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Howl’s Moving Castle Review

Howl’s Moving Castle

YEAR: 2004
MY RATING: 4.5 out of 5

source: gify
A couple weeks ago I made a New Year’s Resolution. Okay, it’s debatable if it was too late to be considered a New Year decision but the first 3-4 months of the year feel pretty new yearish to me. My goal was to watch and read stuff out of my usual comfort zone. I decided to read a manga, watch an anime and watch a Studio Ghibli movie.

Sophie and Howl
Studio Ghibli films are no stranger in my house. My sister is a huge fan of the Japanese animated films (they’re considered the Disney of Japan) and has seen almost every single one of their movies. Lately she’s been showing my two brothers all the films. Suddenly I was interested in watching one myself. While this isn’t my first SG film, it’s been four years since I’d seen The Secret World of Arrietty, and I only went to the movie theater to take my sister there.

I adore whimsical films and my sister obviously knew what she was doing in suggesting this film. Howl’s Moving Castle is a gorgeously animated film with delightful layers of magic and fantasy set in a 19th century steampunk world that is so scrumptious I want to eat it up!

The story follows the unassuming, mild-mannered Sophie, who quietly works in a hat shop. She has a chance encounter with Howl, a sorcerer, though she doesn’t know it’s him, and then is transformed into a ninety-year-old woman by a witch. Sophie travels to the wastes to find the evil witch and ends up meeting Howl, his young friend Markl and the hilarious fire spirit Calcifer. War breaks out between the surrounding kingdoms and Howl is dragged into the midst of it. Sophie seeks to break the curse that has made her old… and she’s falling in love along the way.

I loooove Sophie! She is the sweetest little heroine ever. From a quiet girl to a granny who can’t help speaking her mind, her character growth is perfect. It’s really fascinating how her “age” often reflects how she feels emotionally; often her confidence returns her youth for a moment. I love compassionate heroines who are equally strong and Sophie is awesome-sauce in every way.

Howl is a flamboyant, temper-tantrum throwing, adorable hero. He definitely falls under the “flower boy” motif with his affected ideas of self-beauty, but he’s not a one-dimensional character. His growth is just as important as Sophie’s as he breaks free from cowardice and fights for what he believes in. I like the mysterious veil the film keeps with so little explained about Howl or his magical abilities, though I would be fascinated to learn more.

The side characters are all memorable and perfectly suited to the film from the adorable little boy Markl to the grouchy Calficier who I loved to the evil witch and the ambiguous Madame Suliman. The backgrounds are incredible with fanciful details that bring the lush world to life. I loved the steampunk elements coupled with the historical setting. I really love the idea of a world where everyone knows there are witches and magical sorcerers and even the government tries to employ them.

This film was released by Disney with a stellar English dub that I LOVE in every way. CHRISTIAN BALE voices HOWL! I nearly died!! I mean I could listen to his voice alllll daaaaayyy. Seriously, he brought so much to the role of Howl; an undeniably magical quality. I don’t think I’ve seen Emily Mortimer in much but her voice is fabulous. I love the gentle sophistication she gives Sophie’s voice. And BILLY CRYSTAL as Calcifer!! Oh my goodness, he was the absolute most perfect choice. I immediately fell in love with the grumpy Calcifer and I know Crystal was a big reason why.

Overall, this was such a sweet and beautiful movie. From the magical elements to the romance to the characters, I seriously loved it all. I totally agree that Studio Ghibli deserves all the praise they often receive! They are indeed the Disney of Japanese animation with exquisite art and a classic aura that’s not easy to capture. The world-building was just sublime here and I’m certain I’ll be visiting Howl’s Moving Castle again sometime in the future.


  1. this movie is one of my favorite but I actually prefer watching it with the japanese dialogue even if I had to read the subtitles. the disney version was great and I do agreed that Bale did have a very captivating voice but I guess I'm used to watching Japanese versions that the english version somehow doesn't compare but I think it's more of about personal preference.

    have you read the book it is base on? it's not the same at all. the movie is better.

    have a lovely day.

    1. I definitely think it's become a favorite of mine too! And that's cool that you saw it with the Japanese dialogue. I totally understand your preference; especially with me, the version I see first is usually my fav.

      I haven't read the book though my sister has. She said she liked it, but yes she said it's very different.

      Thanks Lissa!


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