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Miyazaki's New Film Wows Animation Fans (March 14, 2005)

A poster for Howl's Moving Castle (©2004 Nibariki-GNDDDT)
Howl's Moving Castle, the spectacular new animated film directed by Miyazaki Hayao and produced by Studio Ghibli, is breaking records at the box office. Released in November 2004 - three years after the release of the last Miyazaki megahit, Spirited Away - the new film got off to a brisk start at the box office, grossing ¥1.5 billion ($14.3 million at ¥105 to the dollar) in its first two days.

The Gentle Wizard

Based on a children's novel of the same title by the British author Diana Wynne Jones, Howl's Moving Castle is an adventure tale whose main characters are Sophie, an 18-year-old girl transformed into a 90-year-old woman by a witch's curse, and a handsome, gentle wizard named Howl. Though not human, one of the stars of the film is Howl's giant castle, which walks about on four legs. Howl's Moving Castle portrays a magical and humor-filled world on the grand scale that is Miyazaki's signature style. The film serves up a love story in combination with a healthy dose of such weighty themes as defiance of authority and of civilization, and offers plenty of entertainment value to boot. As a result, Howl's Moving Castle is attracting a wide audience beyond Miyazaki's regular fan base. It is a movie that can be enjoyed by both children and adults.

Howl's release on November 20 instantly sparked a big jump in total ticket sales for Japan animation. According to statistics published in January by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in the Survey of Selected Service Industries, total animated-film ticket sales in November 2004 were 16 times greater than in the same month in 2003 - and Howl audiences were largely responsible for this growth. Furthermore, last year's total box office revenue for all movies was 4% higher than the total for 2003, which was itself a record high. The total for 2004 was nearly ¥211 billion ($2 billion). The landslide popularity of Howl's Moving Castle was largely responsible for this record. And since Howl is still showing in theaters, there is no telling how high its total box office takings will ultimately be.

Overwhelming Response Expected Overseas
Howl's Moving Castle is also being shown in Korea, France, Taiwan, and Hong Kong (from March 24) and this list is set to grow. The film got rave reviews at the 2004 Venice Film Festival, where it received a five-minute ovation after a preview screening. In the festival's competition, the Osella Award was awarded to Studio Ghibli for producing high quality animated films.

Animated films have become a promising growth sector of the Japanese economy. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi even mentioned Japan animation in a recent policy address in the Diet, noting that it inspires dreams in children around the world and vowing to promote Japan's creative industries, including Japan animation. Howl's Moving Castle appears likely to repeat the whirlwind success of Spirited Away, the film that introduced many people throughout the world to the joys of Japanese animation.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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