Revisiting Ghibli: Howl’s Moving Castle Blu-ray Review

Howl’s Moving Castle Blu-ray

Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki and Diana Wynne Jones
Starring: Emily Watson, Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall, Jean Simmons, Billy Crystal, Jena Malone

Review by Stephanie Cooke

Studio Ghibli’s film, Howl’s Moving Castle was not my first introduction to the property. I grew up a fan of Diana Wynne Jones’ work and Howl’s Moving Castle was one such book that I absolutely adored. When you’re growing up, you are so excited by the possibility of someone turning something you love into another thing you can love (I still get excited albeit sometimes skeptical) like Howl’s Moving Castle being adapted.

I was a fan of Hayao Miyazaki and then again of Diana Wynne Jones but I never imagined that those two world would one day intersect to create this wonderful animated feature that so many others find joy in. It was the perfect fit, really. One that I never really thought about when imagining who could bring the property to life, which was admittedly something I didn’t put a lot of time into thinking about back then.

Howl’s Moving Castle is different from other Miyazaki films. Of course, there are a few others that have been adapted such as Ponyo (The Little Mermaid) and The Secret of Arrietty (The Borrowers) but Howl’s is the only one that is a true take on the source material rather than an interpretation. Furthermore, it’s a proper love story which is a major B-plot within the film. Miyazaki focuses a lot of pure forms of love in relationships built around mutual respect and adoration. The kids in his other films are so sweet and innocent; they love so unconditionally and it’s heartwarming.

Right off the bat in Howl’s Moving Castle, we’re introduced to Sophie and not long after, Howl. And it turns into a sort of Beauty and the Beast-esque tale— only Sophie isn’t traditionally beautiful. She quickly gets turned into an old woman as well, one who can’t tell the secret of who she truly is. Sophie can’t leave breaking the curse up to the beautiful but self-centered Howl, and while they’re stuck in each other’s company, they must learn to get along and appreciate one another as one emotion leads them into the next.

I love this love story though. It’s not one that’s centered around romance and courtship, but rather around each other flaws and whether or not the good outweighs the bad once it’s all laid out on the table. It’s about being compatible despite all of those things and about being able to stand up for yourself and not being a pushover in the name of love. Of course, romance comes later in the film as both Sophie and Howl realize their feelings, but there relationship isn’t built around conventional means of attraction and Sophie takes Howl out of his comfort zone.

Howl’s Moving Castle has some of the strongest supporting characters out of all the Ghibli movies. Calcifer is my favourite curmudgeon – I adore his relationship with Sophie and how she is able to lovingly bully him into working with her. Calcifer has such a great little side story too that plays into the larger picture which is something that I don’t feel there’s a lot of in these films. The dynamic between Sophie and Markl is equally endearing too as she tries to bring order to his life of chaos that comes from living with Howl as an apprentice.

As with all Studio Ghibli films, the art is just superb. The rich landscapes and colours just jump off the screen at you in the best possible ways. Each character has such unique features and expressions that make them truly stand out.

The rerelease of Howl’s Moving Castle on Blu-ray includes special features, a few of which are brand-new to this release, making it even more worthwhile to pick up.

Howl’s Moving Castle Blu-ray Special Features:

  • Feature-Length Storyboards
  • Original Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spots
  • Interview with Diana Wynne Jones
  • Miyazaki’s Visit to Pixar
  • Explanation of CG
  • The Birth Story of the Film Soundtrack
  • Behind the Microphone
  • 8-page Booklet with Producer’s Statement and more

Verdict:
Here’s a spoiler for the rest of my Revisiting Ghibli series: I will tell you that every single Studio Ghibli film from GKIDS are absolutely Must Buys. This is an entire column that revolves around my love for these films and their stunning stories and artwork. There may be films I love less than others but I love them still— Studio Ghibli is full of treasures and Howl’s Moving Castle is one of the prized gems.

If you’ve never seen any Studio Ghibli films, this is a fabulous jumping on point. It’s such a lovely fairy tale for absolutely anyone and everyone— you can’t go wrong!

Stephanie is a Toronto based writer and editor. She's a comic book fan, avid gamer, movie watcher, lover of music, and sarcasm. She is a purveyor of too many projects and has done work for Talking Comics, JoBlo.com, Agents of Geek, Word of the Nerd, C&G Magazine, Dork Shelf, and more.Her writing credits include "Home Sweet Huck" (Mark Millar's Millarworld Annual 2017), "Lungarella (Secret Loves of Geek Girls, 2016), "Behind Enemy Linens" (BLOCKED Anthology, 2017), "Home and Country" (Toronto Comics Anthology, 2017) and more to come. You can read more about her shenanigans over on her personal web site.

Stephanie Cooke

Stephanie is a Toronto based writer and editor. She's a comic book fan, avid gamer, movie watcher, lover of music, and sarcasm. She is a purveyor of too many projects and has done work for Talking Comics, JoBlo.com, Agents of Geek, Word of the Nerd, C&G Magazine, Dork Shelf, and more.Her writing credits include "Home Sweet Huck" (Mark Millar's Millarworld Annual 2017), "Lungarella (Secret Loves of Geek Girls, 2016), "Behind Enemy Linens" (BLOCKED Anthology, 2017), "Home and Country" (Toronto Comics Anthology, 2017) and more to come. You can read more about her shenanigans over on her personal web site.

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