A must read, if you don't already know ...

Written by Funn Lim

"A must buy for any Hayao Miyazaki fan. What a treat! What an amazing treat!"


Hauru no ugoku shiro

Released In

You name it, there is probably a version with it. I do know for a fact there is the Japanese, English, Cantonese, Mandarin, French version. My favourite is English version because no need to read subtitles but for some voices the Japanese version is better. Mandarin version I do not like but Cantonese is great because it is cute. Reminds me of Spirited Away whether the Cantonese version is my favourite. As for subtitles, there's Chinese, English, Malay and I think that's about it. I personally hated the English subtitles because if you watch the Japanese version, when the song is played, the subtitles will show the lyrics of the songs BUT the characters are still talking and whatever they said are lost in translation drowned by the translated lyrics.

Funn, can I possibly get the DVD with all the above languages in it?
Why yes, of course. Go to Berjaya Times Square, Kuala Lumpur. You can find it there.

Directed by
Hayao Miyazaki

Writing credits
Hayao Miyazaki (screenplay)
Diana Wynne Jones (novel)

I have been trying to find the novel at MPH and Kinokuniya and guess what? YES! SOLD OUT!

Chieko Baisho .... Sofî (voice)
Takuya Kimura .... Hauru (voice)
Akihiro Miwa .... Arechi no Majo (voice)
Tatsuya Gashuin .... Karushifâ (voice)
Ryunosuke Kamiki .... Marukuru (voice)
Mitsunori Isaki .... Koshô (voice)
Yo Oizumi .... Kakashi no Kabu (voice)
Akio Ôtsuka .... Kokuô (voice)
Daijiro Harada .... Hin (voice)
Haruko Kato .... Sariman (voice)
Jane Alan .... Honey (voice: English version) (as Mari Devon)
Carlos Alazraqui .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Newell Alexander .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Rosemary Alexander .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Lauren Bacall .... Witch of the Waste (voice: English version)
Christian Bale .... Howl (voice: English version)
Julia Barnett .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Susan Blakeslee .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Leslie Carrara .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Mitch Carter .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
David Cowgill .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Billy Crystal .... Calcifer (voice: English version)
Blythe Danner .... Madam Suliman (voice: English version)
Holly Dorff .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Moosie Drier .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Ike Eisenmann .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Crispin Freeman .... Prince Turnip (voice: English version)
Will Friedle .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Sofie Gråbøl .... Sofie (voice)
Bridget Hoffman .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Richard Steven Horvitz .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Sherry Hursey .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Josh Hutcherson .... Markl (voice: English version)
Hope Levy .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Christina MacGregor .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Jena Malone .... Lettie (voice: English version)
Joel McCrary .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Edie Mirman .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Emily Mortimer .... Young Sophie (voice: English version)
Liliana Mumy .... Madge (voice: English version)
Daran Norris .... Additional Voices
Peter Renaday .... Additional Voices (voice: English version) (as Pete Renaday)
Kristen Rutherford .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)
Mark Silverman .... King (voice: English version)
Jean Simmons .... Old Sophie (voice: English version)
Warren Sroka .... Additional Voices (voice: English version)

My review will be of the English version with passing mention of the Japanese version

Taken from

Young Sophie Hatter is cursed by the Witch of the Waste, and turns into an old hag. Ashamed of how she looks, she flees into the hills where a moving castle roams the hills. It is said to belong to the young and handsome wizard Howl, who has a bad reputation. Within the castle, Sophie befriends the fire demon Calcifer, who promises to help her become young again. One catch: she must help Calcifer to be free of Howl, and Calcifer cannot tell her how. However, Sophie agrees to stay and try to find out about the contract through other ways. Still, Howl can see that Sophie is under a spell like Calcifer can, and he falls in love with her for who she is and not for what she looks like. Sophie manages to bring life to the moving castle, and she helps Howl to face his former tutor, Madam Suliman.

Wahhhh! Takayu Kimura! I was like "woahhhhh! Takayu Kimura!" and then I read the English version was Christian Bale and I was like "woahhhhh! Christian Bale!". I don't know why, this movie just had me in awe. It is not a perfect story, in fact Spirited Away is better in the story department but somehow I could watch this movie again and again and never feel bored with it. I suspect it is shorter than Spirited Away but no less imaginative. For one, the landscape is dreamy and gorgeous. I totally love the Japanese anime's version of landscape plus total silence. I could feel goosebump. I especially love the drawings of wind blowing the green grass, river, rain, you know natural stuff.

But the sight to behold is the moving castle itself. To call it a castle is an overstatement. It looks more like a fish with legs but every bit as imaginative and beautiful. I totally love the moving castle which has personality of its own. Inside the castle is suprisingly smaller. I expect bigger since the fish is so big but inside somehow looks tighter in space. But still as imaginative as ever. It may look like a pigsty before Sophie cleaned it but still what a place. What I like is the ability to change space and the location by the switch of the dial at the door. Like Sophie, I too wanted to explore the castle and like her I too fell in love with that place. Amazing animation, amazing stuff.

But let's get back to the story.

I have never read the book and I was told there were some differences between the book and the movie. In fact the movie may not have explained certain things that the book may have explained in detail, hence my hunt for the book, quite unsuccessfully at the date of this review. For one, I didn't quite understand the relationship between Calcifer and Howl. I didn't quite get it the relationship between Howl and The Witch Of The Waste. In fact the translation from the Japanese version and the English version itself is so different. One said Howl rejected The Witch because he found out he was Ugly (English version) whilst the other said Howl ran away from The Wicth because she was horrible (Japanese version). If you read carefully they're very different. The former implies that Howl once had a relationship with her whilst the other implied a more neutral relationship. I was confused. Other than that the ever changing look of Sophie, from old to young to old again confused me as to whether she was still old or not. But after repeated viewing I understood that to some people they saw her in her true form. But the most confusing was the ending; so was she young again? Someone explained yes, the curse was broken. I need to read the book to know how since the movie did not elaborate on that.

