Where is Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) going: the plot and idea of the famous anime. Howl’s Moving Castle is an anime cartoon by Hayao Miyazaki. Created in 2004, it remains a recognized masterpiece in 2020. There are many hidden meanings and incomprehensible details in Howl’s Moving Castle, and today we will figure out: what is the meaning of the cartoon.
Howl’s Moving Castle Plot Summary
The setting of the anime is a fictional replica of 19th century Europe. Here magic is intertwined with the real world and modern technology. They calmly buy magic powder from wizards, and heaped planes fly across the sky. This Europe is at war. It rarely concerns ordinary residents, but our main character, the wizard Howl, takes part in it.
The plot begins with the evil Witch of the Waste turning 18-year-old hatter Sophie into an old woman. In order not to explain herself to her relatives, Sophie quietly leaves the house and goes to the Wild Wasteland – a magical place in which the spell should be removed from her.
It’s not clear how, you just have to go there. There she meets her first friend – the scarecrow Repka. He arranges for her to spend the night in that very moving castle of that same Howl, and it is in it that Sophie finds a new family.
A moving castle is such a big “hut on chicken legs”, a house that constantly travels to different cities and different dimensions. Without a woman’s hand, the house is overgrown with dust and cobwebs, mice and cockroaches run around it, garbage is everywhere.
Sophie starts by doing a spring cleaning and appoints herself as the cleaning lady in the house. This becomes the first step towards the overall happiness of this new family. This step is a good symbol, because it is believed that spiritual purity always begins with physical: if you want to be healthy and exalted (get rid of your “curses” in the form of laziness or illness), first clean up at home.
Main characters and their destinies
The inhabitants of the moving castle: the owner of the house, the wizard Howl, his student and assistant Markle, the fiery demon and the “soul” of the castle Calcifer, the scarecrow Turnip and the “old woman” Sophie. These are positive cartoon characters.
Their Opponents: The Witch of the Waste, Mrs. Saliman. And their main enemy is war.
Each hero has his own story. Stories intersect with each other intricately, creating a common plot. Therefore, in order not to get confused in a fairy tale, it is important to trace the fate of the main characters separately.
The main characters have curses that they need to defeat. Sophie needs to return to her young body, Calcifer needs to break out of captivity, Howl needs to avoid becoming a demon…
Sophie is an 18 year old girl. She is hardworking, modest and responsible, but very shy. Her problem is that she doesn’t consider herself beautiful. Therefore, her imprisonment in the body of an old woman is not only a curse of the Witch of the Waste, but also an illustration of her inner state: she is trying to “age herself”, denying her beauty and youth. In moments when she is relaxed or carried away by emotions, she imperceptibly becomes younger.
To defeat the curse, she needs to change her attitude towards herself: to admit that she is a beautiful, young, bright girl. Having fallen in love with Howl, she gradually “rejuvenates” herself. At the end of the cartoon, she again becomes a young girl, and only gray hair reminds of the experience. That is why the Witch of the Waste could not remove the curse from her: Sophie herself had to do it.
Howl is a charming young wizard, the owner of a strange house on legs, which everyone calls a moving castle. He, too, is bewitched: he made a deal with the devil, Calcifer. Whether out of stupidity, or out of naivety. Now he himself is turning from a good wizard into a demon.
Calcifer is a light in a moving castle. This is a demon of fire, touchy, but kind and funny. She and Howl are attached to each other because of a deal they made when Howl was a child. If one of them dies, then the other one will die, as stated in the contract.
They have good neighborly relations, but they dream of being free from each other: Howl does not want to become a demon, and Calcifer wants to be free. At the end of the story, Calcifer sacrifices his life to save Howl – for the sake of a friend, he is ready to die. But instead of the promised death, he receives liberation – as a reward for a noble deed.
The Witch of the Waste is an outstanding sorceress, an old student of Mrs. Saliman. She made a deal with the demon of greed to always stay young and beautiful. She’s in love with Howl, and that’s why she bewitched Sophie. I was jealous when I saw them together one day – a typical woman in love. When Mrs. Saliman removes the conjured youth from the Witch of the Waste, she turns into a decrepit old woman. Then the kind soul Sophie takes her under his wing: do not leave the helpless grandmother.
Scarecrow Turnip is not just a living scarecrow, but an enchanted prince. He helped Sophie throughout her journey: he found her a home, covered her with an umbrella from the rain, gave her a cane. So when Sophie kissed him, he returned to his original form. It turned out that his spell is removed by kissing the girl he is in love with.
Lady Saliman is the court sorceress of the king. She has great powers in the palace. Howl was her last student, she knew that he was a talented wizard, so she demanded that he go to war from the royal army. But he didn’t want to. On this basis, there was a skirmish, because of which Sophie had to go to the Saliman Palace. Seeing Sophie’s kind and bright soul, relenting, it is she who finally cancels the war. It cancels it: for this it turned out to be enough for her to tell the king: “Well, that’s it. Let’s end this stupid war.”
Inside the castle above the entrance hangs a “switch of worlds”. With it, you can go to an ordinary earthly city, to the sky for a war, or to a secret magical field. Howl came back different from everywhere: either he “blurred” with anger and fatigue, then he did not come to his senses for a long time and remained a demon – a bird of prey, then he was himself – a handsome young man.
Parallel worlds and this compass symbolize the diversity of human inner states. When we are peaceful and calm, the world around us is also calm, a magical secret field. And when we get angry and lose our temper, the world around us is “black”, like the sky during a war.
Hayao Miyazaki was born in 1941 at the height of World War II. His Howl’s Moving Castle anime is one of the most striking anti-war works. Military scenes are shown in the film very clearly, in detail, and from this – intimidating. The military footage contrasts sharply with the gentle and graceful footage of civilian life. An important goal of Hayao Miyazaki was to inspire disgust for the war, hatred for it, and in the end, be sure to “win” it.
Miyazaki was a big fan of aviation and well versed in aircraft, so in military scenes they look as realistic as possible. There are films in his repertoire where there are even more such aircraft, but Howl’s Moving Castle is full of them.
The war depicted in the film is not fictional. Its “prototype” is the 2003 Iraq War, when the US invaded Iraq.
In 2006, Howl’s Moving Castle was nominated for an Oscar for “Best Animated Feature Film” but did not win. But in 2004 – 2007 he received about ten other awards at the world’s prestigious film festivals.
The film is based on the novel “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynn Jones. When the anime was ready, Miyazaki flew to England specifically to show it to her. The writer was delighted. About the image of the Witch of the Waste, she said: “I copied her from one of my creepy aunts. And the witch in the anime looks terribly, terribly like her. My aunt dressed exactly the same, she even had the same mink hat as in the movie, can you imagine?