. Helmed by the always impressive and legendary director/writer Hayao Miyazaki, Ghibli continues their trend of visionary fantasy with the stylish, though not excessively detailed, Howl’s Moving Castle.

Adopted from the book of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, the story is a typical one for the studio. An out of place, teenage girl ( Sophie; voiced for American audiences by Jean Simmons) is swept into a magical world fraught with peril and wonderment, due entirely to forces beyond her control (think Alice and the Looking Glass).

In this case, Sophie—a meek hat maker following in her father’s footsteps—is transformed into an old women by the Witch of the Waste and thrown into the dizzying confusion that is the life of Howl (the princely magician with a dark secret, who is voiced by Christian Bale—no doubt prepping for his upcoming duality as the dark knight). The rumor about Sophie’s small town is that Howl eats the hearts of young girls, which, now that she’s an old lady, doesn’t move Sophie too much.

However, the truth of the matter is a little more interesting; having had a spell cast on him as a young man—and being some what of a coward—Howl remains on the run in his Dr. Who styled castle powered by the extremely humorous fire demon, Calcifer (voiced by Billy Crystal), to whom he is inextricably tied. Along for the ride is also Howl’s apprentice, a sweet and crafty young boy, who could really use a woman’s hand in his life.

The story boasts a grand imagination, more of design than content, which encompasses a scarecrow (The Wizard of Oz), a vast war of the kingdom (Star Wars), and more action sequences than a typical summer blockbuster. Through it all romance blossoms between Sophie and Howl, Sophie blooms into the strong woman she was meant to be, and the other multiple storylines find a tidy finale.

Filled with humor and the scene stealing Billy Crystal, this is a gem of a picture, and more epic than previous Ghibli productions. See it if you are a fan of Anime, curious about Asian cinema, or just like cartoons. Don’t see it if you are sick to death of sappy romance stuff coming from Disney.


Sign up to our newsletter and get updates to your mailbox