Movie Review: Howl’s Moving Castle

To make my way through the Studio Ghibli reviews I have been doing these last few months, today we have How’s Moving Castle.

If you’re Interested in my other Studio Ghibli reviews, you can find them here:

Title: Howl’s Moving Castle
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Rating: ★★★★☆

Sophie has an uneventful life at her late father’s hat shop, but all that changes when she befriends wizard Howl who lives in a magical flying castle. However, the evil Witch of Waste takes issue with their budding relationship and casts a spell on young Sophie, which ages her prematurely. Now Howl must use all his magical talents to battle the jealous hag and return Sophie to her former youth and beauty.


A Story of Self Worth

Usually we see stories of self-worth and self-love happen in teenage movies. They’re young and often have a fresh outlook on the world. Their minds are impressionable and they aren’t yet set in their ways.

Adults are usually set in their ways and understand their place in the world. We see them change some times, but not usually in the way they see themselves.

Howl’s Moving Castle follows Sophie and her journey to discovering who she really is. It’s told in the way that Studio Ghibli movies usually tell their stories: in the background of the main plot line.

Though it’s subtle, if you pay attention enough, the characters grow in a fluid, linear way. They’re not jumping from place to place in their development, they change slowly throughout the whole movie.

A Fun Adventure

In the foreground of the story, Sophie and her new found family try to save Howl as he fights against the warring humans. There is plenty of magic, feel-good fun, and tension that it makes for a great movie.

The beauty of animated movies is that you can tell a story based off the animations. The world and the time period don’t need to be mentioned, the viewer can pick that up based off of what we are seeing in the background. Animated movies do this in a way that real-life movies can’t. The message doesn’t come off as strongly as if it were animated.

Howl’s Moving Castle focuses on just the story and tells it at a perfect pace.

The magic doesn’t need to make sense, the world doesn’t need to be explained. It is a self-contained adventure that doesn’t need anything further.

Subtle Growth

My favourite part of this movie is something that happens to Sophie at different times in the movie. This is a bit of a spoiler warning, so if you haven’t seen it yet you may want to skip ahead.

Sophie is turned into an old woman at the start of the movie, and part of her story is to find a way to reverse that spell.

There is never a mention of how she can reverse it, but at times we see her slip from old-woman Sophie into the Sophie we saw at the beginning of the movie.

Nobody seems to realize it, but if you’re really paying attention, Sophie changes between the two when she has moments of personal strength.

She has moments where she acts in ways that shows she is more than what others say she is, and Sophie’s outward appearance reflects that.

When she acts as her true self, that is what the audience sees, and vice-versa.

It’s subtle throughout the movie, but I think it is a nice message for a family movie like Howl’s Moving Castle.

What did you think of Howl’s Moving Castle? Where does it rank in your Studio Ghibli favorites? Let’s talk about it in the comments, or on social media!
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