Sophie works in a plain hatters’ shop and sees herself in the same practical and calm light as she views her hat creations. However, a run-in with the famous wizard Howl and his enemy, the Witch of the Wastes, soon changes things. Cursed into an old woman’s body, Sophie runs off to Howl in the hopes of breaking the powerful curse. But Howl has his own problems and soon Sophie finds that he just might need her help more than she needs his.
The violence in this movie is light overall. Near the end there are some scenes where cities are bombed from the air, but only things shown are some damaged buildings. There are also some “transformations” that might be a bit too strange for young viewers. In one scene, a witch’s power is taken from her and she reverts to a very old woman. Not long after, a sorceress attacks Sophie, prompting Howl to take on his non-human form, which resembles a bird-like creature. These transformations are clearly unpleasant at best, painful at worst, for the characters and thus might unnerve children.
Disney doesn’t often pick up anime titles, but Miyazaki’s works (including Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky and others) are the exception. And as expected of a Disney released title, there really isn’t any bad language in this movie.
There is no true nudity in this movie, but there is one scene where a young man panics and runs downstairs with nothing but a towel around his waist.
The main male lead in this movie is a wizard, so magic is very much a part of this world. Thus spells and curses are frequently mentioned. One character is also reputed to be a “demon.”
However, it is worth noting that although the term is translated into English as “demon,” it is not what people typically think of as a demon. In Japanese, the original term is more likened to monsters or something that is created or heavily affected by mythical forces. English doesn’t really have an equivalent so the word “demon” is usually used in translations.
I will openly admit that some of Miyazaki’s other work, namely Spirited Away, gives me the chills because of the bizarre and creepy animation, but Howl’s Moving Castle is not in this category. In fact, it is easily one of my favorite anime films, despite the strange blob-like henchmen under the control of the Witch of the Waste. The characters are all interesting, the story is complex enough for adults to enjoy, the animation is classically hand-drawn (even the moving castle itself), and the soundtrack’s whimsical tune fits its world. It has its light moments of laughter, compelling action and moving tears. Although the original novel by Diana Wynne Jones has better characterization, this interpretation is still an amazing perspective on Howl’s world. So, if you would rather see a well-rounded movie than invest in watching an entire series, this movie is great place to start!
Personal Rating: 10 and up
Languages: Dubbed (English or French) and Subbed
Official rating: PG
Genre(s): Adventure, Fantasy
Legal streaming: Not available