Hello everyone! I’m Mokugyo, a proud anime lover and writer of the Anime Study column here on Manga.Tokyo.
The Japanese TV recently held the 15th broadcast for My Neighbor Totoro and the 11th for Porco Rosso. It’s already been decades since the two films were aired for the first time, but their classic status, a status shared by their Director Hayao Miyazaki and the Studio Ghibli, make these movies as popular as ever.
Hayao Miyazaki is one of the few directors that was known outside his home country for his animated movies (Makoto Shinkai is slowly changing that with his masterpiece Kimi no Na wa.) and his Spirited Away received an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. One of his most dedicated fans is Toy Story director and Disney executive, John Lasster.
Howl’s Moving Castle, the Studio Ghibli movie based on the titular fantasy novel by Dianne Wynne Jone, was released in 2004. It’s about the love story between Howl, a strong magician, and Sophie, a girl who turned into an old lady. The movie received many awards, including the Osella award of the 61st Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografic. In Japan it made 19.6 billion JPY in the box office, currently holding the fifth place in the All Time Japanese Box Office list, in which Spirited Away is first with 30.4 billion JPY.
I thought it would be nice to share with you a few trivia about the movie!
※This include spoilers of the movie. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
1. Miyazaki was not going to direct the movie
Howl’s Moving Castle was originally planned to be directed by Mamoru Hosoda, the famous anime director that is considered by most to be the one who takes on the mantle from Hayao Miyazaki. He was invited by Studio Ghibli to make the movie, but he was dropped midway. Hayao Miyazaki took over and completed it, so you could say that the movie was actually done by both of them.
Mamoru Hosoda left Studio Ghibli shortly after he was dropped from Howl’s Moving Castle. He found his own studio, Studio Ghizu, in 2011, and created some of the most incredible anime movies of this decade: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars, Wolf Children and The Boy and the Beast.
2. Why there is no moving sound for the castle
Howl’s castle is huge. However, it’s rather quiet when it moves. Why is that?
Actually, this castle is made of papier-mâché. Inside the castle, there are only the living room, Howl’s room, Markl’s room, the bathroom, and the toilet. Its huge appearance just makes it intimidating. Its big front and cannon don’t actually work at all. Everything is there so that people can run away from the witch.
To express this feature, Director Hayao Miyazaki decided to reduce the noise the castle does when it moves. If you didn’t notice, then try watching the movie again.
3. The reason why Sophie has only one voice actor in the Japanese version
Sophie turns from an 18-year-old girl into 90-year-old lady. You can’t have the same voice actor doing a little girl and a grandma, can you? That’s what production companies overseas thought and assigned different voice actor for the young Sophie and the old Sophie.
However, in the Japanese version, Chieko Baisho is doing both roles. She is a veteran voice actor in her 60s. Most people thought that having Chieko do both was a bad idea, but Miyazaki was insisting. What was his intention?
Sophie is the true heroine of the movie. For Howl, she is everything, from a lover and a mother to a grandmother and a little sister. As she changes ages, her expressions change as well. There was no way that different actors could portray a person whose appearance may change, but her thoughts don’t.
Chieko Baisho was appearing in the popular TV movie series Otoko wa Tsurai yo for many years, from the 1960s to the 1990s. Chieko plays Sakura, the protagonist’s younger sister. Japanese people in their late 30s still remember Sakura calling her big brother onii-chan, and I think that Miyazaki wanted that recognition.
4. Sophie’s words are imbued with magical power
Sophie’s words in the original work have magical properties. However, there is nothing like this in the movie and she was depicted as a normal lady. Why is that?
Sophie’s look changes rapidly in the movie. The Witch of the Waste’s curse turns Sophie into a 90-year-old lady but she returns to her young state when she sleeps. She also returns to her young state when she is talking to Suliman. That’s why the curse in the movie is just a form of autosuggestion. Her state of mind is reflected on her appearance.
Hayao Miyazaki wanted to show that you don’t need special powers to change your appearance. It’s all there, in the way we look and how we behave. Active people look young and inertia makes us look old and tired.
5. The original work didn’t include the theme of ‘war’
One of the big differences between the original work and the movie is that the war theme was added to Howl’s Moving Castle.
Director Hayao Miyazaki is a military maniac. We are talking about heavy war geek. He knows many things about fighters and tanks. However, Director Hayao Miyazaki is against the war. He thinks that war is something to be hated and despised. He has expressed his conflicting emotions, his love towards weapons and his hate towards war, through his anime movies for many years.
In Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, you have the Giant Warriors who have the power to destroy the world. In Laputa: Castle in the Sky, you have the robot army. Porco Rosso’s main character, Porco Ross, used to be a war pilot. In the first two cased the destructive weapors were destroyed and Porco turned himself into a pig after the war to live freely. As you can see, Director Hayao Miyazaki depicts war in the movies but denies the concept during their conclusion.
Howl has strong magical powers and he can beat the demon soldiers and shoot down the flying boat. He is handsome and attracts many women. He can be considered an ultimate weapon. Sophie, on the other hand, is like a symbol of the peace that stops Howl from fighting. Howl’s Moving Castle is a story in which Howl, a symbol of weapon and war, and Sophie, a symbol of love and peace, get together. At the end of the movie, the words Happy End appear. This shows how Director Hayao’s love towards weapons and hate towards war come together and make a happy ending.
Have you seen Howl’s Moving Castle? Do you have a movie you want to learn more about? Let me know in the comments!
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