Hello! I quite enjoy your blog a lot, keep up the wonderful content. I saw your post about favorite books and was curious: what are your thoughts on the film Howl's Moving Castle? And I'd like to hear in more detail why Howl is one of your favorite books, please.
Thanks so much!
I think I’ll talk about the book first.
Whenever I talk about Howl’s Moving Castle (and it’s sort of sequel also near and dear to my heart, House of Many Ways), I joke that it’s because I basically am Sophie Hatter or Charmain Baker. The Howl series protagonists aren’t the super competent, action girls you get in a lot of current YA novels. Maybe that’s an unfair generalization, but that seems to be the current trend. A lot of assassin girls and revolution leaders out there, and that’s awesome. But Sophie’s main conflict is dealing with her meekness, this sort of internal and external stagnation. As the book goes on, old age and simply not giving a fuck about people’s opinions gives her power. Her magic is basically bossiness. As a moderately shy, very introverted person who also feels (inside my mind) like a grumpy old man 85% of the time, it makes me want to laugh and cry every time I read it.
And the humor and heart is really what makes the book great. The wit is so English (I think Diana was technically Welsh but my dad is English and that’s how I relate to it). Just look it up on Goodreads and you can read some of the amazing little ho-ho’s in the quote section. There are references to literature left right and center. The meek protagonist can stand toe to toe with the Great and Powerful wizard because, really, he’s a goofball too. True power comes from the heart but it also comes from the ability to see past the bullshit of everything, etc. The fairy tale tropes are used to their full extent without being cliched or romanticized. In the book, unlike the movie, we have more about Sophie’s sisters switching places and their reasonable and quiet defiance to the order of things (that the youngest sister gets adventure, the older two are unlucky). The book is just quirky. Like the first few Harry Potter books before they got dark and the movies made their aesthetic a little more mainstream.
I’ll save my rambling about why I love House of Many Ways for another time. Although I could sum it up with: magical laundry.
On the other hand, the film Howl’s Moving Castle is a different sort of beast. I like the movie. I like Studio Ghibli. They make some of the most beautiful films I’ve ever watched. They are just damn charming, good movies. I can’t, exactly, think of the film as a direct adaptation of the novel, though. The film took the same basic characters, the basic plot, and made it something else. The Wicked Witch of the Waste is a real, sympathetic character that I ended up loving. Calcifer is cute as well as caustic. The stakes are raised… a lot. Howl becomes some sort of bird creature? It’s awesome. But it’s not the same. The novel feels like a personal story of one girl and her connections, friends and family. It’s a coming of age story, with the fantastical and ominous elements that comes with growing up.
The film tells a story about war and human folly and is much more of a romance. The film has the romantic attachment from the very beginning, the novel mostly has Sophie sometimes-fondly-sometimes-not huffing and rolling her eyes at Howl, who is pretty ridiculous. Film Howl is 10x more noble. In the movie, True Love triumphs through or despite the meaninglessness, helplessness of darkness, etc. Ghibli’s Sophie seems to not so much as rise to the occasion because she had inner strength and drive all along, but because (like the revolution leader girls) her circumstances and love drove her to produce that strength.
I love both. The way I see the book and the film doesn’t mean that one is better than the other. But the book will always resonant more strongly with me.
Anyway, that was probably a much longer answer than you expected or wanted, but there you are. I’m procrastinating reading for a class, okay.