MapleRose's Howl's Moving Castle Tv Review

Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle tv Review

Sophie is a diligent teenage girl working in her family's hat shop, but her life is thrown into turmoil when she is literally swept off her feet by the handsome-but-mysterious wizard named Howl. This innocent encounter enrages the vain and conniving Witch of the Waste, who transforms Sophie into a 90-year-old woman.

Sophie's efforts to break the curse bring her to Howl's magical moving castle where she befriends Michael (known as Markl in the Disney translation), Howl's apprentice, and the hot-headed fire demon Calcifer. Her love and support for this strange new family have a major impact on Howl, who can be maddeningly self-indulgent and singularly noble. He defies royal orders to participate in a meaningless war and risks his life to bring peace to the kingdom, but the more he uses his power the more he transforms into a monster.

With Howl and Sophie each looking for their own true identity and a secret contract between the wizard and his fire demon, they're drawn together despite the raging war around them.

Written by melissa-clyne.

Story & Characters

Sophie was an ordinary girl who worked in the family's hatshop. She didn't think that she was anything special, until one day, she was turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste. Unable to face her family, she runs away from the town, wanting to find the Witch and demand her to reverse the spell. Along the way, she helps a scarecrow, who in turn leads her to the moving castle owned by the wizard Howl. She befriends its inhabitants, including the vain Howl, and earns her stay by becoming the cleaning lady. While trying to find a solution to her own problem, she finds out about Howl's secret, and does her best to help him.

Based on the book by Diana Wynne Jones, director Hayao Miyazaki brings the story to life in this wonderful animation. I haven't read the book, so I can't compare the original story by Jones to the adaptation or comment on the originality. But as a story on it's own, it's wonderfully told, with a substantial plot full of emotion with an air of fantasy and a dash of humour, though some parts may take a while to understand and connect.

The main character Sophie is a determined girl who doesn't think she's all that pretty or special. But her earnest personality and willingness to help others makes her down-to-earth and likable. Howl on the other hand, is vain and selfish, but charismatic, which makes him likable as well. Even though he acts aloof most of the time, he feels quite vulnerable sometimes. But what makes this movie trully memorable is the fire demon Calcifer. With a sarcastic sense of humour, but caring all the same, you're sure to fall in love with this little demon. Along with the main characters, the cast also includes Markl, a wizard-in-training who gets attached to Sophie, a helpful scarecrow Sophie named Turnip-head, the jealous Witch of the Waste, and many other quirky characters.

Rating: 8


The art of this movie is very pretty, with beautiful backgrounds and CGs typical to Miyazaki's movies. The details of the moving castle is breathtaking, as is Howl's room and the palace.

The character designs of Sophie and Howl are not all that special, they are rather typical of the Miyazaki style (Howl's hairstyle looks kind of similar to Haku from Spirited Away and Prince Ashitaka of Princess Mononoke), but Howl's other form is rather different. Older Sophie and the Witch of the Waste remind me of the old women in other Miyazaki movies like Spirited Away. However, Calcifer's design is very unique; that, combined with his personality, makes him stand out, and he can be seen as a sort of mascot for the movie. He usually takes on the form of a small flame, and is rather cute. The other character designs like Turnip-head, Madam Suliman's dog, and Markl, are also pretty unique, and have a certain quirky-ness about them.

The style of the characters are not all that 'pretty' (ie with flowing, flawless hair and big eyes), but it suits the the context of the movie and fits the characters' roles and personalities - comical characters have comical appearances, Howl's pretty-boy appearance goes along with his vanity, and Sophie's plain appearance contributes to her feelings that she wasn't anything special.

Rating: 9


This is one of the few animes where I actually prefer the dubbed version over the subbed version. Almost all of the characters have well-chosen voices that fit the personalities of the characters. Most notably is Calcifer, whose voice is dubbed by Billy Crystal. He did a wonderful job in portraying the sarcastic and humourous side of Calcifer, as well as bringing out his emotions in the more serious scenes. Also, the dubbed script for Calcifer is well-written to fit his personality. This is perhaps the biggest reason I prefer the dub over the sub. Christian Bale also did a great job as Howl, bringing out both his charisma and his vulnerability. Older Sophie's voice is pretty good too, it suits her age and character. The one exception to the dubbing is Younger Sophie. For some reason, while everyone else in the cast speaks American English, the voice of Younger Sophie uses British English, which sounds somewhat awkward.

