Photos - Howl's Moving Castle

I wanted to compare my newly-acquired series of hi-res photos from Howl's Moving Castle (the theatrical release), and I wanted to compare them against the DVD, and wouldn't ya know it, I stay up all night to watch the movie.

I only watch Howl on rare occasions.  I think it's a spectacular movie, and I don't to spoil it by becoming too familiar with it.  You never want to lose your sense of wonder and awe.  You especially don't want to feel numb to the emotionally-charged scenes between Sophie and Howl.  I never want to lose my sense of outrage against useless wars waged for no useful reason.  And I never want to lose the impact of that climactic flashback at the end, a masterstroke of personal filmmaking.

I absolutely love this movie because it is so densely packed; how many storylines are woven into one another?  This is the one film that captures the sprawling epic scale Miyazaki brought to his Nausicaa manga.  There are so many moments of brilliance that I almost always lose count.  Joe Hisaishi's superb Staussian Waltzes certainly help; his musical score reminds me of Stanley Kubrick more than anything.  And the lush, boundless colors are breathtaking.  I could probably write essays on every scene in the movie.

Howl is surely the least-accessable of Miyazaki's Ghibli movies.  You have to know about the man, and his work.  You have to have seen most everything.  You have to have read the Nausicaa books.  It might even help if you're familiar with Kubrick and Fellini.  Major bonus points if you recognize the name Akemi Ota.  How else would you discover that she's the heroine of this film?  She's always been the Heroine, in a certain sense.

Anyway, I'm rambling on and it's getting late.  Enjoy the screenshots from the Howl's Moving Castle DVD.  Someone mentioned to me recently that the colors on the Ghibli DVDs are a little faded when compared to the films, and I have to agree.  But that's a consequence of compressing a feature-length movie onto such a tiny disc.  I am hopeful that the Blu-Ray will retain the spectacular color saturation.  If the upcoming Ponyo Blu-Ray is any indication, I'd say that's very doable.


Anonymous said...

nice photos you got there

greentea said...

Actually, I think 'Howl' may be more accessable than 'Spirited Away'. Both have their moments that would probably seem very 'out there' to the average American, but 'Howl' isn't such a Japanese story, so more people might feel more comfortable watching it.
Besides the weirdness, one thing that might also throw people off: Howl's character, how he sometimes seems to act.. what's the right word.. 'delicate'? Though I appreciate how he's more complex than the 'macho hero' stereotype, being a rebel, daring and somewhat of a fatherly figure, but also a weak, vain crybaby.
And something I find interesting is how he looks more beautiful than Sophie, the heroine/love interest of the story (who is this Akemi Ota?). It feels like this was done intentionally, and it's something that's done.. when? How many films, animated or live-action, have a male lead more beautiful than the female lead? Just an observation.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

@greentea: Interesting that you brought up Howl as the romantic lead. This was something that threw a lot of American movie critics off - at least a couple compared him (snidely) to Michael Jackson. That says so much more about this culture than Japan, sadly.

If you want to understand Howl, you need to thumb through some Japanese romance comics. The romantic leading man is very tall and thin, very beautiful, and very much in touch with their feminine side.

The male ideal in America is more befitting of a global military empire with a strong homophobic streak. Rambo, Governor Ahnold, your neighborhood frat boys, George W. Bush strutting in his flight suit. This is the ideal of, "Dude, I'm gonna kick yer ass!! Whoo!!!!"

The male ideal in America has long been defined by violence and power. And its encouraged in this age of endless wars, bombing innocent civilians, privatized mercenary armies, and torture regimes. This is the culture of Blackwater and the Chicago School and "24."(*)

Should it be surprising that Japan would take a different view? They have been a pacifist nation since the end of World War II, and their culture has been forced to define itself through different means.

Howl at times seems to embody the romance comics ideal of a romantic lead, and there are his traits - the vain drama queen who is terrified of commitment - which are certainly more critical. Miyazaki is certainly critical here, and I get the impression that he is satirizing this archetype as well. He defines greatness, male and female, through the work ethic. He comes from that post-war generation that had to struggle to survive. The Howl archetype is a product of a prosperous nation. Howl is an aristocrat.

I always enjoy complicated characters. They're easier to relate to and understand. And I really enjoy the added depth the "bishounen" angle gives to this movie.

Anyway, thanks for writing. Good points!

(*) On that subject, I highly recommend Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine," and Jeremy Scahill's "Blackwater."

Sean L. said...

One thing I love about Howl's is the particular way in which its sheer beauty astounds me even more each time a watch it again (but like you said, as long as there is time between viewings). I know, I know-- I could say this about every Studio Ghibli movie, and I HAVE said it about every Ghibli movie I've seen. But there's something special about Howl's Moving Castle. I can't really describe it. Especially on my most recent viewing this summer, I found myself enraptured and enchanted like never before, even though I've seen it three times before that. The movie is (how should I word this?) gradually growing in favor for me. I loved it from the beginning, but it wasn't one of my favorites, and now it's closer to achieving that status. And Daniel, your essays on the movie have helped increase my appreciation for it.

(And since you guys brought it up...) Howl is a great character. The prevelance of the feminine male in anime in general has always been fascinating to me. Like you said, by typical American ideals, this archetype seems unusual, but in the anime realm it is almost a stereotype. This makes it all the more interesting to me that Miyazaki--a very non-stereotypical filmmaker--would draw on this archetype at all. But of course, his feminist inclinations kick in here: he gives Howl his own fascinating twist, like you said, by rendering him in a critical light. His vanity and his overdramatic streak are the contrast to Sophie and her gentle, caring composure. She's the strong one here, she's the hero. Howl, although he is a debonair and powerful wizard, is the one who needs saving, and he is saved by the most unlikely of girls. This Miyazaki twist, among other characteristics, makes Howl much more than the stereotypical bishounen. He is a flawed and an endearing character. But ya know, it does help that he's just so darn pretty. Ahem.

Alyssa said...

I actually can't stand Howl's Moving Castle anymore. I used to love it, then one day I watched it again and just hated the stereotypes. Furthermore, it's so vastly different from the novel--and not in a good way. In the novel by Diana Wynne Jones, Sophie is actually a strong character and does not hesitate to put Howl in his place, who is a genuine "slither-outer" in the book. After reading that and then once again watching the film, I really feel that Ghibli could have done better. I understand that films take creative license when adapting books, but the film changed even the characters' personalities, and much of the humor was lost and simiplified. It's a shame, too, since the art was great. It would have had a lot of potential.

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