They’re the best Anime that 2004 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Naruto Movie 1: Dai Katsugeki!! Yuki Hime Shinobu Houjou Dattebayo!, Steamboy, Kumo no Mukou, Yakusoku no Basho, and more!
5: Naruto Movie 1: Dai Katsugeki!! Yuki Hime Shinobu Houjou Dattebayo!
English: Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow
Japanese: 劇場版 NARUTO 大活劇！雪姫忍法帖だってばよ!!
MAL Score: 7.10
Naruto Uzumaki and his squadmates, Sasuke Uchiha and Sakura Haruno, are sent on a mission to escort a movie crew on its way to film in the Land of Snow. They soon find out that they are accompanying a famous actress, Yukie Fujikaze, who persistently refuses to travel there, making the trip far more difficult than originally intended. After a surprising encounter with ninjas from the Land of Snow, Naruto discovers that there is more to Yukie than meets the eye.
Dai Katsugeki!! Yuki Hime Shinobu Houjou Dattebayo! follows the group as they attempt to overcome the obstacles in the Land of Snow and unveil Yukie’s true purpose there as well.
It was good because it was a combiantion of seriousness and comedy so you dont get weighed down by either.
It includes the characters Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura and Kakashi from the actual series, and you get to see all of them kick some butt!
First off, I found the story to be slow, although this could be because of my mindframe at the time. By no means should you base choices on my review; I’m not a huge fan of this kind of anime. The quality of the story was somewhat like that of the InuYasha movies, only even slower imo.
The art was as good as any other basic anime really. I won’t mark it down simply ’cause I disliked Naruto’s character design. All else was good, and there were some decent flashback shots.
Sound worked well, but Naruto’s voice sucked more than I thought it would; he sounded like a girl! Other than that, the voices were well cast and the music all worked quite well. Okay, it’s not my kinda music, but considering what it is, it was good. Perfect for the genre.
The characters were fairly decent; what I saw of them. I might have liked them more had I watched the series, but the only one I disliked at all was Naruto because he was a total stalker! All the other characters were nice enough, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone else watch this movie without watching some of the series first. I lacked a lot of background knowledge and so, evidently, felt nothing for anyone.
Enjoyment…well, take it for what it is. Since it’s not my kind of anime, I found it slow, dull, monotonous and simply did not like it. But for those who enjoy this kind of anime, with lots of action and not a huge, complex plot: go for it.
Ahhh Naruto, I used to be the biggest fanboy of the anime. I would buy all the action figures, video games, and pretty much all the merchandise but ever since I was able to view anime in a more critical perspective I started to notice that it had so many flaws and this is also including Naruto: Shippuden. The anime has a huge amount plot holes, the pacing in it is terrible, the setting doesn’t know what it wants to be, there is gigantic amounts of filler, deus ex machinas, contains many underdeveloped one dimensional characters, and the whole idea of being ninjas is thrown out the window with the absurd amount of power the characters obtain. So whenever I look back at all the Naruto stuff I have, all I can do is cringe. Does this movie in any way help the anime? Nope. Will this movie convince anybody to see the anime? Not at all.
The story of Naruto Movie 1 begins with Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura watching a movie at a movie theater with Naruto starting to really like the lead actress of the movie. Kakashi then assigns them to go on a mission to escort the lead actress named Kazehana Koyuki to the land of the snow to film a new movie but at the land of snow old enemies start to rise and cause problems. From the get go I already found the story to be very predictable. Naruto and his team meet new enemies and fight them, main character of the movie gets kidnapped, the team then goes to rescue her, and finally Naruto is able to beat the main villain by using the power of not giving up and friendship. I have seen this type of thing happen all the time in the anime and the creators could of at least put a spin on it to make it seem different but that did not happen. There were many moments in the movie that didn’t make any sense and were always answered by using the power of not giving up. Another problem I had with the story was how it would show modern things like a movie theater, a film studio and filming supplies, and as well as a blimp which doesn’t make any sense to have in the type of setting that the anime establishes.
Art and Animation: (5/10)
The art in this movie is fine at best. The backgrounds are okay, the character designs are okay but would look off model at times, and the special attack visuals are good. The animation in the movie is good and is much better than the animation in the anime.
