When I think of anything Miyazaki, I think about that superb animation style. It’s unique, even in the world of anime, and while there are scenes full of detail, we also have rather simple character design. If there’s something wrong with Howl’s, it’s certainly not going to be how it looks on screen.
This was the first theatrical release by Miyazaki after he won the Oscar for Spirited Away. It had very important vocal talents brought in for the English dub, although a relatively limited release compared to other Disney-related fare.
Probably the biggest Miyazaki friend I know, Angela, pointed out the clear weakness in Howl’s Moving Castle. Which isn’t so much of a problem, as how you approached the story. I had read the novel by Diana Wynne Jones, while she had seen the movie first, and I came to the conclusion that the book is much better since it has the chance to explain more of the plot and Howl’s character was more interesting and Sophie had her own magic powers.
Angela preferred the film because it’s still a Miyazaki movie and the visuals are beautiful. The music is absolutely gorgeous! The characters are more cute, etc etc.
Which brings up a question about seeing the movie or reading the book first for adaptations? I saw the trailer for Never Let Me Go today ignoring Keira Knightley and thought “That’s gorgeous! I should… read the book?” Regardless of how many adaptations are made, I think the first time you come in contact with a story ends up being the yardstick all other adaptations get measured to, including the original material.
This review is inevitably tinged by the fact that I had decided to read the novel first, which is excellent. Diana Wynne Jones is one of the master fantasy writers alive and the novel has some of the best subtle hints and build ups for the big reveal at the end. It’s absolutely fantastic, but a lot of it I understand can’t be as well expressed through film.
So for the animation? Superb. Music? Some of the best I’ve heard. Actual Plot? Stripped down from the original, unfortunately, which ends up feeling like they were cutting corners and characterizations.