Howl’s Moving Castle: My Very First Ghibli Film

As of writing this, I have watched Howl’s Moving Castle four times and I am halfway through reading the book for the 2nd time.

I am in love with this movie, this book and this story. I am in love with Calcifer, Howl, and Sophie. I am in love with the beauty of the world and story, the magic and the romance.

Howl’s moving castle is one of the first Ghibli films I remember seeing a commercial for. That is why I choose to watch it first. I remember sitting down on the floor as a child watching all the commercials on our Disney home videos with as much rapt attention as I gave to the movies themselves. I learned early on that if a movie didn’t enter our house shortly after it came out, I’d probably never see it. Never was the word I used as a child, now I can say eventually, if I want to.

Sitting on the floor I sat and watched a commercial that was hodge podge of various Ghibli films, most of which I would have to rewatch the preview again to identify. At the end of the these various films Ghibli showcased its newest creation, howls moving castle, featuring a bird man, a girl with silver hair, and a castle that walked around on chicken feet. The chicken feet stuck with me the longest and every time I encountered a fairy tale that talked about houses on chicken feet my mind traveled back to the image of that castle.

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Here I am now, 22 years old and I have only just recently discovered a place where I can view the studio Ghibli films, no longer shackled by my parent’s fears that they will corrupt me. It’s a shame really, if my mom had seen this film I think she would have liked it almost as much as I do.

Howl’s moving castle is about a young girl named Sophie Hatter, the eldest in the family whose future is to work in the family hat shop which she will someday inherit. By some strange chance, one day while she is on her way to visit her sister, she meets the great wizard Howl, who supposedly eats the hearts of pretty young girls. Because of this chance meeting Sophie is cursed by the Witch of Waste and is turned into an old woman. Deciding that she can no longer stay where she is Sophie sets out to find the witch and have her curse removed. On the way she finds Howl’s moving Castle and enters both into it and into a deal with Howl’s fire demon, Calcifer. If she can remove his curse, he will remove hers.

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Howl’s moving castle explores the themes of loving oneself for who they are, no matter your age or how you look. It was quite nice to see an old woman as the main protagonist, even if she was only old because of a curse. Sophie doesn’t think she’s beautiful no matter what age she is and seeing her come to see that outside beauty doesn’t matter, it’s what is on the inside that counts was great.

Pacifism is another heavy theme through out the film as Howl as very much against the war that is happening between the two opposing countries and is doing his best to fight against both sides. Despite this he isn’t very brave and does so in the shadows and he must find the courage to speak his mind and protect what he loves.

The film is also about family and how sometimes it can be those that we aren’t related to that we form the deepest familial bonds with. Sophie isn’t really all that close with her family and so finds a family in the others she meets after she is cursed.

Watching this I naturally found myself comparing it to the typical Disney film. First I was very happy to realize there was no singing in this film, though I would have been very happy if Calcifer had at least sung the Sauce Pan song, which is a song briefly featured in the book. As I get older I find myself growing tired of all the songs that are continually featured in Disney films and I feel like they have been placed in these films with less and less tact. But that’s another issue for another forum.

I loved the way Sophie is portrayed in the film. Disney has three types of female main protagonists. The ones that are basically helpless, those that are strong because they go against social normatives, and the kind that are so much about discovering who they are they honestly don’t have any distinct personality traits beyond ditsy, unsure, scared and has a great singing voice. Perhaps the only Disney movie that doesn’t really follow these would be the princess and the frog, (anyone else isn’t really the star of the movie) but again another discussion for another forum. Sophie doesn’t fall into any of these. While she is discovering things about herself, there are also a lot of things she does know and in leaving her home she isn’t seeking to do anything that is groundbreaking in the feminism department, she simply knows she can’t stay where she is. Sophie is a well rounded lovable character that isn’t willing to put up with crap. There is one moment where she goes and has a quick cry over something, but then turns around and takes care of the situation at hand very maturely.

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In many ways Howl’s Moving Castle is much more mature and better then Disney films, and that’s one of the reasons I liked it so much. It’s a step above what I’m used to. It even goes above and beyond the average movie adaptation of a book, most of which I find to be very disappointing. The book and movie are vastly different in places, but both handle the story very well and lovingly. If you’ve seen the film and enjoyed it I highly recommend the novel, which is an excellent foray into fantasy. It’s no wonder that most fan fictions I’ve read about this movie feature the author’s favorite aspects of the books and movies combined and they work very well together, showing just how true to the original even the differences are.

Howl’s moving castle is simply a delight. It’s a movie about a selfish and vain Wizard, a strong willed old woman who has a heart of gold, a young boy who has mostly taken care of himself up till now and a cranky but lovable fire demon. All of these are presented with such color and magic and music that I was happily whisked away into this fantasy world and I wish to be whisked away again and again and again. Honestly, take two hours of your life and go watch this beautiful film!

 

As I’m sure some of you have noticed, in the past week I updated my header picture to actually contain an image. It’s the door inside the castle in this movie and I’m very happy with it! I thought about using the door from lucky star at one time, but couldn’t pull the trigger. This beautiful doorway felt right. Do you like it?

10 thoughts on “Howl’s Moving Castle: My Very First Ghibli Film

  1. i wouldn’t compare it to Disney, but I do know the company brought a bunch of Ghibli movies to the west. For me, this movie is trying to capture the success of Spirited Away. I’m sure Howl’s Moving Castle is awesome by its own right, but the movie felt too long for me and it felt like it was trying to be one step above Spritied Away but mostly failing at it.
    Not gonna lie, the moving castle itself is awesome and the protag is really great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This probably be the last time I make a Disney comparison, but for my first film, it felt like the right direction to take, just to show what I’m used to be comparison. Especially since I always associated the two together.

      I’ll be watching spirited away sometime this year I’m sure. I hope to enjoy it just as much.

      Liked by 1 person

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