Howl's Moving Castle [Movie]
The curse of an evil witch turns a plain young hat-maker, Sophie, into an old woman. Sophie runs away to confront the witch and become young again when she rescues a trapped animated scarecrow. The scarecrow leads her to the giant, moving castle owned by the wizard Howl. Inside she befriends a fire demon, Calcifer, along with Howl’s young apprentice, Markl, eventually befriending Howl himself. Sophie becomes the castle’s old cleaning lady as she is swept into a journey to find the answers to both her problem and Howl’s own secrets.
Is Howl’s Moving Castle an adventure tale? A love story? Or purely a work of art like a grand painting on a humble canvas in a modest frame. This story is essential for any anime fan, you simply must watch this highlight of the Japanese animation industry. It’s hard to say any other story is better.
Howl’s Moving Castle
Also known as “Howl no Ugoku Shiro”, this show is written and directed by the great Hayao Miyazaki.
Premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2004, and was released in Japan in November, and instantly became a hit classic and is now a multi-award-winning Japanese Movie. It is based on a novel written by a British author Diana Wynne Jones. It was animated by the popular Studio Ghibli, produced by Suzuki Toshio, and distributed by Toho animation.
The setting of the story is primarily in early 20th in a fictional kingdom during a war. The film tells a story about Sophie Hatter, a young hatter. Sophie meets Howl for the first time when he was saving her from the soldiers that’s harassing her using verbal harassments. He called her ‘’Sweetheart’’ and apologized that he was late and was ‘’looking for her’’ (Because Howl is a total womanizer in the past) He then put a spell on them and made them leave. Sophie is the eldest of the three sisters (Sophie, Lettie, and Martha Hatter) Sophie is aged eighteen, she has semi red/brown hair and rather beautiful although she doesn’t see it herself.
One night changed Sophie’s life. Her encounter with Howl has put her in a great deal of problem. The vengeful Witch of the Waste followed Howl and Sophie while they were taking their leave. Howl send her back to her little sister’s bakery and then left without a trace. In the later evening, The Witch of the Waste slowly entered their hat shop with a ghastly and kind of disturbing dark aura surrounding her. Since it was their closing time, she told the witch that the shop was closed even after the witch insulted her shop by calling it ‘’tacky’’ she just told her again that the store is closed. Out of jealousy because of Sophie’s brief moment of interaction with Howl, the witch cursed the young maiden; turning her into an old woman.(Around 90 years of age) Moments after she was cursed, Sophie decided to leave her shop, her mother, her sisters, and her friends.
Wanting to remove the curse and be young again, Sophie seeks out the witch to return her back to her normal state. Traveling from her town to the wastes, she wanted to pick up a cane to reduce the difficulty of walking because of her age. Luckily, she finds a perfect thing for her to use a cane. The cane was stuck in a bush and she used all her might to pull it out. Turns out, it was a scarecrow. (She named it Turnip-head) A scarecrow with a spell on it that makes it moves on its own. It got attached to Sophie. (Sophie was basically turning it away and told not to follow her) The wind breeze made her feel chills as she walks, so she asked the scarecrow if it can find her a place to rest and stay for the night. The scarecrow did what she asked and sought out for some shade. It was nearly evening when a gigantic steampunk and rickety castle walked towards Sophie. The scarecrow led it to her and she was surprised. She had no choice but to try because she was cold and tired fromwalking. (It’s better than nothing right?) The front door of the castle opened for her. Turnip-head handed her shawl that was blown away by the wind. (It was also the time they bid farewell.)
After she got in the castle, she meets Calcifer. (Self-proclaimed demon) Sophie was quite shocked to see Calcifer because his form is a red orange fire with life. (He also gets blue whenever chilled or splashed with water) He has eyes, mouth, and he can talk. Calcifer was the one who let Sophie in while she was wandering in the wastes and he’s the one moving the castle. While Sophie was still getting to know him, she asked him if he could break the spell that made her old. (Because he said he was a demon and can remove curses) Calcifer made a counter proposal for her. If Sophie could help Calcifer obtain his freedom, he will break the curse that was put into Sophie. After their talk, Sophie fell asleep while not having closure with their conversation. She woke up after heavy knocks on the door and then meets Markl, Howl’s little apprentice. (In the book, his name is Michael, who is a bit older than the anime version) He asked Sophie where she came from and she just said Calcifer took her in. Markl disguised himself as an old man with a long beard and wearing a dark hood. He opened the door. Now the most interesting part of Howl’s castle is the famous front door. The magic door has four colors on it and it leads you to different places depending on what color you choose. These four colors are; green, red, blue, and black. This door allows them to jump instantly on faraway places. Markl opened the blue door which leads to Porthaven. Sophie was amazed by the door and tried it for herself. The green door goes to the waste (where the castle is staying) the red door leads to Kingsbury (where soldiers gave an invitation to Howl at the Royal Palace) and the black door is called ‘’Howl’s portal’’ that only Howl knows and can use. (Calcifer knows where it leads too.)
When Howl returned from his errands, he caught Sophie cooking bacons and eggs for breakfast using Calcifer’s heat. (Markl was surprised because Calcifer only listens to Howl but he’s quite submissive to Sophie.) Howl helped her cook more breakfast for them. Sophie then introduced herself as Calcifer’s hired cleaning lady.
