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File:Howl Cover 2.jpg

Howl's Moving Castle is a Studio Ghibli film, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, very loosely based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones. Now, instead of a Medieval European Fantasy, the land of Ingary is a Steampunk/Gaslamp Fantasy world filled with both technology and magic.

The story starts in much the same way as the book: Sophie is cursed after offending the (rather petty) Witch of the Waste, and sets out to find a way to break the spell. A scarecrow she calls "Turnip Head" leads her to Howl's Castle after she stands him up, and she makes a deal with Calcifer to break each other's curses under the guise of becoming Howl's cleaning lady. But now, there's a raging war going on in the background, over a missing Prince. Howl's teenage apprentice Michael is now a cute young kid named Markl, and Howl, a rogue wizard, is doing his best to try and halt both sides of the war, but the transformations that he uses in order to fight (into an enormous birdlike figure) are bringing him closer and closer to losing his humanity.

The film focuses on both Sophie and Howl's romance as well as the war plaguing their nation. Unlike the original, which was an Affectionate Parody of fairy tales, the film is a straight-as-the-monster-crow-wizard-flies fairy tale itself.


Howl's Moving Castle (as distinct from the book) provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Villainy: Suliman is a more benevolent and less antagonistic character in the book, and was also cursed by the Witch of the Waste. His film counterpart inherits her role as Howl's mentor from another character, Mrs. Pentstemmon, a kindly figure in the book who the Witch murdered.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: Calcifer being OK after Howl gets his heart back, Howl's reasons for catching a falling star in the first place, and other details are left out of the movie from the original book. Although the reason for the deal is pretty obvious from that sequence. The falling stars shaped like people, die when they hit the ground/lake.
  • Author Appeal: A lot of Miyazaki's favorite staples were added to the film. Even one of his favourite actresses, Lauren Bacall, has a role in the dub.
  • Beautiful Dreamer
  • Berserk Button
    • Don't ask Grandma Sophie if she's working for the Witch of the Waste, Markl.
    • And when Howl's hair is accidently coloured orange... boy, does he freak out!
  • Bishonen: Howl and later Turniphead.
  • Body Horror: Wizards who fight in the war end up remaining as bat-like things, forgetting who they really are.
  • Can't Live Without You: If Calcifer dies, so does Howl.
  • Canine Companion: Hin/Heen
  • The Casanova: Howl is one according to gossip by the townsfolk. However it's implied that Gossip Evolution occurred. Sophie's sister was genuinely terrified when she found out Sophie met a wizard because "If he were Howl he would rip out [her] heart and devour it."
  • Character Development
    • Sophie's is a bit subtle. At first when she's turned into an old woman, she hunches while she walks, uses a cane and is very slow, needing a break every so often. As the film moves along, she begins standing up straighter with her stamina increasing until eventually she doesn't need it anymore. This is also symbolic of her low sense of self worth as the film begins.
    • Howl gets this as well. At the beginning of the movie, he acts in a very mysterious and flirtatious manner, behaving like an experienced lover when he charms Sophie. As the movie goes on, he starts to behave in a more open and natural way around her, until he is willing to act responsibly and fight off the enemy planes to protect his "family".
  • Composite Character: Madame Suliman, Howl's mentor and the court magician, is two separate characters in the original book: Mrs. Pentstemmon (his mentor, deceased) and Master Sulliman (the court magician, very much alive -- and male).
  • Continuity Nod: When Calcifer moves the house, the design he briefly changes to (truly demonic looking and blueish) is Calcifer's form in the original book. As well, the English dub makes references to lines from the original book, such as Calcifer's "Here's another curse: May all your bacon burn." Some other minor details, such as Howl cracking eggs one-handed, are also straight out of the book.
    • In a more roundabout way, the war that is an important event in the movie is little more than an off-hand background comment in the book, if it was even mentioned at all. The second book in the series, however does have a prominent war.
  • Cool Gate
  • Cool Old Lady
    • Sophie's pretty tough even when aged.
    • Arguably also the Witch of the Waste.
  • Curse
  • Cursed with Awesome: Sophie's old age curse is genuinely unpleasant, but it does help her to come out of her shell. She's quite philosophical about it for the most part, quipping that her aging-up means that her rather unfashionable clothes now finally suit her and that aging has apparently made her smarter.
  • Dark Is Evil: Howl's transformations into a near-black bird-monster are destroying him, even when he does have a genuinely good reason to fight.
  • Dirty Old Woman: The Witch of the Waste.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Turniphead, albeit you only fully realize that after knowing the final twist.
  • Flight of Romance: When Howl first encounters Sophie.
  • Flying Car: A Steampunk take on the trope.
  • Gaslamp Fantasy
  • Gentleman Wizard: Howl
  • Ghibli Hills: Natch.
  • Gonk: The Witch of the Waste after her beauty spell is drained.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress
  • Gratuitous German: In the background of one scene is a recruiting poster that says "Mut und Willeskraft" ("Courage and Strength of Will").
  • Happily Ever After
  • Inter Class Romance: Sophie and Howl.
  • Lady of Black Magic: Madame Suliman and the Witch of the Waste are non-RPG examples.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Howl can be somewhat described as one. Another nod to the book where he's even more so, though that is partially Sophie's fault. She has latent magic that allows her to bring inanimate objects to life, and accidentally sews her love for Howl into the outfits of his she mends. Cue mass amounts of girls falling for him.
  • Light Is Not Good: As the Witch of Waste learned, magical lamps are the polar opposite of "good". To a lesser extent Suliman as well.
  • Master of Disguise: Howl, which is to be expected of a Wizard of his caliber.
  • Meaningful Background Event / Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Sophie and Howl are escaping the capital on the airplane, a group of soldiers are seen in the street below shooting at what look like protesters. This is never mentioned again, so it's possible it was just background filler. Or it could be the reason why at the end Suliman asks for the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense, rather than the King.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Madame Suliman, the Witch of the Waste and old Sophie.
  • Nice Hat
    • Sophie's mother's hat had little cannons on it!
    • Averted with Sophie's hat, despite her attachment to it.

