A Peculiar Love: Howl’s Moving Castle

Image via The Crocker Blog

It’s February, and there may be some of you who, like me, can’t wait for the discounted chocolate after Valentine’s Day. The corporate holiday, however, brings an emphasis on love, and I enjoy romance stories as much as I enjoy chocolate. The movie and book, Howl’s Moving Castle, may not be a conventional romance, but it’s a story of love all the same. 

Howl’s Moving Castle follows the story of a young woman, Sophie, who leads a simple and boring life. She believes herself to be dull and prefers a quiet life as a hatmaker. However, Sophie encounters a beautiful and enchanting man, who finds her beautiful, as well. After the encounter, she wonders if the man was what rumors referred to as the wizard, who seeks and eats the souls of pretty women. Sophie’s contemplation comes to a halt when a vexed witch curses her. The following day, she wakes as an elderly woman. Embarking on a journey to break the curse, Sophie stumbles into the castle belonging to none other than the rumored soul-eating wizard, Howl: the enchanting man who she met the day before.

The film, Howl’s Moving Castle, was animated, written, and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, whose movies are universally loved for their beautiful animation and strong heroines. The movie is based off of the novel of the same name written by Diana Wynne Jones. Although Howl is more selfish and vain in the book, according to Jones, she still enjoyed the romanticized version of Howl in Miyazaki’s take on her story. 

I strongly enjoyed both the book and movie. The characters are complex and they’re not perfect. Howl is a vain wizard, who is known to be a womanizer, and Sophie is an insecure, but strong-headed woman, who has a beautiful soul. Both characters gravitate to each other through unconventional means, and they fall in love in the most peculiar way. Miyazaki’s animation breathes life into the settings more than the characters, but the magical feel of the odd love still bleeds through each scene. In the same way, Jones’ subtle descriptions of magic and fantasy settings breathe life into the world where her characters gravitate and fall in love through arguments and teasing. Both The book and film, became adored favorites of mine since I was a child. You can watch the loveable film on HBO Max and buy the book, which makes for an easy read, on Amazon for about $5-10.