Sophie is very devoted to her job. She cleans every corner of the castle expect Howl’s room. Though there is one time Howl bursts out of his bath with a change of hair color. (His blonde hair turned orange) and blamed it on Sophie who admitted she just organized it for him. His hair then turned into a shade of black and they comforted him that it looks better. Howl threw a tantrum and said he can’t go on anymore if he’s not beautiful in people’s eyes. Howl begins to let out green slime all over his body because of the depression he feels towards his hair. (Markl admitted seeing it happen one time when he was dumped by a girl) Sophie felt guilty and yelled at him saying she was never even beautiful in her entire life. She ran outside the door and cried on the wastes. Markl hurriedly called her back so they can both clean howl.
Sophie then went to Howl’s room. (It was quite magical) Howl tells Sophie that he’s been summoned to the Royal Palace (Kingsbury) to defend the nation from the war between neighboring countries. He told Sophie to pretend as his mother and convince Madame Suliman (Howl’s former teacher) that he’s not needed in this war and that he’s coward to show up. Sophie goes to Kingsbury as Howl’s representative. She agreed to do it and Howl assured her he would follow her in disguise. He gave his ring to Sophie. She then came across the Witch of the Waste because she was on her way in the palace too with a Royal invitation. Along the way, Sophie spotted a dog that was following her and assumed it was Howl. (There was a time Howl admitted he was being chased by the witch because he used to pursue her because she was quite beautiful long ago but then her beauty faded and Howl stopped pursuing her).
It was both a challenge for Sophie and the Witch of the Waste to climb the stairs of the palace entrance.
As Sophie was led to meet Madame Suliman, the witch didn’t know that she was invited and was trapped in the chair she sat on and was stripped of her powers and returned her to her original age and state. Sophie then explains to Madame Suliman what Howl told her to say. Madame Suliman was not easily fooled and she realized that Sophie is in love with Howl. (Sophie reverted back to her original state for a moment while she was explaining to Madame Suliman and then gets old again) Howl arrived in disguise as the king, but it was futile. Knowing danger was upon them, Howl made Sophie escape along with the witch and the dog. (The dog was actually Suliman’s watchdog) Sophie fled the palace using a plane that Howl stole and Howl took the opposite way. They crashed the plane on Howl’s castle.
Because of the danger imposing Sophie and the others, Howl moved the castle after he arrived next morning. Howl meets the Turnip-head and acknowledged him as a part of their growing family .The interior looks exactly like Sophie’s hat shop along with a new portal of the castle’s door. The new portals were colored pink and yellow. The pink one leads to Howl’s garden and the yellow one goes to Market Chipping. Howl and Sophie went in the pink portal where there’s a beautiful field full of blooming flowers. Sophie became young again (only her hair was silver/white) and asked Howl if he’s leaving her. He didn’t answer, then she told him, “Please, Howl, I know I can be of help to you. Even though I’m not pretty, and all I’m good at is cleaning.” Howl responds, “Sophie, you’re beautiful!” At that moment, Sophie grew old again, and an enemy warship approached the field. Howl cast the spell on the ship and destroyed it. Sophie turned the hat shop into a flower shop, and her mother visited her. Her mother secretly left a black eel-like blob, and the Witch threw it in Calcifer’s mouth.
He became weak, and is unable to defend the castle when the country is thrust into war. Sophie runs outside, fully young as she has unknowingly broke her own curse, and watches as Howl saves the shop from a falling bomb. Howl healed Calcifer, and Sophie begs him not to go out into the war again. He responds, “Sorry, I’ve had enough of running away, Sophie. Now I’ve got something to protect; it’s you.” And he went out again. (It is revealed that the black door leads to a place where warships and Howl’s kind are fighting each other. It was full of fire and explosions) the castle got wrecked.
Sophie later on gave her hair to Calcifer to make him stronger enough to move the castle. The Witch of the Waste realized that Calcifer has Howl’s heart, and she took him from the floor. She began to burn, and Sophie threw a bucket of water on her. Calcifer went out, causing the castle to fall apart. Sophie fell over a cliff, along with the dog. The ringsthat Howl gave her glows blue, and lead them to the portal from the castle.
She opened it up, and entered the black void that only Howl has been in. She ends up in the past, and witnessed Howl as a kid. Weird stars are falling from the sky, and she ran out to stop him from making a pact with Calcifer. However, Howl swallowed the star before Sophie can reach him, and Calcifer is born, with Howl’s small heart beating within. Sophie called out to him, telling him to find her in the future then fell back through the door, where Howl is waiting for her. She kissed him but he is unresponsive, but brought her to the castle. Sophie asked the witch to give Calcifer back to Howl and when she did, she pushed Calcifer back in Howl’s chest. Calcifer has been freed and Howl woke up with a weight on his chest and remarks how beautiful Sophie’s hair is.
Sophie kissed Turnip-head and he turned out to be a prince from a neighbouring country and promised them to end the war. The last scene was the castle flying in the sky. Markl and the dog play in a small garden, with the Witch and Calcifer watching over. Sophie and Howl shared a kiss, and the castle slowly melted away in the breeze.