To start with, I haven’t read the book that this movie is based on. As such I can’t comment on how good of an adaptation this is. I’m sure you’re all completely devastated by the fact that you don’t have to listen to me rant about adaptation decay but you’ll just have to move on.
The story follows a young hat maker named Sophie. A coincidental meeting with a wizard named Howl results in her being cursed by a witch and transformed into an elderly woman. To return to normal she makes a deal with a demon named Calcifer to free him from Howl’s control. All she has to do is discover the truth about the enigmatic wizard.
The story deals with three primary themes. Transformation, love and war. Two of these themes are handled really well. The theme of love… well it suffers from an old cliché I like to call “They met and can stand each other, it must be love.” This happens when two characters who barely know each other fall in love for no reason aside from the plot saying that they should. To be fair this could be a weakness of the original book or it could be the result of time constraints, but since this happens all the time in media I’m not going to give Studio Ghibli the benefit of the doubt, even if they are generally awesome. They aren’t so good when it comes to romance in general, actually. Even if they are awesome when it comes to other things.
The only other major story weakness is that everything wraps up far too quickly and neatly. They basically wait until the last ten minutes to start wrapping things up. If they’d used a little ambiguity for some of the secondary plots it wouldn’t feel so rushed, but they try to tie everything together and it just seems like a really cheesy ending as a result.
The characters are pretty interesting, Howl especially. All of the major characters are pretty three dimensional and solid. The only problem is that some of the secondary characters are pretty pointless. The major example of this is Sophie’s sister who shows up in one scene, has a conversation with Sophie and is never seen again. Even the conversation is pretty pointless since all it does is show the audience that Sophie isn’t confident in her appearance, which is done in other ways throughout the film. Actually, this becomes a problem with Sophie’s character because she mopes about not being pretty multiple times and it gets pretty grating.
The visuals are just what you’d expect from Studio Ghibli, stunning. Studio Ghibli draws the viewer into the story’s world with rich and unique visuals. Which is really one of their big strengths as an animation studio. The colours are very bright and vivid. The scenery is rich and beautifully rendered and the characters are highly stylised.
The voice acting is decent, but nothing stellar. The music is atmospheric and pleasant to listen to. Which is another thing that Studio Ghibli tends to be very good at.
This is another anime with no yuri, which is probably a good thing since the major and secondary female characters are either elderly or related. So the yuri factor is 1/10.
My final score for Howl’s moving castle is a solid 8/10. It’s a very good movie. It has a few problems, but there’s really nothing so bad that it should seriously affect your enjoyment of the film. The visuals and music are top notch and the story is pretty solid. If you haven’t watched it yet, you should check it out.