Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle is an anime movie in the Howl's Moving Castle Franchise
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Sophie is cursed by the Witch of the Waste and sets out to find a remedy, meeting handsome wizard Howl along the way.

Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

The film Howl's Moving Castle is an animated movie of science-fiction and fantasy. A loose adaptation upon the novel "Howl's Moving Castle"(1986) written by the British author Diana Wynne Jones. The direction and screenplay was done by Hayao Miyazaki. Mamoru Hosoda was originally selected to direct but left the project to the then retired Miyazaki. Music was composed by Joe Hisaishi. The Studio Ghibli company produced the movie and distributed by TOHO.

The initial screening of Howl's Moving Castle was at the Venice Film Festival on September 5, 2004, and the official Japanese release of the film was on November 20, 2004. The movie had a ¥2.4 billion ($24 Million) budget and it would go on to a total world wide gross of ¥23.2 Billion ($232 Million). This marked the movie as one of the most financially successful Japanese films in history. The theatrical release was limited in the U.S. and Canada on June 10, 2005. The dub was produced by Pixar's Peter Docter and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. It would then be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 78th Academy Awards in 2006, but would lose the award to "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit".


Howl and Sophie
Howl and Sophie

Plain, shy hat maker Sophie is cursed by the Witch of the Waste to turn prematurely into an old woman. In search of a remedy, she works as a cleaner for Howl, a handsome wizard who, it is rumored, steals the hearts of young girls. Sophie brings a woman's touch to a ramshackle bachelor household, edging her way into the antagonistic world of Howl, his boy apprentice Markl, and Calcifer, the fire demon, whom Howl has bound to the castle's machinery to keep the power flowing. Meanwhile, Howl and several of his pseudonyms are resisting a king's order to fight against the wizards of a rival state. He contends with two women with whom he seems to have a past, the Wicked Witch, whose fading spells cause her to age and collapse into dementia, and Madame Suliman, a government sorcerer who urges Howl to enter royal service.


Hayao Miyazaki's adaptation of the novel by Diana Wynne Jones adds several personal touches, starting with a wheezing comic relief lapdog. The wholly magical realm of the original novel is given a more modern, steam-based technology and a new subplot about a distant war, fraught with mixed feelings that appear rooted in Japan's role as bystander and beneficiary of the invasion of Iraq. War breaks out over the search for an important artifact-the infamous real-world "weapons of mass destruction" transformed here into a missing prince, demands for whose return lead to the background conflict. HMC wrestles with the ideas of duty and obligation, and how best to do the right thing in a world gone wrong.

The moving castle of Howl
The moving castle of Howl

Flushed with international approbation for Spirited Away and Miyazaki's long-deserved Academy Award, HMC was less a movie than a national celebration. On its opening weekend 1.1 million Japanese spent over $14 million-an opening surpassed only by Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001). Buena Vista invested reverently in the English language adaptation, casting the new Batman, Christian Bale, as the selfish Howl and Billy Crystal in a comic turn as Calcifer. The dub is also tied firmly into America's film heritage with Jean Simmons as the aged Sophie, and Lauren Bacall as the Witch of the Waste.

Howl and an aging Sophie
Howl and an aging Sophie

HMC is a charming film, visually inventive and magnificently crafted. The castle itself is a fabulous creation, like a magic mechanical version of Baba Yaga's Hut from Russian folklore, and the settings are beautifully realized, with the wild mountains and uplands handled particularly well. However, there is a difference between an excellent film and an excellent Miyazaki film. All film is a collaborative process, but in the best films of a genius one finds a unique creative soul, a way of seeing and showing that can be imitated but not replicated. Other great Japanese directors, given Ghibli's unrivaled resources, could have made a movie very like HMC; but no one else could have made anything approaching Nausicaä.

HMC was originally intended for another director until Miyazaki stepped in, the legendary perfectionist seemingly unable to let a good idea go to waste, even though he had supposedly retired. The film's hidden message is Miyazaki's love letter to Akemi Ota, the young, hard-working animator girl he married so long ago, a plucky heroine who woke up one day to find herself a glorified scullery maid to a self-absorbed creative, obsessed with distant battles and otherworldly sorceries.