Whilst there are serious flaws with the story, the characters themselves are such a delight to watch.

I like the older Sophie rather than the younger one. Even in the Japanese version I found the younger Sophie lacking personality and such a boring character. This is even so when the scene had her changing from old to young and back to old. But the older Sophie is really something. As Sophie was no longer shackled by the fact of her unattractiveness as the younger Sophie (yes hard to believe she was supposed to be plain since the animation really drew her in a very pretty way), the older Sophie could do more like scolding, complaining, even with sarcasm. I was so sorry to see her being young again but then how can Howl be with a 90 year old woman? Even the voice was suitable. In the English version, Jean Simmons truly gave Sophie spunk and attitude. Her voice is kind and yet forceful with an opinion to share. Her observations also truly witty. Emily Mortimer as the younger Sophie fell flat like the character. Truly excrutiatingly boring. The Japanese version surprisingly has the same effect!

I also like Howl although I find him a bit childish and placed too much emphasis on beauty. Like he said "How can I live if I can't be beautiful?". Just shows how shallow he is. And yet there were some scenes that show the sinister side of it, and although Howl looked more like a very beautiful man (almost like a woman, like in all Japanese anime), there is no doubt there is a certain dangerous edge to Howl however shallow he may be. He seems pretty cool too, unperturbed by the fact that Sophie suddenly took up residence in the castle. And he fell for her despite her looks. As for the voice, Christian Bale really nailed the mysteriousness and playfullness of the character. In fact he sounded like Bruce Wayne, on a very happy day. He has such a beautiful voice well suited for animation and I feel he did the role justice. I really like the way he flirted with the older Sophie, very playful. The Japanese version is also just as great. Takayu Kimura has such a deep soothing voice that can be said as sexy. Perfect casting as well. Frankly I like the English version better because I like Christian Bale more and I am more familiar with his work. Takayu Kimura I know by reputation.

Markl, Howl's young apprentice is super cute. I like this character very much and his playful interaction with the older Sophie. Voiced perfectly by Josh Hutcherson, this young boy really gave Markl such a cute disposition.

The Witch of the Waste is an enigma. I am not even sure if she is good or bad or senile or pretend to be senile. But a very interesting character. Lauren Bacall who voiced this character did an amazing job. Just watch and I bet you wouldn't know it was her! I saw the Japanese version in some parts to hear the voice of the Witch. It is deeper, lower and manlier and may I say, somewhat fits the character more. However both actors did their interpretation and both were wonderful although the Japanese voice was more scary, more menacing.

Madam Suliman is an interesting character. She appears very late in the movie and doesn't much but this is one character that I wonder is she good or bad? Very nicely voiced by Blythe Danner who sound similar to the Japanese voice, I for one prefer the Japanese voice though. That voice is more womanly, more high pitch and in a way more sinister which makes Madam Suliman such a mysterious character and I know why Howl feared her. However her scene also involved a very strangely translated scene. That scene was where Howl escaped with old Sophie and Madam Suliman in the English version said she now knows how to deal with Howl because of his love for Sophie which meant she will do something sinister to Sophie AND YET in the Japanese version in the same scene she said Sophie looked very young. That was it! It indicates that she knew Sophie was under a curse and nothing more. Why the difference in translation?

My most favourite character in this movie, apart from the very cute dog called Hin is Calcifer. I feel the English version is way better than the Japanese version because in the English version, Calcifer is so funny. His animation is wonderful, imaginative and so very cute. Like a walking talking fire ball actually. I didn't know who voiced him. I thought Nathan Lane, but Nathan Lane had a higher pitched voice. I thought Kevin Spacey but couldn't be. And then I read in that it was Billy Crystal! I would never have guessed! I believe he was the best in here, giving Calcifer such a delightful funny and witty personality and I enjoyed his interaction with Sophie. What I like best though is the animation. Look at the way he eats the egg shells and all! What a beautiful animation.

Everybody else were just as well cast and the animation superb. I have a few favourite scenes in here, one of which is when Howl threw a tantrum and how old Sophie dealt with his temper. The other was Sophie, a 90 year old woman carrying Hin an old heavy dog up some hundred steps of stairs to see Madam Suliman and the Witch Of The Waste was made to walk the same steps. The way they two walked up slowly with the Witch sweating profusely and old Sophie breathing loudly and all, it was just one of the really funny scenes in this movie. It is also nice to see Sophie encouraging the Witch, despite the fact that the Witch cursed her to be as such and yet had no counter curse because she didn't know any. Why she was cursed was because Howl helped Sophie earlier and out of jealousy the Witch who was obsessed with Howl's heart (you can saw love, you can literally his heart) cursed Sophie in one of the scariest scene in the movie. The way Sophie dealt with her sudden aged body was also interesting although unbelievably calm. But that is not a flaw, rather an observation.

What more can I say? Despite the poor story and sometimes patchy translation, I just love this movie. I must admit though Sophie's character is more like an observor than a participant, and Howl is rarely seen but heck! The moving castle, cute boy, cute scarecrow, cute everything, great animation, beautiful scenery? Just look at this movie which is boasted as one of the best English dubbed there is.

A must buy for any Hayao Miyazaki fan. What a treat! What an amazing treat!


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