Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Screenplay: Hayao Miyazaki
Based on the novel by: Dianne Wynne Jones
Starring: (English Cast) Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall, Billy Crystal, Josh Hutcherson, Blythe Danner, Jenna Malone
Country: Japan
Running Time: 119min
Year: 2004
BBFC Certification: U

When Sophie, a timid young woman, is cursed but a witch into an elderly body, she embarks on a quest to find the mysterious wizard Howl, who travels the land in his walking castle. Hoping that Howl can cure her curse, she travels with him through a war torn land learning about magic, love and betrayal.

 

Originally released in 2004, directed by Hayao Miyazaki and based on the novel by Dianne Wynne Jones, Howls Moving Castle is certainly one of the better known films from Japanese animation house, Studio Ghibli. This box set from Studio Canal celebrates the 15th anniversary of the UK release with a lush selection of goodies.

The film itself is a rather timeless fantasy, a mix of lush romantic whimsy and an almost surrealist edge. Almost a fairy tale with a steampunk edge it’s an easier film for a family audience than some of Ghibli’s darker fantasy works like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, but not as light as the likes of My Neighbour Totoro and Arrietty.

At its core, it’s a love story, set to the background of a growing war in which the magic of the land is partaking in to varying degrees. But it’s also a character piece which explores the changes that Sophie as a character is forced to go through and how her influence over Howl helps take him from being a rather vain and petulant man to a noble and honourable one who is willing to go to great measures to protect those closest to him.

The script never feels overstuffed with characters which lets us get to know the supporting cast from Howl’s young ward, Markl, the fire demon that is literally the heart and soul of the wizard’s magic, Calcifer, and the nefarious antagonist The Witch of the Wastes. There’s obviously an argument for watching it in its original Japanese with subtitles, but the English language cast does a fantastic job here with great turns from the likes of Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Billy Crystal and a young, pre Hunger Games Josh Hutcherson.

There’s a rich depth to the hand drawn animation which modern CG techniques never seem to be able to truly capture (although it should be noted that there are times here when the hand animation is augmented and complimented with CG) – it’s a shame that traditional animation seems to be a thing of the past but it’s fantastic to see the craftsmanship on display here and the visuals really pop in this Blu-Ray transfer. When things get really weird which happens fairly frequently, there’s an almost Dali-esque feel to the imagery, and Miyazaki has clearly taken a great deal of influence from surrealism here.

The audio also adds to the magic and atmosphere, from the sound design to the majestic score by Joe Hisaishi which punctuates but never intrudes on the action. Howl’s moving castle is a gorgeous film through and through and an essential animated family film.

Bonus Features

On the disc:

  • Alternative angle storyboards
  • Interview with author, Diana Wynne Jones
  • Interview with Pixar’s Pete Doctor
  • Hello Mr. Lasseter Featurette: Hayao Miyazaki Visits Pixar
  • Explanation of CG Featurette
  • The Sounds of Howl’s Moving Castle Featurette
  • Behind the Microphone Featurette
  • Original Japanese Trailers
  • Studio Ghibli Trailer Reel

In the box set:

  • Limited to 1000 units
  • Holographically numbered
  • Includes the Blu-ray edition of the film
  • Packed in a deluxe oversized rigid box with brand new exclusive artwork
  • Packaged with 200 page hardback ‘The Art Of Howl’s Moving Castle’ book
  • Exclusive oversized 8’x8’ art cards
  • Exclusive 23.5’ x 32.5’ poster featuring original Japanese theatrical artwork
  • Exclusive trolley coin keyring
  • Exclusive drawstring bag featuring the anniversary logo
  • Exclusive set of drinks coasters

Let’s get this out of the way to start with – the copy of the film you get with this new box set is the exact same Studio Ghibli Collection Blu-Ray that was released in 2011. It’s a shame that Studio Canal haven’t taken the opportunity to produce a new master or even a 4K transfer for this set, but that doesn’t mean that the disc is bad. It’s still got the same great special features which provide a look behind the craft of the film, as well as interviews with Diana Wynne Jones and Pixar’s Pete Doctor.

The real appeal in this set is for collectors and super fans, and while we didn’t get a change to check out all the physical goodies this edition comes bundled with, they look like they should be appealing to fans. The new artwork, for starters, is gorgeous and the 200 page art book looks to be a great addition. While it’s a shame that the box doesn’t contain a copy of the original book to round it out, this strictly limited edition set will be one for collectors to try and grab.

Howl’s Moving Castle (15th Anniversary Box Set)
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