In Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyasaki’s animated treasure Howl’s Moving Castle, you enter a breathtaking fantasy world that is not only pleasing to the eye, but to the heart.  Sophie is a young woman who works in a hat shop and one day she strikes up a friendship with a young wizard named Howl.  Jealous of their encounter, the Witch of the Waste (who is after Howl’s heart) places a curse on Sophie to give her the body of an old woman.  Unsure of how to break her curse, Sophie travels to the outskirts of town, known as the Wastes where she looks for someone to help her.  It is here that she comes across a strange moving castle belonging to Howl.  Inside she meets and makes a deal with a fire demon named Calcifer that if she can break the spell that enslaves Calcifer, that he will break her spell and turn her into a young woman again.  An amazing story of sorceresses, wizards, and demons begins as Sophie joins the rag tag little family of Howl and his apprentice Markl.

Howl’s Moving Castle is an amazing animated adventure that the entire family will enjoy.  Not only it is a masterpiece for the eye, but the story and characters are endearing to the heart.  No one can animate a story like Miyasaki.  Like his other movies, Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle’s beauty is in the attention to details. Each scene is a piece of art with Miyasaki’s touches on everything important like characters and scenes to the less important like the books and the jewelry.  Full of vibrant colors and larger than life nuances, you’ll forget that you are watching an animated feature.  The entire movie is an amazing dream full of life, story, and character.  There is a richness that cannot be ignored that makes each scene stunningly surprising.  Miyasaki raises the bar for animation with this movie, which he previously set the bar for with his other animated masterpieces.  Howl’s Moving Castle has all the typical Miyasaki ingredients like picturesque panoramas, magical machinery, and creative characters.

Along with the animation, the other assets of this movie are the story and the characters.  Howl’s Moving Castle is based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones and what a creative story it is.  Even the summary at the beginning of this review does not do it justice, but I would need a couple of pages to give a full explanation and then I would be giving away some of the surprises.  Think of it: a walking castle with a magical portal that is owned by a young wizard who has lost his heart to a demon and is in danger of turning into a complete monster with out the love of a young woman maliciously cursed as an older woman who has her own curse to lift; how can you get any better than that?   Then there are the characters like the heroine Sophie, who not only transforms physically but also goes from a shy and timid shop girl into an outspoken and courageous girl in love.  The hero Howl is devilishly charming wizard but also imperfect and human.  You truly begin to care about these characters and feel for them.  A phenomenon that still amazes me when animated characters become emotionally attachable.  All in all Howl’s Moving Castle is a dream-like work of art that should be in every movie lover’s repertoire as seen and even owned.