 Howl: You're going to wear that hat? After I used all of that magic to make your dress look pretty?

  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Don't let the fact that the Witch of the Waste is now powerless fool you. She is still a crafty person with all knowledge of magic intact. Many times she is looking intently at Calcifer as though trying to see what he has of Howl's while pretending to be senile and benign. It is only when Howl is gone from the premise does she drop the act.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: When Madame Suliman tries to capture Howl, there are a few seconds of very creepy singing (seriously, it cannot be watered down how creepy the singing is) from the sprites that encircle him. Might overlap with Ironic Nursery Rhyme.
  • Partial Transformation: Howl
  • Perpetual Molt: Bird!Howl, naturally.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Nothing too elaborate, despite the era, but Madame Suliman shows off with the gold trimmings, jewelry, and fur collar.
  • Portal Door
  • Portal to the Past: The black dial on the door.
  • Scenery Porn: The movie is stunning in practically every frame.
  • Snarky Non-Human Sidekick: Calcifer
  • Schizo-Tech: Generic 19th Century clothing and locations, but with giant airships, and of course magic.
  • Steampunk
  • Theme and Variations Soundtrack: There are maybe three tracks (of 26 total) that don't include the main theme, "The Merry-Go-Round of Life," in some form.
  • Those Magnificent Flying Machines: Many beautiful Steampunk and Magitek examples.
  • Trash of the Titans
  • True Companions: Howl refers to the castle gang as his "family," even though they're all unrelated.
  • True Love's Kiss: Subverted. Sophie breaks the curse on Turniphead by kissing him, and it is indeed a "kiss from your true love breaks it" kind of spell. But as the Witch of the Waste notes, she's already in love with Howl. Turniphead is fine with that, however, as he sees no reason why someone can't have more than one true love over the course of a lifetime. The translators took a bit of liberty with that "true love" wording. The actual line in Japanese translates to "a kiss from someone you love". But then again, it literally means "beloved person", so some artistic license can be forgiven.
  • Utility Magic
  • Vain Sorceress
    • The Witch of the Waste, who had been using a spell to keep herself young and beautiful. She gets a lot nicer after she stops using her magic.
    • Vain Sorcerer: Early on, Howl cared so much about his appearance that he freaked out and then became depressed after an accident caused his hair to change color in the wash. The DVD release plays this up by calling that scene "Drama Queen". To quote the man himself, "I see no point in living if I can't be beautiful." Lampshaded by Sophie: "Such drama!"
  • White-Haired Pretty Girl: Sophie, differing from the book. Considering how Howl's hair is black at the end, the change is probably supposed to evoke yin yang and be symbolic of how they've found a balance in their relationship, or how they both change. Sophie starts off with her hair dark and it turning silverish shows how she's matured and grown self-confident. Howl starts off dying his hair blonde and lets it stay dark after he gets over his vanity.
  • Winged Humanoid: Howl in his bird-like form, at least early on. His transformation becomes much more monstrous when it goes out of control later in the film.
  • Zorro Mark: The Witch of the Waste sends Howl a "scorching love note" via Sophie, which falls on the breakfast table when Howl touches it and burns a scorch mark on the table. However, the permanent marking is averted when Howl proceeds to declare the mark "not good for the table" and wiped it away with his bare hand.
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