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Howl’s Castle takes on a distinct steampunk vibe in the Studio Ghibli version

Guess what guys? It’s later

Howl’s Moving Castle one of those rare film adaptions where the movie is vastly different than the book it is based on, but where neither version is superior to the other. The movie borrows characters, settings, and basic character motivation from the books but the plot is largely an entirely original beast.

Sophie meets Howl for the first time

The movie follows Sophie, the oldest daughter of a hatmaker who’s sense of self worth is nearly nonexistent, until she is cursed by a jealous witch to take on the appearance of an old lady. Sophie takes this in stride, deciding that her outside now matches her inside, and that hey, she’s old, what’s the point of being shy and meek anymore?

On her journey to break her curse Sophie ends up at the eponymous “moving castle”, home to the wizard Howl (rumored to eat the hearts of beautiful girls), his young apprentice, and his fire demon Calcifer, who lives in the castle’s hearth and is the reason it can move.

Calcifer also has a deal for Sophie: figure out how to break the spell that is on him and Howl, and Calcifer will use his considerable power to break Sophie’s curse. In the meantime, Sophie poses as Howl’s cleaning lady, and after having been inhabited by a habitual bachelor for who knows how long, she has her work cut out for her. 

“Here’s another curse for you: may all your bacon burn”-Calcifer

The witch who cursed her makes a reappearance as well, along with Howl’s old sorcery teacher, who wants his help fighting a war, despite Howl’s insistence that he is far too much of a coward to be any help. 

Studio Ghibli’s animation is once again gorgeous and the soundtrack is one that I loved so much as a teen that I would often just sit on the DVDs menu screen so I could listen to the main theme (“Merry Go Round of Life” by Joe Hisashi) on repeat while I did homework.

Both versions of this tale are whimsical adventures that, at their core, are about gaining confidence in yourself and loving who you are. And with the world as it is right now, sometimes we just need that reminder.

The book is a quick light read appropriate for a wide range of ages that has fun playing with literary tropes and dialogue, though those aspects can make it a bit dense for younger readers.

You can check out the movie here and the book here.

~~Brittany, Youth Services