Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle anime movie cover art
Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl the Heart-Devourer

Howl’s Moving Castle (Howl no Ugoku Shiro / ハウルの動く城) is a Studio Ghibli anime movie from 2004. We watched it over in the DoubleSama Discord server for June’s movie night event. And, this is the fifth Studio Ghibli movie I’ve seen.

First, I watched Kiki’s Delivery Service. Then, My Neighbor Totoro. And last year, I watched both Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. Compared to those, I don’t think Howl’s Moving Castle is that great. I’d put it above Kiki’s Delivery Service. But, that’s it. The other three movies are better.

So, what’s Howl’s Moving Castle about? There’s a guy named Howl and he lives in a moving castle. Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. Howl is a wizard or sorcerer or something. And he lives in a moving castle so he can run away from his problems.

Sophie and Howl walking on air from the anime movie Howl's Moving Castle
Sophie and Howl walking on air

Howl’s castle traverses the “waste,” which is the empty land between cities. Normal people don’t go out into the waste because dangerous sorcerers live there. And, yes, Howl is one of them. In at least one town, rumor has it that Howl kidnaps beautiful girls and devours their hearts.

However, the girls also all think Howl is incredibly handsome. So, at first, it’s a bit unclear if the whole heart-devouring thing is a metaphor. It most likely is — meaning Howl makes girls fall for him. But, our protagonist takes the rumors literally and is worried Howl will eat her heart.

Of course, it turns out that Howl isn’t a cannibal. But, there was one thing the rumors were right about: Howl is hot. At least, when he’s blonde. Later in the movie, his hair turns black and he doesn’t look as good. If you like black-haired Howl more, you’re opinion is wrong.

Everybody Loves Howl

As I mentioned, all the girls in town think Howl’s a cutie. But, it’s not only young women whom he attracts. You see, Howl has a special ability to attract old women. I don’t mean older women. I mean old women.

At the start of the movie, Sophie is a young woman who works in a hat shop. But, after running into Howl, her life takes a turn. Another mage known as the Witch of the Waste casts a spell on Sophie to make her old.

Sophie then runs away from home (and work) and traverses the waste. This is when she comes across Howl’s moving castle and hires herself as the maid.

But, why did the Witch of the Waste curse Sophie? It’s because she wants Howl’s heart for herself (both literally and figuratively).

Sophie (old) sitting at Howl's bedside from the anime movie Howl's Moving Castle
Sophie (old) sitting at Howl’s bedside

Later in the movie, we also learn that the Witch of the Waste is using magic to alter her own appearance, as well. Not only did she make Sophie look old, but she also makes herself look far younger than she is. So, Howl has two old women going after him (romantically).

Then, there’s also Suliman, another old woman mage with an interest in Howl. Suliman is a bit different than Sophie and the Witch of the Waste, though. As far as we know, she’s not attracted to Howl. Instead, she wants Howl to use his magic to help her win a war against a rival nation.

Howl’s Moving Castle is a bit odd in that it seems to have two, very different lessons. On one hand, it appears to be a commentary on how growing old isn’t that bad. And on the other, it’s an anti-war movie. These two aspects of the movie felt very disconnected.

And Then They All Lived Happily Ever After

The worst part of Howl’s Moving Castle was easily the end. Everything wraps up at once without any real reasoning. It’s not even a Deus ex machina ending. No magic power saved the day in the end. Instead, all the conflict ends for no reason.

Well, I shouldn’t say that all the conflict ends for no reason. The stuff with the Witch of the Waste had an ending that made sense. The Witch of the Waste relinquished Howl’s heart to help save him in the end. And I thought her arc was fine.

But, what about the whole war thing with Suliman? Well, once Howl and Sophie decided they love each other, Suliman called off the war. Why? I have no idea. It’s not like Howl’s love life had anything to do with the war. He was just another mage Suliman wanted to use as a weapon.

The Witch of the Waste (old) from the anime movie Howl's Moving Castle
The Witch of the Waste (old)

It’s also not like the war depended on Howl’s participation. It had been going on throughout the entire movie. And Howl had been fighting against Suliman’s forces. So, why is Suliman calling off the war now that Howl has a girlfriend? It doesn’t make any sense.

To me, it seemed like the whole war aspect of the movie was almost an afterthought. There was some interesting stuff about war turning people into monsters. For example, when Howl uses magic to fight, he turns into a bird monster. But, without a real conclusion, that was all pointless.

Oh, and then there’s the scarecrow. Sophie saved a magic scarecrow early in the movie and he shows up a few times. And then, in the end, he turns into a human and declares he’s always loved her. But, she loves Howl, so sucks to be him. What was that about?


I gave Howl’s Moving Castle a 6/10, which is in line with how I ranked it against the other Ghibli movies I’ve seen. Most of the movie was good. But, the ending left a lot to be desired. It didn’t feel like the movie had a real conclusion.

If you enjoyed this review, remember to click the like button down below. Also, follow me on your social media of choice so you don’t miss out on future articles — links are in the footer.

Finally, I’d like to thank Roman and JasonHK for supporting at the Heika tier this month. To learn more about how you can support this blog, check out

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