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Howl's Moving Castle
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Produced by Toshio Suzuki
Written by Screenplay:
Hayao Miyazaki
Diana Wynne Jones
Original Story:
Diana Wynne Jones
Starring Chieko Baishō
Takuya Kimura
Akihiro Miwa
Music by Joe Hisaishi
Editing by Takeshi Seyama
Distributed by Toho
Release date(s) November 20, 2004
Running time 120 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese
Budget ¥ 2.4 billion
Gross revenue ¥ 23.2 billion

Howl's Moving Castle (ハウルの動く城 Hauru no Ugoku Shiro?) is a 2004 Japanese animated fantasy film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli and based on Diana Wynne Jones' novel of the same name. Mamoru Hosoda, director of one season and two movies from the Digimon series, was originally selected to direct but abruptly left the project, leaving the then-retired Miyazaki to take up the director's role.

The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 5, 2004 and was released in Japanese theaters on November 20, 2004. It went on to gross $231,710,455 worldwide,[1] making it one of the most financially successful Japanese films in history. The film was subsequently dubbed into English by Pixar's Peter Docter and distributed in North America by Walt Disney Pictures. It received a limited release in the United States and Canada beginning June 10, 2005 and was released nationwide in Australia on September 22 and in the UK the following September.

The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 78th Academy Awards in 2006.



Young Sophie Hatter, who runs her late father's hat shop, encounters the mysterious wizard Howl by chance. He takes a liking to her. This attracts the attention of the Witch of the Waste, who has been seeking Howl's heart for herself. She curses Sophie, turning her into a crone. As the curse prevents her from telling anyone of her true form, Sophie decides to run away. Along the way, she befriends a scarecrow that she names Turnip Head, and they come across Howl's castle. Once inside, Sophie meets the fire demon Calcifer who powers the castle and recognizes that Sophie has been cursed. Calcifer offers to break the curse in exchange for Sophie's help in breaking the pact between him and Howl. When Howl appears, Sophie announces that she is the castle's new cleaning lady. As she adjusts to life in the castle, she discovers that the front door is a magic portal leading to several places.

Howl receives summons from the King, who orders his various assumed identities to fight in the war started by the disappearance of Crown Prince Justin. Howl sends Sophie as his mother to decline. At the palace, Sophie runs into the Witch of the Waste, who reveals that she cannot reverse the spell she cast on Sophie. Madame Suliman punishes the Witch by draining all of her power. Losing her youthful facade, the Witch returns to her true age, and becomes a senile old woman. Suliman tells Sophie that Howl will meet the same fate if he does not contribute to the war. Howl then arrives to rescue Sophie, with the Witch and Suliman's asthmatic lapdog Heen tagging along. He gives Sophie a magical ring that would guide her to Calcifer. Suliman begins tracking her to get to Howl.

Sophie learns that Howl transforms into a bird-like creature to interfere in the war, but each transformation makes it more difficult for him to return to human form. Howl shows his appreciation for her by transforming the castle so that it can lead to Sophie's old home as well as Howl's childhood residence, which he gives to Sophie as a present.

Soon after, Sophie's mother visits the house, and somehow recognizes Sophie despite her old appearance. They then have a happy reunion. However, Sophie's mother is actually under Suliman's threats, and leaves behind a bag containing a "spying bug" and cigar under her orders. The former Witch of the Waste discovers them and promptly begins smoking the cigar after feeding the bug to Calcifer. Unfortunately, Calcifer gets sick after eating the bug, rendering him unable to protect the castle from being discovered when Sophie opens the windows to air out the cigar smoke.

Shortly, the city is attacked by enemy planes as Suliman's henchmen invade the castle. After protecting the hat shop from the bombing, Howl transforms and draws the guards away, while Sophie and Calcifer bring the castle to the Wastes. So that Howl would not be continuously forced to defend them, Sophie pulls Calcifer out of the castle to destroy the magic and cut off all ties to the city, then moves him back in to create a smaller version of the moving machine so they can rescue Howl. Unfortunately, the Witch of the Waste discoveres Howl's heart in Calcifer's diminishing flames, and grabs it. To save her from burning, Sophie douses her and Calcifer with water. The castle breaks apart, and Sophie and Heen are thrown over a cliff.

