Howl’s Moving Castle Review: Strong Beginning, Confusing Ending.

4 stars
Hayao Miyazaki obviously has a strong liking for steampunk films, as shown by Castle in The Sky, and fantasy stories, as can be seen with his films My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away.
Well, with his 2004 anime Howl’s Moving Castle, he merges these two genres to create an interesting tale about a young woman named Sophie (Chieko Baisho) who, while living in a steampunk world, is cursed to look like an old woman by the Witch of the Waste (Akihiro Miwa) after encountering the mysterious wizard, Howl (Takuya Kimura).
Searching for a cure, she is reunited with Howl, his apprentice Markl (Ryunosuke Kamiki), a demon named Calcifer (Tatsuya Gashuin), and a living scarecrow, and goes on numerous adventures with them in Howl’s titular moving castle.

sophie and howl
On her journey, Sophie encounters many weird and magical things, with Howl at the center.

The beginning of Howl’s Moving Castle is strong, with the characters and world being introduced well, and the inciting incident of Sophie being turned into an old woman set up as being essential to the plot.
Not only this but the combination of fantasy and steampunk in this world is fascinating because of how it shows the magical and the technological interacting.
The animation that shows off these various technologies and magic spells is incredibly well done, as I was in awe at the first shot of Howl’s Castle.
Along with this, the characters are also likeable, although I will say that the romance between Sophie and Howl does not exactly feel right.
The setup for it is there with their first meeting but their following interactions never really gave me the feeling that they were falling in love.
Despite not really getting a romantic vibe though, I still did like Sophie and Howl’s interactions, along with a lot of the other character interactions, especially Sophie’s conversations with the silent, living scarecrow.

scarecrow
The friendship between Sophie and the scarecrow was something I enjoyed, which was surprising because the scarecrow doesn’t talk.

However, I will say that the way the scarecrows story ended felt extremely abrupt.
And this is really my big problem with Howl’s Moving Castle, the third act.
Many of the plot points in this act left me thoroughly confused.
For example, as I said, the inciting incident of the film is Sophie being turned into an old woman.
But, she seems to change between old and young across the film and this is strangely never addressed by the other characters or the plot.
By the end, I assumed it had something to do with love, or night, or a combination of the two but I don’t really know.
Not only this but the direction the story goes gets really confusing as well with, of all things, time travel being introduced and it is never explained how that happens.

time travel
I don’t know how time travel became a plot point in this story but it was very abrupt.

Howl’s Moving Castle also has a villain problem, what with the main threat being setup as the Witch of the Waste, before this is undermined and a seemingly new villain takes the stage, only for this new villain to be absent for the rest of the film.
From the midpoint to the end, the film slowly devolves to the point that I was dissatisfied with the ending.
This is not to say I disliked Howl’s Moving Castle, on the contrary I still think it is a very well done film what with the way it begins, the brilliant way it mixes steampunk with fantasy, and the animation.
But, the plot slowly begins to unravel as the film goes on, until it gets genuinely confusing to the point that I thought the story could have been handled better.
I would still recommend Howl’s Moving Castle though because of its numerous good qualities.

Your Name Review: The Most Gorgeous Animated Film I Have Ever Seen.

5 stars
When I reviewed A Silent Voice a few weeks ago, I said that it was probably my favourite anime.
Well, after seeing Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, I can now say it has some serious competition for that title.
Like A Silent Voice, I had heard a lot about Your Name before I finally watched it.
I knew it was a body swap anime with romance but that is all I knew about it.
And you know what?
I am so glad that I did not know anything else about it because Your Name absolutely blew me away with its brilliant story twists.

swapping.jpg
The shocking twists and turns in Your Name goes beyond its simple sounding, body swap story, and I love that.

This was surprising to me because, from what I heard of the plot, I thought I would find the anime a little too sappy and cliche for my tastes.
Thankfully, this was far from the case.
The anime follows two high schoolers, Mitsuha Miyamizu (Mone Kamishiraishi) who lives in the small town of Itomori, and Taki Tachibana (Ryunosuke Kamiki) who loves in Tokyo.
Both lead normal lives until the two begin to mysteriously switch bodies every so often.
As they struggle to deal with this strange situation, they gradually learn more about one another and start to develop feelings for each other.
And that is all I will say about the film because, as I said, I love the direction the story takes and I do not want to spoil it for you.
The twists are engaging and add so much tension to the story, which is supported by the buildup of Mitsuha and Taki’s relationship.
I do not often enjoy romance films but this one was so moving I just could not help but get invested.
There were quite a few times towards the anime’s ending that I ended up crying.

cry.jpg
You will probably find yourself shedding tears a lot in Your Name‘s third act.

I also laughed a lot too, and I do not think there is a single joke that does not land.
One of the things I find interesting about Your Name is the Japanese elements that I missed on the first viewing, like the Red String of Fate.
When I researched this it made the themes of the film even more engaging.
Along with this, and the engaging story and romance, one of the big things that stuck out about Your Name to me was its absolutely gorgeous animation.
My jaw dropped multiple times in the first few minutes because I was astonished at how beautiful it all looked.
From viewing this film, and looking up his prior works, it is clear that Shinkai is an artist when it comes to animating his films.
With its beautiful animation, great story telling, and investing romance, Your Name is another anime film that should have been nominated for an Oscar, however, (aggravatingly but predictably) it was denied this.

Comet
The fact that Your Name did not get nominated for its animation alone is a crime in my mind.

One interesting thing to note, though, is that Shinkai did not want Your Name to win an Oscar and actually advised people to stop watching it.
This is because the film is “incomplete” according to him since they ran out of money.
But, I think Shinkai is being too hard on himself.
From what I hear about what was supposed to be in the finished product, I actually think Your Name works better without these scenes, for the most part.
The one thing about the film that I think could have been done better is the relationship between Mitsuha and her father, which does not get a resolution.
However, the rest of the movie is so engaging and moving that it overshadows this one issue by a wide margin.
Want to know how much I loved Your Name?
I loved it so much that, after finishing it, I immediately bought a ticket to see Shinkai’s next film Weathering With You, which I will be seeing on August 22.
Your Name is a fantastic anime film.
It has jaw dropping animation, a thrilling story, and a romance that will make you tear up by the end.