Howl’s Moving Castle Review

Words by Andy Caley


Hayao Miyazaki returns once again with another bizarre, beautiful and visually-stunning animation. Based on the book by Diana Wynne Jones, ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ tells the tale of a young insecure Sophie, cursed with the body of a weak old lady. It is the hedonistic, yet insecure wizard, Howl, and his friends, living in the legendary moving castle, whom she must rely on to break her curse.

The first thing to mention about this film is the beautiful animation. It will take your breath away – the attention to detail is immaculate, showing that animation is still as alive and evolving as computerised films, like ‘Pixar’ and ‘Dreamwork’s. Both can easily live together harmoniously as equals.

Like Miyazaki’s previous films (in particular reference to his Oscar winning film Spirited Away’), this is a wonderfully weird fairytale.

As in most Miyazaki films, the laws of the universe no longer apply, so for the duration of the film, you have to forget them. Yet, it is the love and elegance of this bizarre world that charms you, something that is rather ‘Miyazakian’.

With a myriad of loveable and redeemable characters, it is Sophie and Howl that steal the show, brilliantly voiced by Emily Mortimer (as young Sophie) and Jean Simmons (as old Sophie) and Christian Bale in the English dubbed version.

Miyazaki brilliantly captures Sophie’s blossoming to a confident and beautiful young woman. Yet, Howl is a rather enigmatic character, someone we have to peel in order to see what he is hiding beneath all the magic and good looks.

While it lacks the goosebump feeling of ‘Spirited Away’, it makes up for it in charm. It has the beauty and grace of ‘Princess Mononoke’ and the fun of ‘Laputa: Castle in the Sky’. This is a thoroughly enjoyable film for all ages that will warm the cockles of your heart.

Spirited Away Review

Words by Benjamin Pinsent


‘Spirited Away’ (2001) is considered to be the main reason why anyone knows anything about ‘Studio Ghibli’. But why is this film the one that broke the ground more so than any other ‘Ghibli’ film?

The style and character design remain consistent to the Ghibli aesthetic: weird creatures populate painted landscapes. All the art is beautifully realised, as it is in any other film by Hayao Miyazaki. This coupled with the exquisite music makes this film a joy to see and listen to.

What is striking about the film is that the main character Chihiro is not a Hollywood child, i.e. a smart talking little adult, but a real child who has character flaws. She is selfish, lazy and cowardly and it is through the events of the film she grows up to be more mature. Another great character is No-Face, a character with almost no dialogue or facial expression but like Wall-e he is able to do so much with so little.

The reason for the major publicity is mainly thanks to John Lassiter (co-founder of ‘Pixar’). He convinced ‘Disney’ to pick up the dubbing license for the film and consequently any other release

. But though this may have given us a great film and animation company ‘Disney’ are perhaps the worst thing about the film; over dubbing dialogue with too many “ohs” and “ahs” and their choice of voice actors sometimes lets down the film as a voice will not fit a character model.

But, apart from that this is a must see for fans of film and animation a like.

Mayazaki and Hisaishi: Studio Ghibli’s Eyes and Ears

Words by Eifion Jones

Since the release of the much loved and widely received classic ‘Spirited Away’, ‘Studio Ghibli’ has started to become a name to be reckoned with in the world of animation, easily up there with the likes of ‘Disney’ and ‘Pixar’.

Like Disney (albeit, Disney quite a while ago) ‘Studio Ghibli’ has been telling stories to both young and old alike, with the use of fairytale, allegory etc. But ‘Studio Ghibl’i is as the name suggests, a Studio. So who is responsible for these masterpieces of animation?

Though it was co-founded by two Japanese animators, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, it is arguably the former that is responsible for the Studio’s biggest hits ; ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ and ‘Princess Mononoke’.

‘Princess Mononoke’ being my favourite of Studio Ghibli’s in their impressive catalogue, it may seem that my high regard of Miyazaki is slightly biased. But, to his credit, ‘Spirited Away’ is the only film outside of America to ever have won a Best Animated Feature Oscar, so credit where credit is due.

Miyazaki’s unique style of animation is revered by many and his ambiguous portrayal of both genders and morals, persistent message of the fragility, beauty of nature and subtle but poignant symbolism make his films both interesting and entertaining. A combination it seems, only a few can master. It only takes a single viewing of any of Michael Bay’s Transformers series to realise some directors manage neither.

If Miyazaki can be seen as the eyes of ‘Studio Ghibli’, but who is its ears? Anyone who has seen any of Miyazaki’s wonderful films will no doubt remember the epic scores that accompanied their blissful imagery.

Those ears would be Joe Hisaishi’s, a composer who is a frequent collaborator with both Miyazaki and ‘Studio Ghibli’.

His first collaboration with Miyazaki was in ‘Nausicaa of the valley of the wind’ in 1983. Since then he has continued to work with him until Miyazaki’s most recent film, ‘Ponyo’ in 2008. The result of this 25 year partnership has meant some of the finest original film scores not just in animation, but film in general.

Given that film is both an auditory and visual experience, the fact that this partnership works so well is perhaps why their films are so successful. I think they would both agree that the films are theirs given that it is the fusion of Hisaishi’s composing and Miyazaki’s storytelling  help breathe life into the mostly hand drawn motion pictures, which audiences have grown to love.

It seems only fair then, that as time rolls on, this partnership be remembered in the same vein as Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan, Ennio Morricone and Sergio Leone, David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti and many more.