The soundtrack in the movie is very generic and forgettable with only the ending song of the movie being good. The voice actors did a fine job with the characters but no one stood out.
The characters are definitely the worst part of the movie. Naruto is still his stupid self that is the typical main character that is able to defeat every villain through nakama power even though he is the second weakest member of his team. Sasuke is still his not caring about anything self and he is barely in the movie with him only being in scenes whenever the group needs to fight. Sakura is still the character that does not contribute anything to the story and she is in the movie even less than Sasuke was. Koyuki, the main character, is not likable at all. All she does in the movie is be angry and whiny at what anybody says to her and suddenly changes her personality at the end of the movie. The villains in the movie are all very underdeveloped and one dimensional and this just makes them look like their whole purpose of being villains is to be villains.
The only enjoyment I got out of the movie is how the action scenes were animated.
Naruto Movie 1: Dai Katsugeki!! Yuki Hime Shinobu Houjou Dattebayo! is a movie that would only be found decent by the fans of the anime and anybody else looking to watch it should stay far away from it.
MAL Score: 7.34
Ray is a young wunderkind inventor living in Victorian England. His life is turned upside down when he receives a special package hailing from the United States, sent by his grandfather, Lloyd Steam. The package contains a device called a Steam Ball, a device so powerful that it can drive any machine that requires steam with a nearly limitless amount of energy.
Ray is instructed to not let the Steam Ball fall into the wrong hands, which include the mighty O’Hara Foundation, who desperately want to bring the Steam Ball back into their control so they can achieve their less than noble goals.
He will need to use every bit of his brilliance in order to dodge the countless goons that are sent to snatch the device from him. It will be a battle between good and evil, a battle for redemption, a battle for the future!
The plot of Steamboy is really nothing all that original. If you’ve seen any adventure stories before then the overall premise is going to feel very familiar to you. The story centers around the boy Ray Steam, who is an inventor from a family of inventors. After he receives a mysterious package from his grandfather he soon finds himself chased by villains who want it for themselves. The story has lofty goals but by the time the movie ends, I found myself confused about what actually happened and what the purpose of the whole thing was. Also it didn’t feel like any of the villainous characters ever really faced any consequences for their actions and the only people hurt were the innocents they stepped on throughout the story. Maybe I am being to idealistic but I want the bad guys to get their just deserts, and Steamboy didn’t leave me feeling that they had.
There is a lot of very good action in Steamboy however. Fans of action will have a lot to like here. The battles and action scenes are marvelous to watch and the CGI effects are wonderfully embedded within the animation. The movie also does a wonderful job in building a Victorian Age fantasy with amazing steam powered machines of all types. It reminds me a lot of a Jules Verne style story.
Ray Steam is an adequate leading character. He is heroic and idealistic and very much a standard and predictable character type for this kind of story. There just isn’t enough development of his past or personality to make him all that compelling or memorable. Scarlett is even less interesting as we learn almost nothing about her either. I did not find her to be all that likable nor did I care much about what happened to her. She’s spoiled and arrogant and cruel to animals. She seems to make a little progress as the story unfolds but not enough to make me actually like her. Steamboy’s villains are not anymore interesting. While they don’t fit the black/white stereotype that one often seen in these characters for this story type their motivations are obscure and not well defined for most of them. The ones that are just don’t give you enough reasons to dislike them and cheer on our hero.
While the animation was really top notch in most cases, I did not care for the character designs. Particularly that of Scarlet as she looked more like a cross dressing boy than a girl. As I mentioned the animation for the various steam machines and action was amazing. The level of detail and fantastic designs were definitely a highlight. The music and acting was all very good though. The background music did a lot to build the grand scale of the movie.
Steamboy is overall though just an average adventure story. I certainly didn’t dislike this movie at all, I’ve just seen a lot better. Still I don’t think anyone would dislike this so if you enjoy fantasy and adventure stories, Steamboy will be well worth your time.
It’s not ‘weird’ as in something ridiculously abstract or disturbing, but weird in other ways.
