Monday, May 13, 2019

Review: Howl's Moving Castle (2012)

Note: This review is about the English dub release.

Howl's Moving Castle is a Japanese animated film by critically-acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki. Here is an abstract:
Sophie (Emily Mortimer) has an uneventful life at her late father's hat shop, but all that changes when she befriends wizard Howl (Christian Bale), who lives in a magical flying castle. However, the evil Witch of Waste (Lauren Bacall) takes issue with their budding relationship and casts a spell on young Sophie, which ages her prematurely. Now Howl must use all his magical talents to battle the jealous hag and return Sophie to her former youth and beauty.

I watched this film as part of the annual Studio Ghibli Fest at the local AMC Theatres. I loved Miyazaki's ground-breaking visuals and masterful storytelling. This is the same director who won an Academy Award for the film, Spirited Away.  This is not your ordinary cartoon for children; this Japanese animated work is a treasured masterpiece for all ages. The story's background reminded me of Victorian England at the advent of the Industrial Revolution. It felt both magical and suspenseful, something that is often missed in 3-D animated films. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see an A-list cast (e.g. Jean Simmons, Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall) with famous Hollywood names in this film. I expect it from a Disney or Dreamworks production but not in a Japanese animated film. I also believe the plot itself with English-language names and places made for a smoother transition to North American audiences than most Japanese anime with Japanese-language characters. It brings me hope that maybe Japanese anime is gradually moving towards acceptance rather than a niche audience in North America. The recent Alita: Battle Angel (2019) is another example of Japanese anime gradually making its prime-time theatrical debut on American movie screens. I look forward to watching future Studio Ghibli Fest films!

Watch the English-language trailer below:

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