Wed. Aug 17th, 2022

Anime has become increasingly popular as shows like Demon Slayer and Attack on Titan become more mainstream. However, none of this would have been possible without Studio Ghibli popularizing the genre back in the late 1900’s. 

Miyazaki Hayao founded the studio alongside Takahata Isao in 1985 after their success with Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Studio Ghibli created many hit films following that one such as My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke over the years, and introduced anime to a wider audience than ever before. 

Miyazaki’s travels around the world inspired many of his films, and he adapted the art style and the settings of many of his films to match those of his travels. For example, Spirited Away was based in Taiwan and Kiki’s Delivery Service was based in Sweden. 

Miyazaki also liked to incorporate many of his ideologies into the films he created including pacifism, environmentalism, feminism, and love. Miyazaki hated war and demonstrated that through his movies Grave of the Fireflies and, more notably, Howl’s Moving Castle.

Released originally in Japan on November 20, 2004, Howl’s Moving Castle came out in the US a few months later on June 17, 2005. It is hands down one of Studio Ghibli’s greatest films. 

The film’s animation is beautiful, the use of vibrant colors brings so much personality to every scene, and the attention to detail is remarkable. The film is set in Ingary (a made up country that closely resembles the UK) and features some beautiful cities like Kingsbury and Porthaven. 

The beautiful animation goes hand in hand with one of the greatest movie soundtracks ever. Joe Hisaishi directed the soundtrack for the movie and went above and beyond everyone’s expectations. The introduction song of the movie, “Merry-Go-Round of Life,” is simply a masterpiece. The soft piano accompanied by the rising and falling of the violins perfectly match the beauty of the show and really brings everything together. 

Sophie, the protagonist of the film, was a hat maker in a city outside of Kingsbury. She lived a rather boring life taking up her fathers job after he had passed. Her mother and sister were much more outgoing than her, as her mother was constantly remarrying rich men and her sister was the star employee at a local bakery. As good looking individuals, they made Sophie pretty self conscious about her own appearance. 

Throughout the movie, there is a brutal war going on. Supposedly, a neighboring country believed that their prince was captured by Ingary, and they declared war on Ingary because of that. However, Ingary had nothing to do with the prince, making the war essentially pointless.

Towards the beginning of the movie, Sophie gets cursed by the Witch of the Waste and has to seek out Howl to help get rid of her curse. Sophie falls in love with Howl as she works as his cleaning lady at his castle.

Howl is a sorcerer. He is a very kind man (despite what the townspeople say) that does his best to stop the war. He is constantly going out taking down battleships to stop them from bombing civilian homes, but his efforts seem almost useless with the insane amount of bombs that each country is dropping on each other. Howl’s character coincides with Miyazaki’s beliefs in pacisfism, environmentalism, feminism, family, and love.

Howl lives in a castle in the Wastes (a place outside of any city that is inhabited mainly by sorcerers). Howl’s castle is not much of a castle, as from the outside it looks like a jumbled mess of rooms and chimneys all sticking together atop four legs. 

Howl is always running away trying to achieve freedom, but he is bound by a contract with the King of Ingary that prevents him from living the free life he desires. He uses his magic to keep others away from his castle, and is constantly afraid of facing his problems. However, with the help of Sophie, Howl eventually faces his problems so he can live the free life he always wanted together with Sophie.

The plot itself can be rather confusing, so it can take a few watches to completely understand it. However, the story is amazing, and the beautiful animation and soundtrack makes the movie very enjoyable even on the 2nd or 3rd watchthrough. 

The film itself is more of a romantic fantasy as it focuses on Sophie and Howl’s relationship and their love for each other. However, it is full of adventurous scenes that make it enjoyable for everyone. 

Howl’s Moving Castle is one of the greatest animated films ever. It is a great movie for anyone to enjoy, and its beautiful animation, soundtrack, and story are unlike any other.

By Francis Fleming, senior editor 2021-22

Hi! My name is Francis and I am a senior editor for The Mycenaean. I run, I am good at Mario Kart Wii, and I'm a good cook.

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