The alternate-history setting is a visual feast for the eyes via Production I.G’s commitment to detail and quality animation. The dub is actually really good, and this is coming from a guy who hates dubs. But in a story like this where its set completely in 19th century England, it would be too strange to hear Japanese voices, so the heavy Manchester and cockney London accents fit very well with what’s going on. Yeah, an anime set entirely in 19th century England, with no Japanese characters, weird already.
And damn if what’s going on isn’t bloody amazing. I actually think this is a two act story which is very interesting and unconventional. For any laymen to cinema theory reading this, most common films have three act structures, but Steamboy is basically Setup and then Resolution. Maybe a bit of an act 2 is floating around somewhere in this strange anime, but you’d be hard pressed to find it, as it moves so quickly from a beginning that feels deceivingly generic: a regular boy-receives-package-and-goes-on-run-with-it scenario that doesn’t follow all the clichés of the past thankfully, but instead saves us the trouble of watching the story lull then pick up then lull over and over again. No, Steamboy just keeps going from the first chase scene and doesn’t let up until the destructive climax.
But what a climax. There are images in this anime that are purely breathtaking. Images you’ve never seen before. Katsuhiro Otomo’s eye for apocalyptic action is second-to-none; no one can do it better than him. Seeing it in action in London is a treat. His direction, especially in action sequences, gives you scope to all the mayhem, his pans and tracking shots are perfect.
Its all complemented by humour in the form of a bunch of weapons buyers on a tour of a gigantic weapon of mass destruction, unwittingly being involved in the ‘demonstration’, to sly observations of Londoners’ reactions to horrific disasters unfolding in front of them, it’s never forced but very quirky and funny.
Steamboy can be criticised for its two act structure and may lead people to believe it’s all style and no substance, and I wont even try to defend it’s attempts at philosophising on the purpose of science and technology, as the two characters that keep spouting their speeches gets old very quickly, but this anime is simply unlike any other out there and for that reason alone it deserves your full attention.
There are so many things going on in Steamboy, from the surface narrative of a boy being dragged into an ideological quarrel between his father and grandfather, to the philosophical implications of steam technology on the 19th and 20th century, and most interestingly of all: that this was actually the origin of a superhero which just made me grin big time.
The only down-side to this anime I see is that it is very generic steampunk but I also see this as its bet asset to those who are interested in understanding this genre.
3: Kumo no Mukou, Yakusoku no Basho
English: The Place Promised in Our Early Days
MAL Score: 7.52
Hiroki Fujisawa and Takuya Shirakawa harbor admiration for two things in their life: their classmate Sayuri Sawatari and the vast Ezo Tower that stands boundlessly across the Tsugaru Strait. Fascinated by the limitless structure beyond their reach, Hiroki and Takuya begin constructing an aeroplane from a fallen drone they discovered—naming it the Bella Ciela—to fulfill their dream of one day reaching the sky-scraping top of the tower. Later joined by the girl they love, Hiroki and Takuya promise Sayuri to fly with her to the seemingly otherworldly top together. However, Japan has suffered a North-South partitioning that has fueled conflict near the base of the tower, which marks the border between the America-controlled Southern islands and the Northern lands occupied by the Soviet Union.
Further along, Sayuri suddenly disappears, and Hiroki and Takuya never see her again. Unbeknownst to them, she fell victim to a sleeping disorder that left her comatose for the past three years. Although Hiroki and Takuya later learn about Sayuri’s condition, they also discover that the girl’s unconscious state is oddly linked to the same tower the trio had promised to conquer together.
The characters in The Place Promised are fantastic, deep and lifelike. Note the latter; they’re lifelike. They’re just normal kids going through all this, and that helps you to connect with them, you feel like you want them to achieve their dream from the bottom of your heart.
The artwork is a marvel. I’m completely astounded by its quality, especially the lighting and shading, which helps set the tone of the movie; calm, yet dramatic. Background artwork and overall quality are both top-level, so that alone is something to look forward to.
The music is pretty good; some sad and becalming themes blends right into the whole tone of the movie, and they are overall very good.
