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Hauro no Ugoku Shiro

Howl's Moving Castle

Japan 2004
produced by
Toshio Suzuki for Studio Ghibli, Tokuma Shoten, NTV (= Nippon Television Network), Dentsu Inc, Mitsubishi, Toho
directed by Hayao Miyazaki
screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki, based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones, music by Joe Hisaishi, themesong by Youmi Kimura

anime

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Sophie is a youg girl working in a hat shop, with nothing much happening in her life ... until she meets Howl, a notorious magician, who saves her from a bunch of monsters send by the Witch of the Waste. However, soon thereafter, the Witch pays Sophie a visit - and turns her into a 90-year-old woman.

As an old woman with nothing to fall back on, Sophie decides to leave town and look for Howl, the Witch of the Waste's arch-enemy, and with the help of Mr Turnip the Scarecrow, she soon finds Howl's Moving Castle, a castle that can walk thanks to the fire demon Calcifer and that has magic doors to many different cities.

Once in the castle, Sophie soon appoints herself for the job of cleaning lady and soon enough makes friends with Howl (whom she's secretly in love with), Howl's young assistant Markl, and Calcifer, and the four of them seem to lead a happy life together ... until war breaks out, and while Howl on the one hand fights demons all night in the form of a flying demon (with the threat of him never being able to turn back into Howl constantly looming over his head), he quite simply wants to refuse the King's request to help him ... and somehow he gets Sophie to talk the King out of it ...

At the King's palace, Sophie meets Sulliman, the King's own witch and Howl's former teacher, and the Witch of the Waste. But while the Witch of the Waste is soon enough reduced to a senile idiot by Sulliman, Sulliman does not take Howl's refusal to help the King lightly and swears revenge ...

Eventually, Howl, Sophie, Markl, Calcifer and even the Witch of the Waste all find themselves on the run from Sulliman in Howl's moving castle, and no matter where they hide, Sulliman seems to have spies to find them. Ultimately Howl is forced to fight, but this time it seems he can't turn back from his demon self anymore and is doomed ... and then the now idiotic Witch of the Waste steals Calcifer, which soon has the moving castle sliding down some cliffs and falling completely apart.

In the end though, Sophie sets a few things right, teaches everyone the meaning of love, sets Calcifer free, gives Howl back his heart (which was until now used to keep Calcifer in place), and even turns the scarecrow back into a prince.

And when Sulliman sees this happy ending in her crystal ball, she decides to end the war ...

 

Regarding this film from a pure visual level, this film is another triumph by Hayao Miyazaki, a film that once again refuses to adhere to genre conventions, instead creates a world all of its own, with its own rules and laws of nature and its own aesthetic framework, where medieval castles, flying machines in retro design, tanks and even a moving castle can exist next to each other, and wouldn't you know it, it works beautifully. Unfortunately, the screenplay is a different cup of tea altogether, a cheesy tale about the power of love ever so often overusing tired genre clichés to a point where it gets annoying.

Sure the film is not without its moments as Miyazaki is much too good and well-versed a director to totally botch up a film, thing is, he has done much better. Still this is worth a look though if only for its visual brilliance and fantastic ideas ...

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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