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Howl’s Moving Castle Thursday, August 24, 2006

Posted by j128 in Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli.

Howl's Moving Castle (Australian)

Howl's Moving Castle (Australian DVD cover)

Howl’s Moving Castle is an animated movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli, based upon the book of the same name by British author Diana Wynne Jones. It had its world premier at the Venice Film Festival on September 5, 2004. It was released in Japan in 2004 and in North America in 2005.

Originally the chosen director was Mamoru Hosoda, but after he abruptly left the project the then-retired director Hayao Miyazaki was chosen to take up the director’s role.

Diana Wynne Jones, probably mostly well-known for her fantasy series Chrestomanci, did not have any input or involvement in the production of the film. She did meet with the representitives from Studio Ghibli, however. She says that she is a writer of books, not films, but did agree that it would be a fantastic movie and I agree.

Much of the story takes place during a war, reminiscent of World War I and located in a nation similar to pre-WWI Alsace. Many of the buildings in the town scenes are identical to the Alsatian town of Colmar, which Hayao Miyazaki acknowledged as the inspiration for the setting.


The protagonist of the story is Sophie Hatter, who works in her father’s hat shop. Her sister, Lettie, works in a bakery. Their mother is constantly coming and going and is always physically youthful-looking, despite the fact that she is probably twice the age of her daughters. In fact, Lettie looks like a miniature of their mother.

Sophie is rescued by a mysterious young man after being teased by two soliders. Clearly, the man is magical, as he and Sophie begin walking high up in the air after being almost caught by creepy black oozing creatures, which are the Witch of the Waste’s henchmen.

Soon after Sophie is trapped by the Witch of the Waste and is cursed to appearing as an old woman, she cannot tell anyone of her plight (it’s part of the curse). She flees her hometown and settles in Howl’s Castle.

The inhabitants of the castle are Calcifer, a fire-demon, Markl, a very young boy who seems to be an apprentice of some sort, and Howl, the young wizard that rescued Sophie earlier in the film.

Sophie becomes the cleaning-lady of Howl’s Castle, cleaning top to bottom, and also organizes Howl’s bathroom which leads him into an outrage (tantrum) when his hair is dyed orange instead of its usual pale blond.

Howl spends most of his spare time in the bathroom having baths and beautifying himself. Almost everytime he comes down he has a new haircut.

Many of the characters in Howl’s Moving Castle are modified for the film. Markl, originally Michael Fisher, was a teenager in the book, but instead a young boy in the movie. Sophie has only one sister in the film while in the book she had two, however, the other sister is early on in the film implied as an aside. The Witch of the Waste, a beautiful and young woman, is instead a large woman in the movie who is later restored to her true age by Madam Suliman, and was Wizard Suliman in the book rather than Madam. Calcifer looks like a cute fireball in the film while his book counterpart was portrayed as a scary-looking demon and Howl shies away from the war and worms his way out of helping, suffering the consequences. Sophie and Howl (even though Howl has a different background) largely resemble their characters in the book, but with more of a gentle personality and less selfish motivations.

Personally, the best option is to watch Howl’s Moving Castle in the original Japanese version. The English version is okay, too, but after watching the Japanese version it is truly the best viewing option to get the most out of it; as the English version (and maybe perhaps the French version) have certain dialogue omitted or modified.

Howl’s Moving Castle is my top Hayao Miyazaki movie at the moment! Well done!

Howl’s Moving Castle Trailer


Howl’s Moving Castle – Answers.com article describing the story of Howl’s Moving Castle in back-to-back detail, etc.

Howl’s Moving Castle official website

How’ls Moving Castle – Google Video, full length, English dub

Howl’s Moving Castle Merchandise – GhilbliWorld.com, lots of merchandise including a special edition DVD with 4 discs containing interviews with Hayao Miyazaki, Diana Wynne Jones, and other points of interest, also toys and a paper kit to recreate the Castle.


Sophie & Howl

(Old) Sophie cleaning the Castle

Howl when he was a boy



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