I enjoyed the movie a great lot, especially because of how you connect with the characters, but also because it presents a mood that is very sad, yet calm. Everything was so peaceful, I felt, even during the short action-packed scenes, and the final scene of the movie was very becalming and very peaceful.
To ‘Not ‘ voters (and you ” voters too): Feedback greatly appreciated =)
Story: Just like Voices in a Distant Star and 5 Centimeters Per Second, this is a story about 2 people and their distances. Unlike Voices where their distance is that of time and space, Place Promised is about their distance across dimensions/dreams/reality. What I like about this concept is how well Shinkai presented it. Sayuri (our heroine) is physically in the world, but spiritually trapped in another. It is very touching to see Hiroki (our hero) search for Sayuri knowing that she is very close yet at the same time very far away from him. While the whole together->separation->search part of the story exciting to watch, the sci-fi/war part felt a little boring. I can understand having that part in the story since we are dealing with the concept dimensions, but it felt a little out of place and it took away from the whole experience.
Animation: This is one of the stronger points in this movie. The animation is absolutely gorgeous. There are two things that make this movie incredibly beautiful. The first is the background and the use of colors. The background really speaks to you with its detail and vibrant colors. You can really feel the depth and it is really moving. The other part of the animation that makes it gorgeous is the lighting effects. It is carefully used to emphasize those “key” moments in the movie. It really gives you one of those “whoa” moments where it pushes you back into your seat.
Sound: Tenmon is a genius. In order to bring out the emotions of a movie, the BGM is key and Tenmon delivers. The BGM is beautiful and fun to listen to. Also, the score played by Hiroki and Sayuri on the violin is incredible. The only thing lacking in the sound department is an amazing theme song. Kimi no Koe feels a little weak in comparison to the BGM and it failed to capture my attention.
Character: There is nothing really special about the main characters. You can say that they’re normal. But perhaps thats the appeal of it. Watching these kids grow and become more resolve is an enriching experience. There is nothing special about the supporting characters as well.
Overall, it was a very good movie and an excellent follow up to Voices. I am definitely looking forward to finishing up 5cm per Second.
My initial impression was, ohh pretty. The animation was fantastic; everything was clean, crisp, and vivid. Although, sometimes a bit too clean, crisp, and vivid. This is especially true for the interior backgrounds. I think of a brand new shinny kitchen appliance with I see some of the interior backgrounds. However, the "nature" shots didn’t give me that impression. Overall, the animation was very beautiful and well done.
As for the music….well it was pretty good, as expected of Tenmon however, it really didn’t stand out.
The rest however, doesn’t really fare as well. As I watching I couldn’t help get the feeling that he was trying to do the same thing he did with Hoshi no Koe. Hoshi no Koe was 30 min short exploring the theme of "long distance love." Being a short film it really didn’t have much of a plot, nor did it attempt to. The Place of Promise in our Early Days on the other hand seemed like it was going to explore a theme like Hoshi no Koe did yet the same time try to tell a concrete story. This produced a horribly paced movie. First its going nice and slow producing this calm nostalgic feel. Then things move too fast and you’re wondering what happened. Essentially the pace is too fast and too slow all at once. The movie should have only been 50 minutes at most. Interestingly enough was what was originally planned out to be. I felt this was a very good 50 min OVA, then scenes were made longer and added extra stuff (ie the sci-fi stuff) to make this mediocre 90 min movie.
Because of the lack of focus the characters suffered quite a bit. Their relationships weren’t explored enough nor did I feel there was any depth to them. In addition, I wasn’t convinced of the love between Sayuri and Hiroki. Once again they didn’t spend enough time on the characters.
The Place of Promise in our Early Days is a beautifully animated film with lush and vivid detailed. However, it sometimes suffers from being too clean and vivid, giving it that new shinny kitchen appliance look. The music was excellent but not memorable. The Place of Promise in our Early Days suffer fatally from its poor pacing that makes the movie feel too fast and too slow at the same time.
