VIDEO: Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

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In this episode, Sofie talks about a movie with a main character named Sophie.

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Tag: Movie Dorkness: Miyazaki March

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  • Muthsarah

    Sooo…you WOULDN’T be in favor of a Miyazaki adaptation of The Little Matchgirl, then?

    • Sofie Liv

      …. the thought of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli tackling the Little Matchgirl some-how both fascinates me and terriefies me…

      And that I actually took the time to re-watch fucking “Grave of the fireflies.” yesterday does NOT help matters at all!

      Honestly, it would be beyond interesting to see where they would take this concept, it could go in a lot of ways..
      Their adaptations are indeed extremely loose, way more loose than even Disneys adaptations, which is fucking impressive! So that could become any-thing, any-thing at all… count me fascinated with this idea…

      • Muthsarah

        I meant that as a sick “let’s make Sofie cry” joke. Cool that you’re cool with the idea, though I wouldn’t want Disney gettin’ anywhere near it (they’ve almost made their own version several times). You KNOW they’d completely screw up the ending, which is…kinda the entire point of the story. Specially after Little Mermaid. Some Japanese (or French) production company might actually get it right, if they have the guts.

        H.C. Andersen’s done a LOT of dark stuff, for a period when the public was probably numb to these kindsa horrible tragedies. And you’re not gonna move a lot of merch that way.

        • danbreunig

          I’d sure love to see some animated non-Disney Disney classics and see how they stack up to the source stories. So far I remember seeing a very old animated version of Pinocchio on public domain TV in the 80s and that one must’ve been true to the book because it was sure no relatively happy Disney–characters undeservingly died and crooks succeeded with no comeupance. I can’t find it on IMDB even though I still remember the main musical motif from it, real bittersweet with just a touch more sweet. There must be a ton of European or Asian versions that just haven’t caught my attention yet.

          The most Hans Christian Anderson thing we got on here is the full Thumbelina movie stuck in the middle of Santa & The Ice Cream Bunny.

          And if I want to see Sofie crying, it would be tears of joy ^v^

          • Sofie Liv

            Funny enough, it seems the more we move along with them time… the looser their adaptations get.

            I think it’s funny that. “The little mermaid.” is the one character keep bringing up, when in reality, when looking at the movie. It’s not that terrible long a stretch away from the source material.

            Yes they switched a very tragic ending for a happy ending, but up until Ursulas plan is revealed, we pretty much follow the original fairy-tale point for point.

            Mermaid is the seventh daughter of King Triton, is not allowed to go upstairs but does so any-way due to curiousity, falls in love with a human prince, sells her voice to a sea-witch to become human herself and reuinite with her human prince, and to stay like that, she has to make him fall in love with her inside of a specific time-frame.

            That’s EXACTLY like the original fairy-tale! so.. not true to the source material? .. urhm.. no.. no I wouldn’t say that at all.

            But then there’s the last three Disney fairy-tales.

            “Frog Princess.” “Tangled.” and “Frozen.”

            Which except for a few visual cues has shit to do with the original fairy-tales!
            And some-how, all three of them seems to almost aiming at being self examinations and parodies rather than a straight up fairy-tale. Which I find to be the biggest flaw in all of them, and keeps them from becoming as good as they could have been,

            And don’t get me wrong, Frozen IS very good, but I sincerely belief it could have been better if it hadn’t been so hell bend on being that self concious about being a disney movie.

            I am also left to wonder what a Disney company from twenty years ago would have done to the same storie.. Some-thing very very different I am willing to bet, and as The Snow Queen was my favourite Hans Chrisitan Anderson tale as I grew up.. yeah.. I do wonder. A lot.

          • Mike

            Well technically Frog Princess was based more on a 2002 children’s book unread by that was itself only loosely based on the original fairy tale.

            I had been meaning to write you about Frozen for a while now since we’d had exchanges on Snow Queen adaptations before. I don’t think the movie suffered too much from changes to the source material, though I did miss the robber girl. It’s just so rare in fairy tales that you see a “bad girl” type whose not all bad. Actually the thing I though was most inventive about Frozen was the moral ambiguity of Elsa. They originally intended her to be the main villain, but stead made her more of a combination of the Snow Queen and Kai from the original story. Because I never really saw the Snow Queen in the originally story as all that evil, just very gloomy and desperate. Watching the movie you’d could kind of see how anyone might get to be that way and still find a chance for redemption.

            Still, I understand what you mean about Disney being self-councius in recreating the classic style. I thing part of might have to do with the tricky nature of gender-roles in fairy tales. Some much has already been discussed on that subject to fill a whole volume in itself, but bottom line is these stories are still products of the times in which they were written. So even if Disney still put there own stamp on them, the pressure has increased with time to make the characters relatable to children in a way that doesn’t seem to put upon narrow life expectations. Is that too much to ask of writers when adapting stories of olden times? Is it a sign of overreaching when in Tangled the hero says that he and the girl got married ONLY after he asked her SEVERAL times? does make you wonder.

