Howl’s Moving Castle (the book)

A fairytale of a playboy wizard, a woman with the trauma of being the eldest sibling, and a fire demon that will curse your bacon.

The first Studio Ghibli film I watched was when I was around age 20. I have no nostalgia for Hayo Miyazaki’s work, but I have loved each of his films that I’ve experienced. Even though I never watched Totoro or Kiki as a kid, his movies still evoke some strange sort of nostaliga. His movies definitely have a range, from the bittersweet tears of The Wind Rises to the gentle Kiki’s Delivery Service, but they all have a surrealness to them. That surreal aura bleeds into in a general cozy feeling, and you know I’m all about that cozy feeling.

After a wet, cold day, we decided it was prime Ghibli weather and we’d spend some time with Howl’s Moving Castle. It had been a decade or so since I last watched it, and man that is just a lovely movie. On watching, I noticed a little blurb that the movie was based on a book with the same name. About an hour after the movie ended, I started reading the book from 1986 by Diana Wynne Jones.

There are many similarities, but far more differences in the book from the movie. The Howl and Sophie from the movie are more gentle, more regal than their page-based counterparts. I love both versions. The Howl and Sophie of the book are less fairytale-esque characters, more flawed (and more charming for those flaws). The movie is a remix of the the book’s story, and while I was surprised by a few bits, most of the new beats were predictable. I had a few issues with clarity of action and characters, but overall it was nice 300-something page children’s book. It was pleasant. It had that coziness that Miyazaki brings to his movies. I appreciated the additional depth to Sophie, Howl, and Calcifer over the move. They stand as two distinct things in my mind. I’ll end up reading this with the kids at bedtime, and enjoy visiting them again.