I think that everyone by now knows that I am a huge Diana Wynne Jones fan. I am also a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. So you can imagine how excited I was when Diana’s book, Howl’s Moving Castle was made into a Studio Ghibli movie in 2006. I had already read the book so many times that I had to buy a new copy–the old one wore out–and I was excited that a Diana Wynne Jones book was finally being made into a movie, and by Miyazaki (aka. god of all that is great anime) no less! To me it was nerdvana, absolute bliss on the highest scale of nerdism. But, I forgot about Miyazaki’s movie style, so I think part of me was thinking that it would be exactly like the book, or as close as possible. Miyazaki doesn’t role that way, he takes a concept, a book, story, etc. and makes it completely his own–i.e. Ponyo based on The Little Mermaid or his newest The Secret World of Arrietty being based on The Borrowers. Anyone who watches a Studio Ghibli movie–the studio Miyazaki co-founded– can immediately tell where the movie came from. So when I went to see Howl’s Moving Castle it was nothing like the book. Now with most hard core fans, they complain when their favorite book is being made into a movie (i.e. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Blade Runner, etc) because it wasn’t close enough to the books. I think most of us have been a little spoiled with movies like those that at least try to get as close to the book as possible, and I am usually one of those spoiled fans who complain (usually depends on the book). With Howl, at first I wasn’t sure how to feel, I mean it was very different from the book and it was one of my favorite books. Yet somehow I couldn’t be mad, it was a wonderful movie 5stars all around. So I decided that I didn’t care if it wasn’t like the book and just took it as a Miyazaki movie, I would recommend both the book and the movie to people (though I would ask people to judge them as separate entities). I thought I would do a review on both so people can see the different aspects of both and hopefully find it interesting enough to read/watch it.
Howl’s Moving Castle- Diana Wynne Jones (1986)
Sophie Hatter lives the town Market Chipping in the land of Ingary, she is the eldest of three girls and lives/works in a hat shop. When her father dies her stepmother decides to split up the girls so they can “seek their fortunes” which seems to happen a lot in fantasy books. The youngest daughter, Martha, was sent to learn magic and become a powerful witch, the middle child, Lettie, was sent to be apprenticed at a bakery in the town, and Sophie was left to look after the hat shop, which she thinks is fitting because she believes the old wives tale that the eldest of three is the most unlucky. Sophie holes herself up in the shop and is so isolated that she starts talking to the hats that she is sewing. One day she goes to visit Lettie and finds out that her sisters had switched places because they didn’t want what their mother had decided for them, saying she didn’t ask them what they wanted to do, which their mother hadn’t. Lettie (actually Martha) tells Sophie that she should do what she wants, which Sophie shrugs off because she is the “eldest of three” and therefore destined for nothing.
When Sophie comes back to the shop she meets a woman and a very nervous looking man. The woman insults all the hats Sophie gives her to try on and Sophie gets a bit short with the woman. The woman tells Sophie that she shouldn’t talk like that to the Witch of the Waste, and evil witch who had been banished to the Waste for causing havoc, and the witch turns Sophie into an old woman and tells her that part of the spell is that she can’t tell anyone she is under a spell. Sophie decides that she should probably leave the hat shop before her stepmother gets home and ends up going to the Wizard Howl’s moving castle, which looks like a small house on the inside, where she meets a fire demon named Calcifer who says that he will help her break her spell if she helps him break his contract with Howl. She meets Howl’s assistant Micheal, who is 15, and ends up living as Howl’s cleaning lady. Howl and Sophie square off a couple of times because Howl is a vain coward and Sophie is a nosy pest. I love Sophie, yes she does think she is unlucky but, she is smart and sharp tongued and can hold her own against Howl or anyone else. Much chaos ensues both in Ingary and in Wales because Howl is from a different world(ours). The book is fun and delightful and the characters, while being fantasy characters, seem extremely likeable and like normal people.
Howl’s Moving Castle- Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli (2006)
Sophie works in a hat shop, she goes to visit her sister, is hassled by two soldiers and saved by a handsome wizard. They in turn are attacked by weird ink glob monsters and the mysterious man flies with Sophie in the air and gets he to her sister. Sophie hears from her sister that the man who saved her is the wizard Howl. Sophie gets back and starts to close up the hat shop and meets the Witch of the Waste who turns her into an old lady who can’t tell anyone she is under a spell. She goes to Howl’s castle and meets Calcifer the fire demon and Markl a young boy who is Howl’s apprentice. Ingary ends up going to war and wants Howl to use his magic to fight for them. Chaos also ensues and Sophie has to help Howl remember that he is human, oh and for some reason there is a wheezing dog in the movie. The movie is cute and fun and very much a Studio Ghibli movie. If you like any other Miyazaki movie–Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke– this one won’t disappoint. This movie is also good for anyone who likes anime, or old Disney (you know where there was a plot and good art that wasn’t all done on a computer), or just wants a good movie they can watch with their kids.
Do yourself a favor and go read/watch Howl’s Moving Castle. Diana Wynne Jones is an amazing author and Studio Ghibli is good for the soul.