          • Muthsarah

            “[…] bottom line is these stories are still products of the times in which
            they were written. So even if Disney still put there own stamp on them,
            the pressure has increased with time to make the characters relatable to
            children in a way that doesn’t seem to put upon narrow life
            expectations. Is that too much to ask of writers when adapting stories
            of olden times? Is it a sign of overreaching when in Tangled the hero
            says that he and the girl got married ONLY after he asked her SEVERAL
            times? does make you wonder.”

            I almost feel like those last lines were shoehorned into the end of the movie in post. I don’t think they added anything to either character, and had nothing whatsoever to do with the greater themes of the movie. Therefore, their inclusion almost feels like a concession to traditional fairy tale expectations, that you HAVE to end with a wedding, and with the carriage riding off into the hilly sunset while a chorus rings in jubilation. Like they didn’t want to risk leaving a new, young romance at a kiss, and thus pass it to the audience to imagine whether or not they made anything long-term of it; after all, Rapunzel has a new home, a new family, and a new social role to fill – not to mention being only two days out of lifelong imprisonment – so she’d be plenty busy with forging a new life and a new identity without including a boyfriend/fiance/husband, her first relationship of any kind with anyone other than her “mother” and a lizard.

            So, no, FWIW, I wouldn’t call it over-reaching. More like playing it safe. Meaninglessly.

            EDIT: Very similar with Frog Princess. Tiana’s character arc starts with her wanting financial (and thus, personal) independence, fulfilling her already-long-held ambition to own her own fancy restaurant, a grand accomplishment for a working-class black woman in the 1930s. And she was all prepared to work for it, not even to sponge off of or beg her wealthy friend for the start-up cash. Instead, as soon as she meets Naveen, that whole plot goes out the window, only re-appearing as a part of Dr. Facilier’s temptation for her to do the obviously-wrong thing, which she rejects. (EDIT AGAIN: Even Mama Odie implies in no uncertain terms that Tiana’s looking for happiness in the wrong place.) And the movie ends with her and Naveen in love and together, and, then there’s her restaurant, courtesy of….the alligator. What??! That’s….I won’t say “regressive” (unless you mean internally), more…random…but, still…she only attains her dream because…she first found true love. THAT’s traditional as hell. Substitute the restaurant for basic happiness/a marriage to a nice man, and that’s every previous Disney princess’ arc aside from Belle’s.

            No, these aren’t going too far. They’re each suggesting going somewhere new, then backing out and ending exactly how you’d expect it to BEFORE you even came in, as opposed to where you figured it would (logically) end at the halfway point, once you saw how it started. Elsa ending up happy and single, Anna taking her young romance at a prudent pace, and Anna’s “true love” being sisterly is still more original than the others, which I would say are clearly not yet up to “modern” standards.

        • Sofie Liv

          Erhh… Disney has all-ready done the little match girl..
          And not only did they do it, they did it BEAUTIFULLY! and downright perfectly.


          It was meant to be a segment of the third Fantasia movie, but as that was halted doing mid production doing to the shut-down of the 2D departmens of Disney back in the day, it has now been demoted to an extra feature on the little mermaid special edition DVD.. which is a god damn sin.
          They were like, half-way done with that Fantasia movie! Come on Disney! You’re 2D department is back isn’t it? You can still finish this project! Yeah I know all these shorts has been released as special features on DVD, but I would still love to see them in cinema, and have them collected together in one DVD only.

          Also… yeaah.. ya don’t have to tell me that Hans Christian Anderson wrote a lot of dark stuff. I have been in the special priviliege of being able to read stories of his that was never even translated to English bud.
          His work is actually much larger than most people realise, in his carrier he wrote hundreds and hundreds of stories, and only the fewest of them aimed at children.

          He has written some really dark shit that was all about punishing the sinfull and whats not.. Hans Christian Anderson wasn’t exactly either that cosy nice man most connect with him, he was a very troubled and in some ways pretty horrible selfish man.
          Being a closet homo-sexual whom wrote burning love letters to his adopted and married brother (Love letters has been retrieved, so this is a fact.) does not help a lot does it?
          Most historical facts indicates he was extremely selfish, arrogant, temperamental and not that nice.. so yeah.. I just destroyed some-thing there didn’t I?

          Well! I was a part of Denmark at his 200 year old birthday when I was around thirteen, I was forcefeed all of this information over and over those days, I even appeared in TWO different theatres shows in one year inspired by his stories.. urgh, that anniversary wore thin real quick when it was just ALL you saw.

  • Jerry Nava

    This movie looks cute, I have some friends who are in love with it despite not being anime fans. I’ve been inclined to check Miyazaki’s work but I just haven’t been able to organize my watching, I think your reviews may be able to help me with that x3

    • Sofie Liv

      I’m getting you hooked on a lot of stuff these days aren’t I?
      Well, as you know, my taste is indeed esquisit, so that I can make you interested in stuff is my pleasure!

