RogerBW's Blog

Howl's Moving Castle 26 September 2018

2004 fantasy, novel adaptation: AniDB, vt "Howl no Ugoku Shiro". Sophie is an apprentice hat-maker, until in one busy day she is assisted by a handsome man beset by enemies, then gets cursed with old age. She sets off into the wilderness to see if she can break the curse.

As with many adaptations, this is really quite a different story from the one on which it was based. There are elements in common beyond the character names, yes, but they are developed in completely different directions, and one central conceit of the novel – that this is a place where fairy-tale tropes mostly run true, and so Sophie as the eldest of three sisters shouldn't hope for adventure – is dropped completely, as is one of the sisters. (Also, there weren't flying ships in the book.)

Again Miyazaki deploys subtlety in characterisation: the Witch of the Waste ends up more pathetic than deadly, and while the royal wizard Madame Suliman is opposed to Howl and deploys legions of magical minions she isn't a villain. They have different priorities and goals, and she's a bit foolish; and that is enough to make an effective conflict without needing to resort to cackling evil. The anti-war message, present in much of Miyazaki's work, is perhaps more simplistic than on previous occasions, but it doesn't dominate the story.

The artwork, of course, is gorgeous, especially the countryside over which the Castle walks: and while the animation was done digitally, all the backgrounds and characters were drawn by hand first. Character designs are distinctive and effective, as well as fluid when they need to be.

There are surprisingly many visual echoes of Laputa here: not just the Meiji-era style of the flying warships, but the buzzing ornithopters and the ring that lights up with a beam pointing in a particular direction. Still, after eighteen years it's fair to repeat oneself a bit; and this still brings much that is new, in particular the narrative focus on an old woman rather than on bouncy young people.

I'd file this next to Laputa rather than in the absolute top rank with Totoro, but Miyazaki's second string is still pretty damn good.

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Search
Archive
Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech base commerce battletech beer boardgaming bookmonth chain of command children chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 existential risk falklands war fandom fantasy film firefly first world war flash point food garmin drive gazebo geodata gin gurps gurps 101 harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life kickstarter learn to play leaving earth linux mecha museum mystery naval non-fiction one for the brow opera perl photography podcast politics powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha quantum rail ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1