One of the less popular films by Hayao Miyazaki is Howls’s Moving Castle. The lack of praise is mainly due to the plot being fanciful and strange. Unlike Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro, there is no innocence in the movie. The protagonists are likeable to a certain degree, but definitely not warranting pity or tender feelings. Despite all the criticism, this movie remains one of my favorites. Here’s why.
Howl’s Moving Castle teaches us a very realistic view on love. It’s never rational and it doesn’t make sense most of the time. In most of our daydreams about love, we imagine both parties being wonderful and sweet. We expect the two to end up together because they deserve each other and the world conspires to make it so. However, in Howl’s Moving Castle, this isn’t the case.
As I’ve mentioned before, both protagonists have their faults. Sophie is meek and accepts things as they are. When she is turned into an old woman, she just leaves without telling her family. She doesn’t fight for anything. Howl, on the other hand, is vain, impulsive, and childish. He believes that the whole world revolves around him. He doesn’t fight for anything either – and not because he is incapable (the whole film shows him to be a skilled magician) but because he is lazy and self-centered.
As the two get to know each other, you can see how they slightly change. Sophie becomes more assertive and Howl more forgiving. But let me make this absolutely clear: they still maintain their personalities. Love does not change their core personalities–it allows them to adapt to each other instead.
This is why I like the movie very much. It still has the signature Miyazaki “lightness” to it. Audience members can still criticize the movie for pure entertainment only, but I love the portrayal of the characters; inflexible yet adaptive. Or maybe I read too much into the film.