Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl's Moving CastleThis episode we  discuss the Ghibli film Howl’s Moving Castle AND the book Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.   We had two requests from Tora-chan and Monica G for the Miyazaki directed Howl’s Moving Castle, but decided to also include the book in our discussion.   I read the book long before I saw the movie, and its far far superior to the lackluster Ghibli film.   Sophie is a much more fiery and proactive heroine in the book.   She was very much Howl’s equal.   Furthermore, most of the narrative problems with the movie stem from the nonsensical add ons that Ghibli stacked on that were not prescent in Diana Wynne’s book.   There was nothing about the enviroment in the original book, and the war was something that was only  mentioned briefly.

This episode is a little short.   Melanie’s connection was going out so we had to end the discussion about 10-15 minutes early.   The episode is still a half an hour long, though.

So what was your opinion on Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle? How do you think it holds up to the book? Were you even aware there was a book?   Got requests?   Please comment, we love to hear your thoughts and opinions!

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12 thoughts on “Howl’s Moving Castle

  1. I guess I should be thankful that I haven’t read the book yet, otherwise I would have disliked this movie as much as you two did. But even without having read the book, this movie wasn’t the most impressive of the Ghibli movies. My personal favorites (so far, haven’t seen them all yet) are Princess Mononoke and Nausicäa.

    • Princess Mononoke is probably my favorite too, followed by My Neighbor Totoro. Anyways, the book of Howl’s Moving Castle is actually really good… I highly recommend it. Diane Wynne Jones has really pleasant prose so its fun to read even after you know the plot.

  2. You are so right about the quality difference between the book and the movie. I think the same thing, and I saw the movie first. But it’s still the first Ghibli movie I saw, so it kinda holds a special place in my shelves.

    It always got on my nerves how meek Sophie was in the film – I mean, she cut up Howls’ suit for umpt’s sake. And that was by no means the most impressive thing she did…

    Have you read the other books, that is Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways? Both pretty good, though I find the latter better (did I make a rhyme?)

    • Yep, I’ve read Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways and I have to agree. House of Many Ways was better. There was a lot more Sophie and Howl in it and it was neat seeing them as parents. The purple bug things that impregnate you while you’re not looking were pretty freaky though. It really bugged me though on some instinctual level, how the half purple bug people were all born evil… It’s too predestination for me.

      I think I was disapointed with Castle in the Air because since I was expecting it to be a sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle and it really wasn’t (more like a story with a cameo of those characters). It was still a nice story though. The characters were likable and cat Sophie was amusing. Spending all that time as a cat had to have given their kids some sort of mental hangup. Makes me wonder if he’s going to grow up and have an irrational hatred of dogs or something.

      Diana Wynne Jones’s Chrestomanci books aren’t bad either. They’ve got some problems, but they’re still fun. Have you read any of them? I might do a mini-solo podcast just on Chrestomanci sometime since I’ve read all of them.

      • Yeah, I too expected Castle in the Air to be a sequel, so I was a bit miffed, though it was pretty good. The purple bug people also got on my nerves (and they were scary.) It always irritates me when an author creates a race or group that is just evil without exceptions. I mean, evil isn’t as time-consuming as people think, you have to do other stuff too.

        I’d love to read the Chrestomanci books, but, once again I’ll have to pre-order them something crule. Sucks only having one shop in the country that does this kind of books, or anime, or manga…

        • I’ve got some fantasy books I’m getting rid of and at least one of them is a Chrestomanci book. I could mail it to you? Hmm, I’ve got Deep Wizardry,Color of Magic, and the Hero and the Crown too. I don’t mind sending stuff far far away. Me and Mel were going to change the giveaway to just commenting on the website anyways. Email me if you’re interested!

          And if not that’s okay too. ^_^

  3. I’m sorry to hear how unhappy you were with Howl’s Moving Castle. I guess my expectations weren’t very high when I went in to see it – because it was a Studio Ghibli thing and I get that the themes of flying (and flying ships of some sort) and environment and war tend to crop up, however inappropriate and unexpected. Also, I hadn’t read the book at that point.

