Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 10/10

Love the art for Miyazaki's films

Strange story sometimes feels really disconnected

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Howl’s Moving Castle

Studio:  Studio Ghibli

Genre(s):  Animated/Action/Adventure/Romance

Release Date(s):  September 5, 2004

MPAA Rating:  PG


There’s Howl’s castle…hey, it’s moving!!!

The country is at war over a missing prince and the leaders are demanding that wizards fight the battle. A hatmaker Sophie encounters the wizard Howl and as a result is cursed by the Witch of the Waste who has eyes for Howl. Transformed into an old woman, Sophie encounters a bewitched scarecrow who leads her to Howl’s castle, and Sophie agrees to work in the magical castle in the hopes that the demon Calcifer can break the spell upon her. As the war continues to rage, Howl finds himself targeted for his resistance to fight and Sophie finds herself secretly in love with her benefactor despite her condition.


Howl…You’re a lot of fun sometimes.

Directed by famed anime director Hayo Miyazaki, Howl’s Moving Castle was based on the 1986 novel by Diana Wynne Jones and released to positive reviews. The movie was nominated for Best Animated Feature (losing to Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit).

Howl’s Moving Castle is a strange movie with a very strange story. Nothing is normal in world inhabited by Howl and Sophie. Witches, spells, and enchantments are commonplace and due to that, the characters here all have strange reactions to them…they seem rather indifferent and casual. The whole beginning segment where Sophie is transformed into an old woman and leaves home is treated so commonplace, that I questioned if she really was enchanted. The whole movie works like this however and there seems to be a strange detachment between the events and the characters.


If I only had a brain…

The interaction between the characters doesn’t always make sense, but the characters themselves are great. Sophie is of course likeable (and apparently is unaware that she does have some control over the spell). I like that Howl is rather like an uncontrollable baby who only Sophie can reach. The Witch of the Waste is rather entertainingly disgusting and I love the sidekick dog. The American version does employ some great voice actors including Emily Mortimer, Christian Bale, Billy Chrystal, Blythe Danner, Lauren Bacall, and Jean Simmons.


Calcifer is free!!!

Visually, Howl’s Moving Castle is amazing like most of Miyazaki’s work. The details in his movies, is fantastic and the characters despite the odd story really feel rounded and lifelike. From weird spells and the visually creepy characters, Howl’s Moving Castle does have a great style that is in line with his other films.

I love Miyazaki but I honestly have some trouble with Howl’s Moving Castle. The visuals are fantastic but the story is rather complex and hard to follow. If you can follow it, it at points doesn’t seem to make much sense. If you have a choice in Miyazaki’s work, I can’t recommend Howl’s Moving Castle if you haven’t seen Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, or Princess Mononoke which I find much better.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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