I was a guy who up until late 2013/early 2014 never watched anything that had to do with anime. It just never interested me and I couldn’t stand the way anime characters move (I’m weird)! Thankfully, I decided to relent and watch a film from this Studio Ghibli which was apparently the Walt Disney of Japan. And I’m glad I made that decision!
If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been introduced to the great storytelling, colorful animation, and just inventive premises and characters that Studio Ghibli films have to offer. And the film of today’s review provides all of the above! Let’s talk about Howl’s Moving Castle.
The film takes place in an alternate universe where wizards and witches live alongside regular people. One such regular person is an 18 year-old girl named Sophie, voiced by Emily Mortimer (in the Disney dub). She works as a hatter in her late father’s shop on a day-to-day basis.
One day, she’s saved from two predatory soldiers by a mysterious wizard-like man named Howl, voiced by Christian Bale. After dropping Sophie off safely, Howl soon disappears. Sophie is then visited by the Witch of the Waste, voiced by the late Lauren Bacall.
The Witch of the Waste is a somewhat evil character who has been looking for Howl for some time. When she found out that Sophie has come into contact with Howl, she curses Sophie by transforming her into an old lady. Not only that, but this particular curse prevents Sophie from even explaining her curse to anyone. So basically, she has to live her life as an old lady whom nobody else knows who she is or where she comes from.
After coming to terms with her curse, old Sophie, voiced by Jean Simmons, sets out to find help and comes across Howl and his titular moving castle, a mechanical contraption that is more animal-like than machine. She signs on to work for Howl (who doesn’t recognize her, of course) as a cleaning lady and spends her time getting to know Howl, learning his secrets, meeting new friends, and dealing with an ongoing war in her country.
The movie is just super creative, inventive, and just lovable all around! What exactly is good about it? Well, the animation, like all Studio Ghibli films is just gorgeous!
The voice acting in the American dub is pretty good too for the most part, with the exception of Christian Bale who just seems like his average Bruce Wayne at best.
The characters are just super inventive and creating. I personally really love the character of Sophie. She’s similar to Cinderella in how selfless, kind, and loving she is. She’s willing to do so much for others, both for those whom she loves and for her enemies. She’s won my heart and would definitely make my list of animated crushes! Hmm…I should make a Top 13 list of that!
So, is there anything bad about the movie? Well, yes, I have one complaint to make about this movie and it’s a big one: the plot holes! Sooooo many things aren’t explained in this movie and don’t make sense: Sophie is cursed and yet throughout the movie, she seems to change back and forth into a young girl again and back into an old woman. Why? One of the villains in this movie becomes “good” all of a sudden. Why? Howl has a secret, but it’s not truly explained how or why he has what he has. Why? Why? Why? There’s soooo many unexplained things in this movie.
Besides that con, this movie is simply amazing! It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and deservingly so. It lost to Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, which I’m not sure should have won, but I’d have to think about it.
I love this movie so much, but all its unexplained plot points prevent it from being the best (out of like the 7) Studio Ghibli film that I’ve seen. It has to be the 2nd best Studio Ghibli film that I’ve seen!