    That said, I did enjoy this movie. I liked the opening scene of the jumping/catching. I was surprised by a lot in the movie (not necessarily in a bad way) – the oddness of how the sister characters are handled (and how confusing that is), the character design of Howl as he turns into that big bird thing, the visit to the castle, the popping back and forth between dimensions, the odd way Sophie’s hair seemed to change, not neccesarily logically. I found the voice acting of Billy Chrystal as the star to be a little off-putting, honestly. Something about the accent. But I wished there could have been more about the star and Howl’s real relationship. Maybe I need things read to me very slowly, I don’t know.

    I liked the book – but I only would have read it because of the movie. I think of them as two different things actually, with only marginal similarities, which helps with the lack of one or the other.

    • Honestly, I think my opinion of the movie would have improved a lot if he’d just named it something entirely different. I wonder why he didn’t just rename the movie altogether since it was 90% Miyazaki original stuff anyways?

  4. Have you guys ever seen the movie “Adaptation?”
    Sometimes, a writer receives inspiration from one source or another, but he still has his own interpretation of the world or characters and yet still has to mold it into what he believes will SELL. This is what happened with this movie. You can tell they were adapting it for a young Japanese audience. Anyways, it’s not like any movie can ever really perfectly capture EVERY part of a book (Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya notwithstanding).

    This particular episode seemed just like a half-hour of two people saying “Well, the BOOK was MUCH better…” Well, yeah, if you read the book first, you’re going to like it better. And books, usually, tell a better story than movies. The strength of movies is the visuals and music. And I still think Miyazaki’s movies mostly exist entirely FOR the visuals and ESPECIALLY Joe Hisaishi’s music. I would have liked to hear more about those things. Story is a tertiary concern.

    Btw, “Whisper of the Heart” is fantastic! Good choice. :)

    Looking forward to the next one, which will be… The Princess Bride! I have a feeling that one will be quite a bit more positive. 😉

    -Arvis

    • I’ve never seen the movie adaption. I don’t think they really had to make Sophie a weak character to appeal to japanese sensibilities. The main female leads in Princess Mononoke, Nausica, and Arrietty for instance are very strong leads and two of those films came out a decade or more earlier. I don’t think Miyazaki’s films exist mostly for the visuals. That’s only been his stance lately when i feel like his heart isn’t in his films anymore. Ponyo and Spirited Away were very much for the visuals, but there are some really deep and meaninful themes running through Nausica, Princess Monnoke, etc… We actually recorded a podcast about Princess Monnoke I need to finish editing that…

      I don’t think its a book vs. movie thing for me. I’m one of the weirdos who like the Lord of the Rings movies better than the films. I thought Ghibli’s Arrietty was a fantastic adaption too (great sound work in that one).

      I actually like Yoshifumi Kondo’s Whisper of the Heart and Isao Takahata’s Only Yesterday better than most of Miyazaki’s films (except Princess Mononoke). Although not visually as impressive, they speak to me more as I get older. I watched Only Yesterday as a teenager and it was just about sobbing, I cant’ imagine how it would affect me now that I’m the same age as the protagonist.

      • Well, I love you guys and your commentaries, so if I come across as negative in anything I say, take it with a grain of salt.

        I know I am showing up super late and commenting on 3 year old podcasts, but I think if you went back and listened to this episode you would notice that basically every complaint you leveled at the movie went something like this: “In the book, such-and-such happened, they shouldn’t have changed it in the movie.”
        Sophie was “too different from the book.”
        Howl was “too different from the book.”
        Witch of the Waste was “too different from the book.”
        The same complaint for all of them. Calcifer, Markl, they were all “different from the book,” and therefore worse.

        I think, though, if I had any special love for the book like you guys (I’ve never read it), I would probably agree. But I would have liked the movie to be critiqued on its own merits.

        It doesn’t help that it is my FAVORITE Miyazaki film. :(
        But beggars can’t be choosers! You make the podcast, and I get to enjoy it, so I can’t complain. Do and say whatever you want! :)

        -Arvis

        • It’s your favorite Miyazaki film? Really? Have you seen them all? Lol Ah well, we’ll have to agree to disagree. Its defintily not my least favorite Miyazaki film (I barely got through Porco Rosso).

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