Being another revisit on this Ghibli marathon, this was a title I knew I really liked, already. It probably ended up being my favourite of the few Miyazaki films I watched a few years ago, and I still feel pretty much the same nowadays. Interestingly enough, it just carries with it this sort of perfect combination of darkness and family fun.
We meet a young girl named Sophie Hatter (Chieko Baisho/Emily Mortimer) who has a run-in with a dashing wizard named Howl (Takuya Kimura/Christian Bale), who rescues her from a couple of henchmen who work fo the Witch of the Waste (Akihiro Miwa/Lauren Bacall). Unbeknownst to Sophie, the witch uses magic to stay young, and in finding this out, Howl had previously left her. This put a curse on Howl, and a further curse is placed on Sophie out of jealousy for his attention.
The curse in question transforms her into a 90-year-old woman. In order to find a cure, she heads through the countryside. She meets a living scarecrow who she names "Turnip Head" who leads her to Howl's moving castle, where she claims she has been hired to be the place's new caretaker, in order to have a place to stay.
Here, she also meets the likes of a fire demon named Calcifer (Tatsuya Gashūin/Billy Crystal) and Howl's young apprentice, Markl (Ryūnosuke Kamiki/Josh Hutcherson) and may very well have accidentally stumbled on a whole new family of sorts. Along with her new old age comes the mind of an older woman as well, which has her appreciate life much more than she did when she was still normal.
It sounds pretty damn convoluted, I suppose, but it's one of those stories where the central plot kinda unfolds as it goes, and I could find myself heading into spoiler territory if I continue to unveil the story. I think the important thing to take away from this is the life lesson that things just aren't as bad as they seem, and could always be worse. The lesson is drilled into us by Sophie's elderly character (by the way, voiced by Jean Simmonds) as she sort of carries her curse around with her the whole time, all the while talking to other characters as though she's the wise old grandmother with plenty of life experience.
I think what's to be appreciated here most of all are those lessons. Where one character will mope or be upset about something, Sophie will be there to tell them how they're being silly and will get over it soon enough. Hell, she even applies this logic to the witch who cursed her at some points.
All in all, it's one of the stranger titles of the collection, but it's one of the Ghibli titles I'd recommend most people see, if only to learn a thing or two about how, again, things could always be worse. And furthermore, of things do get worse, they could still get even worse than that. There's also a sort of love story going on here, but it's pretty subtle, to me, and the more important aspects of the film surround it nicely without it being so in your face.
As with most films in this collection, the overall animation and scenery, once again, provide a breathtaking look into a fantasy world. The interesting thing about this one, however, is that for the most part, the lessons to be taken away from it are very much grounded in reality. Almost anything from Sophie's mouth is something very real that can be easily applied to day-to-day life. And that's what makes this movie so damn good. It's the best of both worlds. Let's not forget about it's sense of humour as well, often shedding a light on otherwise dark situations. That was my takeaway, anyway. It'd be worth checking out a third time for me, I think, in case there was anything I missed. But it's a great flick.
As anime is an all-around untapped resource for my viewing pleasure, I have decided to explore the Ghibli titles, one-by-one. It seemed good a place to start as any. I'll be focusing on these titles throughout the month of August.