Sophie recovers in tears, believing that she has killed both Calcifer and Howl, as their lives are interconnected. As she is sobbing, Howl's ring points to the remains of Howl's castle door; she walks through it. She finds herself in Howl's past, where she sees Calcifer being caught by a young Howl as a falling star. Howl catches Calcifer falling from the sky, and makes a pact with the demon that he will give him his heart if he serves him. Sophie is pulled back into present time: before leaving she tells Howl to find her in the future.

Back in the present, Sophie finds Howl and realizes that he has been waiting for her all along. He carries her to the others and then collapses. She takes Howl's heart from the Witch and puts it back in his chest. Calcifer returns to his original form and flies away. The remains of the castle slide down the cliffs. Turnip Head stops the fall and saves everyone, but is damaged. Sophie gives him a kiss, and he transforms (back) into the missing Prince Justin. By now, Sophie has fully transformed back to her youthful self but in hair color, which remains gray. Prince Justin leaves to put an end to the war. Later, Howl, Sophie, and the others are seen aboard a new, flying castle powered by Calcifer of his free will.


The soundtrack CD was first released on November 19, 2004 by Tokuma. Artist Joe Hisaishi also composed and conducted a Howl's Moving Castle: Symphony Suite, an album published on January 21, 2004 which includes ten re-arranged pieces from the original soundtrack.[2]


Differences between film and novel

Diana Wynne Jones did meet with representatives from Studio Ghibli but did not have any input or involvement in the production of the film. Miyazaki traveled to England in the summer of 2004 to give Jones a private viewing of the finished movie. She has been quoted as saying:

"It's fantastic. No, I have no input—I write books, not films. Yes it will be different from the book—in fact it's likely to be very different, but that's as it should be. It will still be a fantastic film."[3]

As Jones noted, the film is significantly different from her original novel. Much of the plot is similar, but it is flavored with many of Miyazaki's familiar themes: airships, redemption, solving one's own problems, beautiful natural landscapes, societies reminiscent of Victorian or Industrial era societies, and cute anthropomorphic sidekicks. The focus is still on Sophie and her adventure while being cursed with old age, but the main action of the film's story takes place during a war, reminiscent of World War I, with bombing-attacks, by airships, on civilian cities similar to the those made by the German Empire, and monstrously-large Dreadnought style battleships, involved in the arms race before the outbreak of World War I. The film is located in a fantastical nation somewhat reminiscent of pre-World War I Alsace. Indeed, many buildings in the town are identical to actual buildings in the Alsatian town of Colmar, which Miyazaki acknowledged as the inspiration for its setting.[citation needed]

Whereas the novel is concerned with Howl's womanizing and his attempts to weasel out of locating a lost wizard and a prince, the film has Howl avoiding helping in a national war for pacifist reasons, and deals with the consequences of this decision. This aspect of the film's plot is actually rooted in Miyazaki's political views as a pacifist — in an interview with Newsweek magazine, Miyazaki told the interviewer that the movie had started production "just as your country [the USA] had started the war against Iraq", and the subsequent rage he felt about the Iraq war "profoundly impacted" the film.[4]

The book has the protagonists detour for one chapter into the 20th century world, where Howl is known as Howell Jenkins. This element is not used in the film, although one of Howl's aliases is "The Great Wizard Jenkins."

