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Howl's Moving Castle 2004 - Animated Film Review

Updated on March 30, 2014


Howl's Moving Castle is a 2004 Japanese animated fantasy film scripted and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The film is based on the novel of the same name by English writer Diana Wynne Jones. It went on to gross $190 million in Japan and $235 million worldwide, making it one of the most financially successful Japanese films in history. The film was later dubbed into English by Pixar's Peter Docter and distributed in North America by Walt Disney Pictures. It was then released to the international market in 2005.

The Film

Howl's Moving Castle is one of my all time best movies! What isn't there to love about a film with constant changing villains, heroes who seem to not understand their purpose and loveable side characters who just warm your heart.

The Studio Ghibli collection if you haven’t seen them is well worth a watch. Never for a moment think 'Oh its Anime I don’t like Anime' and not bother as if the creator Hayao Miyazaki heard you, he would have a fit as he is proud to say his work is not Anime. And for all intense and purposes (as a big Anime fan myself) he is definitely not an Anime artist. Anime is something that was mainly created to pull you away from the real world and bring you possibilities that are truly endless and there is said to be an Anime for every genre.

However Miyazaki’s work is all about remaining tied to a real life perspective just pushing the boundaries to make you think slightly differently about life around you. I like to take his work not as a piece that sucks you away completely from your own world as an escape but actually use the world you live in and add a new twist and let your imagination do the rest. He constantly gets you to question the characters and the story to what is going to happen next.

His work is inspiring to many and for me some of his work is so real it can break and rebuild your heart when looking at life from a completely different perspective. But we will get more into Miyazaki’s work on other reviews I will be writing.


When it comes to the characters, we are lead to believe from the beginning that Howl is some kind of monster that is not to be dealt with as he will eat the souls of beautiful woman. Yet it’s not long before your questioning this theory as everything this man does is different from what he is betrayed as. We get glimpse into maybe why people see him this way but no real proof is ever really given. Anyway as a boy his body was curse by a fire demon called Calcifer who is one of my favourite characters.

The other main character is Sophie who has no confidence in herself what so ever. Sophie is a young lady who has taken over her father business as a hat shop owner but really her heart isn't in it. Sophie is found by Howl being pestered by two guards in town and tells Sophie he has been looking for her. However people who are most observant at this point may see a connection to the end of the film here but I'm not giving that away your going to have to get this yourself. So anyway your thinking well Sophie will just drag this whole film down as she will just moan but she is one of the best characters in the whole film. A curse is put apone her by another gem of a character in this film and makes her old and too my surprise even though Sophie freaks out at first she embraces this new life quickly. She tries to save her family and friends the worry by disappearing and getting the curse broken by herself but along the way she really takes on the stubborn old lady role so well and it always makes me laugh at some of the comments that get thrown around. Her confidence builds and grows the more time she is around others and is able to help them and seems to collect them together like a strange little family. The other characters she meets all fall in love with her giving nature and the fact nothing seems to be a burden to her.


There are so many fantastic characters in this film and I love them all but I am drawn to Marko and Calcifer but I think this also helps with the AMAZING character voices which were picked for this film. Billy Crystal does the voice of Calcifer and he is perfect for it. He can change and adjust his pitch and tone so easily but the voice they picked for Howl was also perfectly matched as well as all the characters. Disney really did a good job.

The background sound on this film is lovely but sometimes I feel its lost against the action and you don't always hear it. But all the sound compliments the film well as Miyazaki takes great pride on making sure this compliments everything so well.

I have to admit that there is a few things about the film that gripe for me. The first is that I get the understanding to why Howl is counted as being such an evil man. Yes there is the story about the demon taking his heart but being that Howl's action are different would it really lead to such a story that he would steal souls?

There seems so much more to Sophie's curse also as she becomes more passionate her curse seems to lift? Is this due to the fact the curse may be broken by true loves kiss but this seems too simple and according to the witch that cast it the curse wasn't that easy to crack and with another wizard having this curse broken this way wouldn't it seem like a cheat?


So the film has a few ups and downs but overall it is still one of my favourites. I watch for the art, the animation and the characters. The story has a good solid main back to it but some of the smaller details seems to have been missed. This could have been part of the problem once it got translated that not everything got crossed over like was expected. But its so light and funny and may not have the major impact that some of the films do but there is so much more too it if as long as you are willing to keep your eyes and ears open and spot where things connect this film is worth a watch.

My rating 8 out of 10.

Howl's Moving Castle and none of these images belong to me I just use them as reference for my review.

Howl's Moving Castle Trailer


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