Sophie and Calcifer
Sophie and Calcifer

HMC sometimes appears more like the product of a committee rehashing Miyazaki's glory days: heroines confronted by outsized obstacles, contending witches, and lead characters unwittingly transformed. Absolute simplicity and innocence are hard to handle realistically-in My Neighbor Totoro they work sublime wonders, but in HMC it leaves the characters alienated from the events around them, like preoccupied children or the "little people" of Patlabor, ignorant of a big picture that is only apparent on repeat viewings.

It may be a tribute to the original novel character, who fed on the souls of besotted young girls, that Howl is Miyazaki's first consciously beautiful male hero who gets to have Miyazaki's first full-on screen kiss, but he's also the first Miyazaki hero to turn into a conventional father figure by the end of the movie. By the close of the film, the wild, magical creatures are tamed into an image of a nuclear family. The magnificently depraved Witch is a gentle granny mumbling in a sunny garden, the resourceful Markl a kid teasing an old dog, and the fire elemental a lovably grouchy Disney domestic appliance, as the irresistible wizard steers his companion and the domesticated castle into the happily-ever-after. Compare this with the ending of Princess Mononoke, where San and Ashitaka agree to accept each other's separate needs without compromising their love.

The major Miyazaki themes are still there-integrity, consideration for others, the destructive power of war and greed, ecological awareness, the synergy of true teamwork. What is lacking is a spark so unique it seems churlish to expect Miyazaki to produce it on demand, movie after movie; and the supernaturally sure-footed sense of pace and timing that informs his greatest works. HMC is a detailed and generous answer, but so caught up in its own complexity that it seems to have misheard the question.


01. Opening : The Merry-go-round of life

02. The Courageous Cavalry

03. Stroll Through the Sky

04. Heart Aflutter

05. The Witch of the Waste

06. Wandering Sophie

07. The Magical Door

08. He Indelible Curse

09. Spring Cleaning

10. To the Lake of Stars

11. Quiet Feelings

12. In the Rain

13. Vanity and friendship

14. A 90 Years Old Young Girl

15. Sulliman's Magic Square : Return to the Castle

16. The Secret Cave

17. Moving

18. The Flower Garden

19. Run

20. Now that's Love

21. Family

22. Love of War

23. Escape

24. Sophie's Castle

25. The Boy Who Drank Stars

26. Ending : The Promise Of the World: The Merry-go round of Life

Characters & Voice Actors

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Howl ( x ) ( x ) ( x )
Takuya Kimura ( x ) ( x ) ( x ) (Japanese)
Christian Bale ( x ) ( x ) ( x ) (English)
Sophie Hatter ( x ) ( x ) ( x )
Chieko Baisho ( x ) ( x ) ( x ) (Japanese)
Emily Mortimer ( x ) ( x ) ( x ) (English)
Jean Simmons ( x ) ( x ) ( x ) (English)
Calcifer ( x ) ( x ) ( x )
Billy Crystal ( x ) ( x ) ( x ) (English)
Tatsuya Gashuin ( x ) ( x ) ( x ) (Japanese)
Markl ( x ) ( x ) ( x )
Josh Hutcherson ( x ) ( x ) ( x ) (English)
Ryunosuke Kamiki ( x ) ( x ) ( x ) (Japanese)


Add a credit to Howl's Moving Castle. (No voice actors. Add voice actors to characters above.)
Hayao Miyazaki Producer One of the most widely-recognized anime directors in Japan and probably the most well-known outside of Japan, Hayao Miyazaki is known for his whimsical films, created by the animation studio he co-founded, Studio Ghibli.
Toshio Suzuki Toshio Suzuki is the managing director and general manager of Studio Ghibli. Worked as a producer at Ghibli until March 2014.

Original US Poster Art

General Information Edit
Name: Howl's Moving Castle
Release Date: Jan. 1, 2004
Name: ハウルの動く城
Romaji: Howl no Ugoku Shiro
Release Date: Nov. 20, 2004
Rating: None
Runtime: 119 (mins)
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