The Good

A well put together DVD that further illuminates this special film.

The Bad

I would love one of these Studio Ghibli DVDs to include a longer talk with Hayao Miyazaki.

I liked Howl's Moving Castle precisely because I didn't fully understand it. While I am sure that Japanese auteur Hayao Miyazaki certainly has his ideas of what this film means, his brilliance comes in creating movies that can mean many different things to different people. Therefore, he is allowed to be ambiguous and put whatever he wants in his movies, and it seems to be understood that if "Miyazaki did it" we just need to go back and reexamine why he did it. This also probably explains why his films do better with critics and academics than they do with people that don't have the time to do that. All this said, it is ironic because Miyazaki really is creating movies that are for the people.

In a nutshell, this film is a love story about an a young girl who is turned into an older woman. She spends the movie trying to break this curse that his been applied to her by an evil witch, and for this she often relies on a wizard and his friends. Also, the majority of this film takes place in the aforementioned "Moving Castle." I apologize if this description leaves you confused but that is about as much as I understood. I don't fault the film, I simply allowed myself to get caught up in it figuring I got what Miyazaki intended me to get.

Even if I can't quite put into words what that is.


Behind The Microphone

This is a documentary on the people who did the voices for the American version of the film. As this cast includes people like Billy Crystal, Christian Bale and Emily Mortimer among others, it makes for an interesting watch. I always find that actors seem to allow themselves to be more vulnerable when they are doing voices. It's as if they can let go because, in effect, we aren't seeing them but the essence of the character they are voicing.

Interview With Pete Docter

This was an interesting interview with the man who oversaw the English dub of the film. What I love about people like Docter (other than the fact that he directed Monsters, Inc.), is that he is the perfect person to supervise the dubbing of the film by a man he obviously reveres. Also, Docter just seems like a genuinely good person.

Hello, Mr. Lasseter

In this segment, Hayao Miyazaki journeys to Pixar Animation Studios to commune with John Lasseter. It is obvious that both of these men respect each other and it was great to finally see a supplemental feature on these DVDs that actually has Miyazaki in it. Bonus features like this are made to be played again and again simply to pick up on things you missed out on the first time you screened it.


It is things like this Storyboard feature that are worth the price of the DVD alone. This features Miyazaki's storyboards set to the soundtrack of the film. First of all, this is a great way to see pacing in a story. Secondly, the wealth of information one can glean by just watching these drawings in motion is something one truly can't put a price on.


1.85:1 - Widescreen. Miyazaki films look and feel like no other animated movies that are made. They play with an almost spiritual effervescence. Every single frame feels precise and precious, yet I never got the feeling I was seeing something that was weighted just for weighted's sake. It's hard to put into words but I can think of very few movies that evoke the kind of mood that Howl's Moving Castle does. I could use terms like light and airy and while they both apply, I don't know that they do this film justice.


Dolby Digital 5.1 - English, Japanese and French Dolby Digital. Sure, there are times when the mouths don't synch up perfectly, but when you consider this film has been dubbed from Japanese into English, I think that that is a forgivable offense. While I think that this is one of the few films I can remember where the visuals overtake the audio, I must applaud the restraint that has been put into action here. This movie could certainly be made to sound bigger and larger than it is, but it speaks volumes by being quiet and restrained.


The front cover is as restrained as the film itself. We see the characters from the movie but curiously no shots of the "Moving Castle" itself. I also love that very little color is employed here. The back features a description of the movie, a "Bonus Features" listing, a cast list and technical specs. This DVD also comes with a vinyl cardboard cover which looks exactly like the cover of the DVD itself. All in all, restrained packaging for a film that is nothing less than enchanting.

Final Word

Of all the Miyazaki films that I have seen, I think my favorite is Porco Rosso. If for no other reason, it is the movie of his that I understand the most. However, his movies don't beg to be understood so much as they beg to be experienced. I can't think of many filmmakers, and this includes people like Steven Spielberg, who capture the essence of wonderment and joy like Miyazaki does. He really seems to not adhere to anything other than a desire to connect with the world around him. It is this desire for connection that comes across so fully in his movies.

Howl's Moving Castle will take you on a journey, and while it may get confusing at times, I don't think you will ever wish to stop taking it.

Howl's Moving Castle was released November 19, 2004.