The Japanese cast of the main characters aren't well-known voice actors, most of them have only acted in few other roles (mostly other Miyazaki movies). Howl's voice is good, but rather ordinary. Calcifer's voice is too high-pitched and and kind of scratchy. Sophie's voice is acceptable, but again, not really standing out.

The background music composed by Joe Hisaishi, who also did the music of almost every Miyakazi creation, is very soothing and fitting. The soundtrack is beautiful in itself, but I don't think it's as memorable as some other soundtracks (like Castle in the Sky and Spirited Away). There's nothing there to really stand out.

Rating: 8


The movie is put together really well. The scenes flow nicely from one another, backed by beautiful scenery and fitting music. Although the genre is Fantasy and Romance, there are plenty of other emotions for you to enjoy, especially in the interaction between Sophie and Calcifer, and Sophie and Howl. The characters Calcifer and Howl are what makes this movie stand out from the other Miyazaki movies, and it contributes to the reason that Howl's Moving Castle is one of my favourites so far.

Rating: 8

Final Verdict

8.17 (good)

Reviewed by MapleRose, Feb 03, 2007


  1. shoujoboy Feb 03, 2007

    What is is that people type on reviews on this site that puts /'s in front of their apostrophes? Really though, well thought out review and props on breaking down the sub and the dub side of things. Not only that but going against the grain and prefering the dub over the sub, how brave. Ha. Good review and now on to your other...

  2. annakee Feb 05, 2007

    oh... did you like dub versions more than subs.... i dont' know how the dub of this movie sound, but i never have liked of dub versions; and with more reason if this movie is from ghibli studio. they sound like 'disney'. i don't have nothing against disney; is only that i respect the origial version. also here exist a lot of term o words that are lost in translation and they are stuffed with anglicisms -americanism-.
    i liked all the rest of the description. ^^ the dub was the only discrepancy.

  3. ealpha-scorpio Mar 02, 2007

    I've watched this movie and agree with what you described about the Scenes and Sounds. Actually I really don't like Sophie's voice, I think it's a bit old for the age of the character. Well, it did match with old form of Sophie but not with her young form. Lols* However, I haven't watched the English dub but I'm kind of curious to know how is it. I remember "Laputa: The Castle In The Sky" was the same. The English dub was very well done and suitable for characters.

  4. ClassicSuperman Apr 01, 2007

    I must agree with your review, Maple Rose. I haven't tried the dubbed version yet, but with actors like Christian Bale and the funny Billy Crystal in the cast the work must be great! :)

    About the soundtrack, i agree with you again. Compared to the magnificent OST's of Mononoke Hime and Whisper Of The Heart, Howl's OST was nothing more than a couple of BGM. :P

    Talking about the story, it's just good. This time Miyazaki didn't made a masterpiece. ;)

  5. yukiyo Aug 12, 2007

    Quote by maplerose The style of the characters are not all that 'pretty' (ie with flowing, flawless hair and big eyes), but it suits the the context of the movie and fits the characters' roles and personalities - comical characters have comical appearances, Howl's pretty-boy appearance goes along with his vanity, and Sophie's plain appearance contributes to her feelings that she wasn't anything special.

    perfectly said, maplerose-san :) i agree - it definitely suits the storyline

    haha, i love Howl's 'vain-as-a-peacock' - appearance in the movie - the epitome of a playboy XD <3

    i need to watch the english dub! i meant to ever since i saw the preview on tv -

    quote - Howl: 'What's the point of living if i cant be beautiful?! *sob*

    Ahem. end of my speech here ;)

  6. CamiChick Sep 02, 2007

    I've seen both both versions. Though I find the subbed version more humorous - the difference in the translations is amusing - I don't prefer one over the other. Although I love watching the dubbed version just to listen to Christian Bale talk! XD

  7. ShadowDreamer16 Sep 12, 2007

    I've also seen both versions and I have to say that I agree with CamiChick, for some reason the subbed version is just more funny, but I find that applies to alot of other movies or anime shows. It's always better to watch the animation in its original language. That doesn't mean that the dubbed version of Howl's Moving Castle isn't good it's just different and the vocal emotions are more mild, but that's just how it is in the West.

  8. SukiLovesAnime Dec 23, 2008

    This movie was rly good,
    the plot, character, everything was so wonderful

  9. SchRita Jan 15, 2010

    Thanks for the review!

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