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Howl's Moving Castle (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)


Howl's Moving Castle and My Neighbor Totoro are just two of Hayao Miyazaki's many fantastic anime films, and while neither is my favorite Miyazaki feature, they are both still really great films and have been recently released as Blu-ray/DVD combo packs. I tend to watch anime films with the original Japanese dialog using English subtitles to understand what's being said, but Disney's English dubbings are top notch with true voice talent and make experiencing the film in English just as pleasurable.

The adventure in Howl's Moving Castle begins when the handsome magical Howl steps in to protect the eighteen year old Sophie from being harassed by a couple of guards. As he escorts her to the bakery, magical slime creatures appear and Howl must whisk Sophie away into the air to avoid them. They literally walk on air until he drops her off at the bakery... unfortunately, this little experience catches the eye of the evil Wicked Witch of the Waste, who casts a spell on Sophie turning her into an old lady. She decides that she can't stay, and heads out on foot to seek a cure for her curse.

Sophie travels to the Wastes, which are supposed to contain wizards and witches. Along her journey she finds an odd turnip-headed scarecrow on a stick that she sets up right, and quickly realizes has some sort of spell cast on it as it can hop around by itself and seems to help her out by finding her shelter. The shelter it finds is Howl's castle, which looks like a giant steampunk machine walking on four little chicken legs. Inside, she meets Calcifer, a spicy little fire demon with some kind of attitude, and they make a deal that if she helps him break his curse then he'll help her break her curse.

It's a great setup, and the enjoyment continues as she meets a little kid apprentace wizard named Markl, and then the wizard himself, Howl. Of course he doesn't recognize her, and she explains her presence by saying Calcifer hired her as a cleaning lady. Howl is impressed with the way she is able to hold her own against Calcifer, and the dynamic between them is simply fun. I don't want to get into the whole plot about the war or Howl's transformations, so I'll just move on to the art and animation, which as you may expect from a Miyazaki film, is absolutely superb. I've never seen a Studio Ghibli film that looked anything less than spectacular, and in high-def on Blu-ray just makes it even better.

There are some nice extras, such as the Behind the Microphone and interviews, and then there are the standard ones like storyboards and TV commercials. So nothing outstanding there but decent enough. It's the movie that really shines, especially on Blu-ray, so that right there makes this worth getting.

Extras

  • Behind the Microphone
  • Interview With Pixar Animation Studios Director Pete Docter (co-producer of the English dub)
  • Hello Mr. Lasseter: Hayao Miyazaki Visits Pixar Animation Studios
  • Original Japanese Storyboards
  • Original Japanese TV Spots and Trailers

That's My Girl - Howl and Sophie fly over the town to escape

Air Chase - Howl gives Sophie the controls of the flying machine and tells her how to get home

Moving Spell - Howl uses a magic spell to move the Castle

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