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The magical world of Howl
Howl's Moving Castle (Limited Edition, DVD)
Member Name: raypdaley182
Howl's Moving Castle (Limited Edition, DVD)
Advantages: Looks great
Disadvantages: Overly long for the sake of it
I've wanted to see this ever since I saw clips of it on Jonathon Ross's "Japanorama" show on BBC3 several years ago. I guess you'd class it as Anime but it was clearly made with a Western audience in mind as most signs and numbers are written in English (Although I did see a poster written in German & some boxes labelled in what looked like French).
You don't need the subtitles switched on as there is English dialogue but the subtitles were clearly translated from Japanese as they do differ from the spoken English dialogue in grammar and structure, not all translations are exact either.
The look of the movie is very much like something from the mind of animator Terry Gilliam, especially the castle on legs striding across the rural countryside. Its very much like something he'd have thought of. It's difficult to know what time period the movie is supposed to be set in seeing Cavalrymen on Horses but steam powered Trams, Trains, Steam Cars & Sedan Chairs too.
It appears the lead character of the film is Sophie who works in a millinery shop (thats hats to you philistines) and we start off meeting her leaving work, being rescued from the over amourous attention of 2 soldiers by a chap who not only seems to know Jedi Mind tricks but can also fly and is being chased by evil black ectoplasmic creatures.
Sophie discusses her encounter with her sister Lettie and they also discuss Howl (he's clearly a Wizard and everyone thinks he's evil and eats womens hearts), returning to the Shop Sophie has a spell cast on her by The Witch Of The Wastes which turns her into an old women. She avoids her mother and leaves town rescuing a scarecrow which repays her with a walking cane and helps her to find shelter, inside Howls Moving Castle. A bit like the Tardis, even though its moving the inside of the castle always remains stationary as though it were a normal static dwelling.
This is obviously a world where magic is totally normal (as Sophie wasn't surprised by a magical scarecrow) as meeting a Fire Demon called Calciifer didn't even seem to phase her, it seems Howls Castle is even more like the Stargate as it is able to be static yet its front door and exterior can be in many different locations at once (Actually it seems to be based on the Terry Pratchett idea of Wandering Shops).
All of the callers seem to think different Wizards live there but none think it is Howl. We discover the man who saved Sophie is of course Howl (who can't be that great a wizard if he doesn't recognise someone under an spell) and to remain close to him she pretends she is his new cleaning lady.
We also discover (thanks to Howl) that Sophie appears as a normal girl when she sleeps. One thing can be said for certain, this is a world where several cities or countries are involved in a war (with flying battleships and iron ships that look like US Civil War steamers) but even the Witch Of The Waste seems to have a Tardis-like Sedan chair, definately bigger on the inside.
It's rather strange that whilst talking to the Kings Head Sorceror Sulliman (a mistranslation surely as she is clearly female) that Sophie briefly transforms into her younger self whilst making an impassioned speech on Howls behalf. Sulliman had also taken all the magic from The Witch Of The Waste and tried to trap Howl who saves Sophie.
Sophie escapes back to the castle and wakes up but is still young, checking on Howl she tells him she loves him. When he rejects her she becomes old again but it is difficult to know if that was a dream or not. Afer using Calcifer to move the Castle it also completely reconfigures and repairs the interior (again like another aspect of the Tardis, able to add new rooms), Sophie also appears to get younger again when Howl takes her into his secret garden.
From what I could understand Sophie gets younger when she acknowledges her feelings of love for Howl. Sophie is visited by her mother (who was forced to leave a spying bug by Sulliman) but it is destroyed by The Witch Of The Wastes using Calcifer to burn it but it leaves him weakened and unable to protect the house from invasion and bombing.
So many of the images of flying ships and burning birds remind of Battle Of The Planets (Gatchaman) it made me wonder if the maker of this had seen the cartoon as a child. Trying to help Howl Sophie removes Calcifer from the castle which destroys it but he is able to reconfigure it only smaller when she returns him and gives him her hair.
The Witch Of The Wastes manages to ruin everything removing calfifer from his hearth forcing Sophie to throw water over her to stop her catching fire which destroys most of what is left of the castle. Sent back into Howls childhood Sophie discovers it is Calcifer who takes Howls heart and keeps him enchanted as a shape shifter, taking Howl back to what is left of the castle Sophie gives Howl his heart back which frees calcifer but destroys the castle.
The magical scarecrow saves them from certain death and she kisses him which releases him from a spell, he turns out to be a missing Prince who can stop the war. Sulliman also stops the war using her royal contacts and calcifer repairs the castle and Sophie and Howl fly off into the sky.
It's an odd ending to an odd but sweet film which is apparently very loosely based on a novel by Diana Wynne Jones, the film is just under 2 hours long but I think it could be cut by about 20 minutes as it is just too long in places.
Summary: An interesting film