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January 2005

Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle photo
A poster for Howl's Moving Castle (©2004 Nibariki-TGNDDDT)

Howl's Moving Castle, the latest creation by the animation director Miyazaki Hayao, hit the screens on November 20, 2004. Miyazaki fascinated children and adults in Japan and around the world with his previous movie, Spirited Away, and fans of his films had been looking forward to this day for a long time. They flocked to movie theaters, quickly sending Howl's Moving Castle to the top of the movie rankings. This instant response from so many moviegoers shows the popularity of Miyazaki's animations.

The heroine of Howl's Moving Castle is Sophie, a young woman who runs a hat shop that she inherited from her father in a town at the foot of the Waste. One day, soon after meeting a young wizard named Howl, Sophie is cursed by the Witch of the Waste and turns into an old woman aged 90. Leaving her home, Sophie enters the castle in which Howl lives. The castle is a huge, oddly shaped structure that walks on four legs, and it is powered by Calcifer, a fire demon who is bound to the castle's fireplace by a contract with Howl. Sophie soon learns that Howl is a powerful wizard who is nevertheless tormented by the weakness of his heart and is struggling to live in the midst of warring countries. Through her strange life with the inhabitants of the castle, will Sophie be able to regain her youth?

The film is based on a novel of the same title by the British author Diana Wynne Jones. It is set in a world in which magic and science exist side by side, a world imagined by European futurist painters of the late nineteenth century. The beautiful streets and landscapes, which the production crew depicted by actually traveling around Europe beforehand, and the amusing, lifelike movements of the castle, are all very characteristic of the fantastic world of Miyazaki films. Judges at the 2004 Venice Film Festival were so impressed by the quality of the film and the achievements of Miyazaki and the rest of the crew that Howl's Moving Castle was chosen for the Osella Award.

Hashiwaki Nanami, a girl in the first grade, is a fan of Miyazaki Hayao and has seen all his films. "I liked Howl for how he is strong but sometimes cries," she said. "The mountains and the lake were pretty, and I wish I could visit Howl's castle."

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