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Howl’s Moving Castle

While computer animation is kicking hand drawings to the curb in the U.S., it’s nice to see that the classical animation form still thrives in Japan. What strikes me about Howl’s Moving Castle is just how colorful it is. Studio Ghibli shows no signs of slowing down When it comes to creating gorgeous panoramic scenes, diverse character designs and finishing things off with a flourish when the colors are applied. It can’t be underestimated how the wide range of colors used in this film really help things stand out even more and accentuate the fantastical aspects of this film. Yes, the mood for the most part is grim throughout the movie.

Though the title suggests otherwise, Howl’s is really about Sophie, a young woman working in a hat shop who encounters a mysteriously handsome stranger in the streets one day. This encounter sets off a long chain of events and encounters, as Sophie encounters a witch (whose curse on Sophie ignites the rest of the film), a talking flame, an apprentice, a scarecrow with a turnip head and of course, the enormous moving castle. The storyline is vintage Studio Ghibli, weaving normal settings with magical elements to create a hybrid world where you know some of this stuff is implausible in reality, but you could not care less because of this amazing imaginative world that the filmmakers have created.

In addition to the beautiful colors, the strong and wonderfully diverse cast of characters is this film’s greatest strength. The characters are more or less stereotypical, yet their physical appearances and interactions with each other ensure a unique feel to it all. Sophie is your vintage vulnerable protagonist, Howl is the brooding guy with a heart of gold, Calcifer is the spastic sidekick, Markl is the curious assistant, the Witch is evil but not as cruel as you would think. These characters are both easily identifiable in the roles they fill, while charmingly original in the flair they bring to those roles.

I won’t go so far as to proclaim that this is the Best! Ghibli! Ever! – but this is a visually spectacular treat that shows Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli are still chugging along.

Info & Credits

Title Howl’s Moving Castle
Japanese Title ハウルの動く城
Japanese Title Hauru no ugoku shiro
Release Date 2004
Rated G
Duration 1 hr 59 min

The characters

 1 Sophie Hatter
Eldest daughter of the Hatters’ family. Starting out with not knowing what to do with her young life, she befriends Howl. And the Witch of the Waste, jealous of their friendship, casts a spell on Sophie, turning her into a 90-year-old woman. After moving into Howl’s castle, her love for him makes her turn young at certain times.
 2 Howl
The handsome yet mysterious master of the moving castle. Going by the names Jenkins, Pendragon, and of course Howl, he doesn’t respond to the calls of the royal palace, though he possesses great powers. He spends the rest of his days amusing himself.
 3 Calcifer
Howl’s fire demon, who also holds Howl’s heart. He is the one moving the castle, and is bound on the fireplace by a contract he made with Howl. Making a deal with Sophie, he says that if Sophie breaks the contract, he will turn her into her normal self.
 4 Markl
Howl’s apprentice. He does not have a family, and lives in the moving castle, and deals with the people who come to order potions.
 5 Witch of the Waste
A witch who wants to pursue Howl. She had once served at the Royal Palace in Kingsbury, but was sent away and now lives in the Wastes.
 6 Madame Suliman
The Royal Wizard of Kingsbury. She was once Howl’s master, and has much influence in the Royal Palace.
 7 Scarecrow Prince (Turnip)
A scarecrow with a turnip for a head that Sophie saves in the Wastes, and wanting to return the favor, he follows her around.
 8 The King
 9 Lettie
Sophie’s younger sister.
 10 Heen
An odd dog who follows Sophie around. He is Madame Sulliman’s errand dog.
 11 Honey
Sophie’s mother, who also owns the hat shop.
 12 Madge
One of Howl’s frequent customers, she’s a fan of magic.

Production Credits


Director Hayao Miyazaki
Director (US) Pete Docter, Rick Dempsey
Original Work Diana Wynne Jones
Screenplay (JP) Hayao Miyazaki
Screenplay and Adaptation (US) Cindy Davis Hewitt, Donald H. Hewitt, Jim Hubbert
Executive Producers Hayao Miyazaki, John Lasseter (US)
Producers Tomohiko Ishii, Toshio Suzuki
Producers (US) Rick Dempsey, Ned Lott
Original Music Joe Hisaishi
Theme Song Youmi Kimura (“Sekai no Yakusoku”)
Casting (US) Ned Lott
Cinematography Atsushi Okui
Editing Takeshi Seyama
Production Manager Nozomu Takahashi, Hiroyuki Watanabe
Art Director Yoji Takeshige, Noboru Yoshida
Audio Director Kazuhiro Hayashi
Sound Effects Toru Noguchi
Supervising Animator Akihiko Yamashita, Takeshi Inamura, Kitaro Kosaka

Voice Casting

Character English Japanese
Sophie Hatter Jean Simmons (Grandma)

Emily Mortimer (Young)

Chieko Baisho
Howl Christian Bale Takuya Kimura
Calcifer Billy Crystal Tatsuya Gashuin
Markl Josh Hutcherson Ryunosuke Kamiki
Witch of the Waste Lauren Bacall Akihiro Miwa
Madame Suliman Blythe Daner Haruko Kato
Scarecrow Prince (Turnip) Crispin Freeman Yo Oizumi
The King Mark Silverman Akio Otsuka
Lettie Jena Malone ???
Heen Daijiro Harada Daijiro Harada
Honey (Sophie’s Mother) Mari Devon ???
Madge Liliana Mumy ???

Howl’s Moving Castle Trailer

Screenshots from the movie







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