Howl's Moving Castle

  • Film
  • Animation
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The first long shot of Howl’s castle, moving through the fog of an Alpine pasture, is a doozy: its bullfrog-battleship bulk huffing and chunting along on a set of sure-clawed chicken-legs, it’s the sort of organic-hydraulic hybrid at which Miyazaki excels. The innards prove less impressive, especially for anyone imagining a bustling citadel to rival the divine bath-house of ‘Spirited Away’; with activity largely restricted to a kitchen-living room, it feels more like Howl’s moving bedsit. Still, it’s an apt symbol for a film whose copious initial charm diminishes on closer acquaintance. Freely adapted from Diana Wynne Jones’ novel, ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ is the story of Sophie, a hard-working, self-effacing teenager who takes refuge with the wizard Howl after being transformed into a crone by the Witch of the Waste (a well-coutured whale of a woman voiced by Lauren Bacall). Supposedly fearsome, Howl turns out to be a drama queen with a yellow streak – albeit a rather dashing one, in an androgynous, Manga sort of way. Meanwhile mobilisation is underway for a total war in which magic is merely another WMD. The set-up offers plenty of dazzle, from the milieu – an exquisitely rendered high imperial/pastoral fantasia of nineteenth century Europe – to supernatural aspects such as the Witch’s glutinous goons (complete with boaters). Unfortunately, the increasingly baggy structure and fluctuating tone – now wartime intrigue, now pretend family heart-warmer – make it harder and harder to engage. The risibly cloying closing scenes are likely to nix any remaining goodwill, blotting out such delicate early touches as a stroll through the air far above a town square.

Release details

Rated: U
Release date: Friday September 23 2005
Duration: 119 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Screenwriter: Hayao Miyazaki

Average User Rating

3.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:2
  • 4 star:0
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:1
2 people listening
Christopher H

You have to pay attention to this movie. People saying it's bad storytelling, confusing, poor narrative; probably the same people who wouldn't get through an episode of Game of Thrones.

I hated Howl's the first time I saw it, but I wanted it to be exactly like Spirited Away. That wouldn't make sense, though. Spirited Away is Spirited Away.

Go into Howl while enjoying a few of your favorite home amenities. Good coffee, favorite meal at your favorite time of day, with a good movie buddy. And don't block the joy from your heart. You need to understand this movie. You need to love it, for your sake.

Richard Anderson

I watched this with a friend, I am big anime fan and have became a big Studio Ghibli fan. After hearing everyone rave about Howls for years this was my chance to jump into it. I made no sense, my friend had seen it a few times with his niece so he filled me in. To which my reactions were "that makes no sense." "Thats just stupid." and so I slogged through it until the end. Which had me shouting "NO! what? Why? Who is that?" it was explained to me again like most of the film, I replied "That is just bad story telling!" It was slowly burning my good will threw out the film, the ending just destroyed it.


Testament to Miyazaki's creative genius. Story, score, characters, visuals all equate to a magical and unforgettable film.


Testament to Miyazaki's creative genius. Story, score, characters, visuals all equate to a magical and unforgettable film.

Bill Gates

This is a amazingly bad movie. I had to stop in the middle of movie because I had no idea what was going on. It all seems relatively random and it seems like it has absolutely no structure what- so- ever. it seems it's like a full movie of deleted scenes that were put together with no organization. This movie would be at the end of my list to see.