Japanese Title: Hauru no Ugoku Shiro

Genre: Animation (In Japanese dialogue with English and Chinese subtitles)
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast (Featuring the voice talents): Chieko BAISHO, Takuya KIMURA, Akihiro MIWA, Tatsuya GASHUIN, Ryunosuke KAMIKI, Yo OIZUMI, Haruko KATO
RunTime: 1 hr 59 mins
Released By: BVI
Rating: G

Release Date: 24 Feb 2005

Synopsis :

From acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki ("Spirited Away"). An eighteen-year-old girl, Sophie, who helps out at her late father's hat shop in the boring town of Market Chipping, is transformed one day by the evil Witch of the Waste into an old woman. Determined to get turned back to her normal self, Sophie seeks out the help of the Wizard Howl, who has an amazing moving castle (which looks a bit like a giant robot), which is fueled by a fire demon named Calcifer.

Movie Review:

Japanese Anime fans are no strangers to the works of Hayao Miyazaki. "Spirited Away", "The Cat Returns" and "Princess Mononoke" are just some of his famous full-length animations. His latest, "Howl's Moving Castle" which has the biggest opening in Japan last year retains his usual trademark of surreal imagination and eye-opening artworks.

Based on the original novel by UK writer Diana Wynne Jones but have since deferred much from it's origins. Sophie, an 18 year old girl is being cast under a spell by a wicked witch that caused her to age prematurely. With nowhere to go, she accidentally stumbles into the wizard Howl's (voiced by the handsome Takuya Kimura) mobile residence, a four-legged castle with legs of a chicken. It is in this strange place that Sophie learns about the complications of the world and her love for Howl.

This review is not meant to deter any fans of Miyazaki from watching "Howl's Moving Castle". But "Howl's Moving Castle" honestly failed to garner any high five on the plot which seemingly ponders on a long, sagging journey to nowhere despite the comic relief from the supporting characters such as Calcifer, the Witch of the Waste, Scarecrow and the endearing little boy wizard, Markl (sounds especially cute when pronounced in Japanese). The history of Howl and the relationships between his master and Sophie is never dealt in details and setting the story in a turbulent times of war doesn't help either.

Miyazaki fans might find some of the artworks errily similar to his past works. On the positive side, the team from Studio Ghibli has maintained the high quality visuals, the moving castle which made up of CG components will be endeared by many.
The theme music by Joe Hisaishi and Yumi KIMURA is haunting and mesmerising at the same times, tugging the heart strings which the plot has failed to do.

Despite the flaws, fans will still like it over time. There are people who will be attracted by the visual alone and people who just love the charming, surreal storyline. And please catch this in the cinema with it's original Japanese dialogues. Any dubbing will not do justice to the credibility of the Japanese voice actors.

Movie Rating: B+

Review by Linus.T.

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