Many of the book's characters are modified for the film. The character of Howl's apprentice, Michael Fisher, is a teenager (15) in the book but a young boy, "Markl", in the film. Sophie has only one sister in the movie compared to two in the book (although the other sister is alluded to as an aside near the film's opening). The Witch of the Waste, instead of looking young and beautiful, is a huge heavyset woman who later becomes an old crone. In the book, she is a frightening villain terrorizing other characters, but the film's latter half transforms her into a "grandmother" character, and she is even taken into Howl's home. Calcifer, who is a scary looking fire demon in the book, is portrayed as an adorable little flame in the film, although twice he blazes up into a wicked-looking blue flame strongly reminiscent of his appearance in the book. Finally, while in the book the 'Wizard Suliman' is male and an ally, in the film he is changed to 'Madame Suliman,' a female antagonist who is similar in appearance to the book's Mrs. Penstemmon. Various other characters in the film are composites of the book's characters, with different motivations and personalities.

The film removes the references to Wales - originally the home of Howl (where he was known as Howell Jenkins).


USA Today critic Claudia Puig praised it for its ability to blend "a childlike sense of wonder with sophisticated emotions and motives" while Richard Roeper called it an "insanely creative work". Other critics described it as "a visual wonder", "A gorgeous life-affirming piece", and "an animated tour de force." Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times, gave it two and a half out of four stars, and felt that it was one of Miyazaki's "weakest" films.[5] The film was also listed by Sight & Sound, the official magazine of the British Film Institute, as one of the best films of 2005. It was the only animated film to be included on the list.


Top ten lists

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2005.[6]



External links

Simple English

Howl's Moving Castle
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Produced by Toshio Suzuki
Written by Diana Wynne Jones (novel)
Hayao Miyazaki (screenplay)
Starring Christian Bale
Jean Simmons
Emily Mortimer
Lauren Bacall
Billy Crystal
Blythe Danner
Josh Hutcherson
Crispin Freeman
Jena Malone
Music by Joe Hisaishi
Editing by Takeshi Seyama
Distributed by Toho (Japan)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment (USA)
Madman Entertainment (Australia)
Release date(s) November 20 2004
June 10,2005
September 1,2005
September 16,2005
September 22,2005
Running time 119 minutes
Language Japanese
Preceded by The Cat Returns
Followed by Tales from Earthsea
Allmovie profile
IMDb profile

Howl's Moving Castle (ハウルの動く城 Hauru no Ugoku Shiro?) is an anime movie made by Hayao Miyazaki. It's based on the novel of the same name.


The movie stars the following actors:

Character Japanese version English version
Grandma Sophie Chieko Baishō Jean Simmons
Howl Takuya Kimura Christian Bale
Witch of the Waste Akihiro Miwa Lauren Bacall
Calcifer Tatsuya Gashūin Billy Crystal
Young Sophie Chieko Baishō Emily Mortimer
Markl Ryūnosuke Kamiki Josh Hutcherson
Madame Suliman Haruko Katō Blythe Danner
Lettie Yayoi Kazuki Jena Malone
Honey Mayuno Yasokawa Mari Devon
Prince Justin/Turnip Yō Ōizumi Crispin Freeman
King Akio Ohtsuka Mark Silverman
Suliman's servants Mitsunori Isaki
Makoto Yasumura
Heen (Dog) Daijirō Harada
Madge Rio Kanno Liliana Mumy
Kabuto Tomoe Hanba
Soldiers Ken Yasuda
Yō Ōizumi
Cake seller Hiroyuki Morisaki
Hashinoue man Shigeyuki Totsugi
Port City fish seller Seiji Sasaki
Castle gatekeeper Takuma Otomo
Additional voices Manabu Muraji
Keiko Tsukamoto
Hiroshi Takahashi
Rina Yamada
Yōhei Ōbayashi
Yukiko Mizuochi
Izumi Matsuoka
Carlos Alazraqui
Newell Alexander
Rosemary Alexander
Julia Barnett
Susan Blakeslee
Leslie Carrara
Mitch Carter
David Cowgill
Holly Dorff
Moosie Drier
Ike Eisenmann
Will Friedle
Bridget Hoffman
Richard Steven Horvitz
Sherry Hursey
Hope Levy
Christina MacGregor
Joel McCrary
Edie Mirman
Daran Norris
Peter Renaday
Kristina Rutherford
Warren Sroka


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