      And yeah, it is, in a lot of ways it’s a very cute movies. Sophie is a very cute lead, she is extremely down the earth, and just those looks and snide remarks she can give to the insanity around her, as well as a stern food in the behind when Howl is being childish (which he is… a lot.) is very entertaining indeed!

  • Zee Panda

    My friend Mary and I were both very excited about this movie when we first heard about it being made. Mary was a big fan of the Diana Wynne Jones books. I hadn’t read any of them but I was already a huge Miyazaki fan by that point. The first time we saw “Howl’s Moving Castle” she was disappointed because she thought that it made too many unnecessary changes from the book. I didn’t have that problem because I had nothing to compare it against but I did not love the movie like I thought I would. I didn’t hate it, mind you, I just didn’t love it.

    A few years later, I was putting together a list of potential selections for my book club’s annual “books into movies” month and I found myself reading the Wikipedia page for the novel of “Howl’s Moving Castle”. As I read, I had a sense of deja vu and then suddenly realized that despite my previous certainty that I had never read the novel, I was wrong. I DID read the novel sometime back in the late 80s or early 90s, I’d just forgotten all about it somehow until something I read on Wikipedia brought that memory back.

    I never did re-read the novel but I did decide to watch the movie again and the second time I watched it I did love it. You have a very good point about all the different plot threads that don’t seem to have much in common with each other. I think maybe that’s why I didn’t love it the first time I saw it because I was expecting a different kind of story. Watching it the second time, I was able to pay closer attention to the smaller details and that helped me appreciate it more.

    I really like the Sophie character, too. I like that she’s human enough to be frustrated and angry and confused and hurt by the curse but I also like that she finds a way to deal with it the best she can. I like the way she makes a place for herself and I really love the way she stands up to Howl when he goes into one of his rages. I do kind of wish that the love story between her and Howl wasn’t romantic – I like better the idea of a simple friendship but I do think the romance was done well so I’m not too angry about it.

    The more I watch this one (I’ve seen it four times now, I think) the more I like it.

    And I think your next review is “Ponyo”? That is a movie I really wanted to like but just couldn’t so I am very curious about your opinion of it.

    • Sofie Liv

      No disregard to your friend… but when going into a Miyazaki movie it’ll be foolish to think he’ll stay true to any source material.
      What you will get, will be a Miyazaki movie taking slight inspiration from some-thing else. Not some-thing that is meant to be a straight up adaptaion.

      And I am actually fine with that, using the source material for a mere spark, to make some-thing entirely new and original.
      As long as it doesn’t deminishes the source material or puts it in a bad light, I am just fine with that approach!

      It is indeed a lot of stuff going on, Howls entire transformation into a monsters stuff, is in fact explained.. all though in just one extremely short conversation.
      Between him and Calcifer, where Calcifer points out that wizards who miss-uses their power for war purposes will turn into monsters and eventually forget they were ever humans at all.
      And by the end, knowing that could happen, Howl chooses to do it any-way to protect Sophie and his friends… that alone is half a movie worth in concept.. but it barely gets mentioned, and if you didn’t catch it his transformation seems unexplained.
      But then when you do catch it, you go. “Oooooh! Now it makes sense, and it’s kind of clever.”
      And the movie has A LOT of plot threats like they.. they are actually explaining, but dammit you have to look hard for them! It’s kind of a puzzle movie like that, see how many plot threats you can manage to connect by watching the movie enough times..

      Which I guess is both a strength and a weakness, it gives the movie a lot of re-watch value, you can watch it a lot of times and pick up on new things for a very long time.
      But the first view will probably leave most kind of confused.. so well erhm..

      Sophie also just have the best snidy remarks bringing the rest down to the ground, she is like the only sane person caught in this mad house, and has to be really stern and on the mark to get those floaty heads around her, down on the ground. She is a very grounded stird fast person, which is very delightful.

      Oh boy yeah, Ponyo… Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo… next video..

  • V

    Are you going to review “The Cat Returns” at any point? I know that one was between “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Ponyo”

    • Sofie Liv

      Thought it is a Studio Ghibli movie, Miyazaki did not direct it. He only co produced it, and pushed the project a bit into being by the beginning, other than that, he had nothing to do with it, so no… not right now.

      Maybe next year i’ll go over the rest of the studio Ghibli movies, but when I
      am done with all of these directional works of miyazaki.. I’m done with
      this for a while! I sincerely need a break, I had no idea how ambetious
      my own project were before I began, so this has felt like running a
      marathon, and right now.. i’m just done @_@

      But if you want a short mini review right now….

      It’s a very cute innocent movie, which succeeds perfectly well in just being a good watch to sit through with likeable characters, great visuals and a imaginative univers.

      It’s not really on par with most of Miyazakis work, as it does lack further depth of the story, but it’s a very good movie and I highly recommend it to any-one curious about it.