2: InuYasha Movie 4: Guren no Houraijima
English: InuYasha the Movie 4: Fire on the Mystic Island
Japanese: 犬夜叉 紅蓮の蓬莱島
MAL Score: 7.54
The mysterious island of Houraijima has reappeared after 50 years, and with its reappearance has brought the attack of four gods, the Shitoushin, who have their eyes set on the powers that protect and sustain the island. Now it’s up to Inuyasha and his friends, along with Sesshoumaru, to find a way to defeat the powerful Shitoushin.
The scenario is very weak and most unimpressive even for the tv standards. So far they had being fighting top level demons who could take over the world, control time, and even raise hell. Now they deal with… four convicts??? Surely, where is the excitement in that? Four nobody demons that are trapped on an island and just lure other demons in order to eat them and stay alive. Another annoying feature is the little kids in this movie. You would expect token kids begging for the shounen hero to save them in a Naruto or a One Piece film, but in Inu Yasha it just feels stupid. I guess so many years past that by now the franchise had turned to just another silly show about teenagers saving kids.
The plot is not something great either. All they do is fighting one demon at a time before the last one fuses with the rest to form a last moment big boss. That’s it, nothing more. The previous movies had the decency to try to deal with some sort of drama or romance from the various themes of the main story. This one here does absolutely NOTHING! You could replace the characters with those from any other shounen show and you wouldn’t even know the difference.
Not even the action is something good, since by now Inu Yasha had enough firepower to take on the Devil himself and the enemy demons were just generic bad guys without any backdrop or interesting battle strategies. Not even the setting is good either. It is just a sort of tropical island that appeared on the sea; nothing nightmarish or complicating.
In all, this is a completely pointless movie that has no point in existing. I don’t recommend it one bit.
1: Howl no Ugoku Shiro
English: Howl’s Moving Castle
MAL Score: 8.66
That jumbled piece of architecture, that cacophony of hissing steam and creaking joints, with smoke billowing from it as it moves on its own… That castle is home to the magnificent wizard Howl, infamous for both his magical prowess and for being a womanizer—or so the rumor goes in Sophie Hatter’s small town. Sophie, as the plain daughter of a hatmaker, does not expect much from her future and is content with working hard in the shop.
However, Sophie’s simple life takes a turn for the exciting when she is ensnared in a disturbing situation, and the mysterious wizard appears to rescue her. Unfortunately, this encounter, brief as it may be, spurs the vain and vengeful Witch of the Waste—in a fit of jealousy caused by a past discord with Howl—to put a curse on the maiden, turning her into an old woman.
In an endeavor to return to normal, Sophie must accompany Howl and a myriad of eccentric companions—ranging from a powerful fire demon to a hopping scarecrow—in his living castle, on a dangerous adventure as a raging war tears their kingdom apart.
Story: the story is about a girl named Sophie who gets turned into an old woman and ends up living with a wizard named Howl in his moving castle. The story is the only part I felt was lacking in this movie. Though I have to admit I see more flaws with the story after reading the book (even though I find the movie much better). Overall, I felt many of the war scenes were overdramatized and left a lot of questions. There were also a lot of small things throughout that they could have done a better job at explaining. Even after watching the movie so many times I cannot fully explain some scenes and still have questions about the movie.
Animation: The animation is absolutely stunning and many of the backgrounds look realistic. I also have to say that I am impressed with how Sophie is animated, and how it is so easy to tell when she is aging/regressing just simply by looking at the animation (her voice also helps). Overall this is the most impressive Miyazaki art I’ve seen and I really haven’t seen much that can top it.
Sound: I’ll just start off by saying the music in this movie is so beautiful. I love every single background music in this movie, and the only song I don’t like so much is the theme with the words that plays at the end. Aside from the beautiful soundtrack, the sounds in the movie are so dead on. Hearing Sophie’s bones crack as an old woman is really painful, and as much as I don’t like Sophie’s voice, her seiyuu does a great job at portraying the character and how she fluctuates between young and old so frequently throughout the movie. I think all the seiyuu in the movie were good as well.
Character: The characters in this movie make up for all the lack of closure in the plot. Each character has their good points, even the Witch of the Waste. I personally adore almost all the characters, though I actually like Sophie the least of all. Calcifer, Heen, and Turnip head are such adorable and fun characters to watch (and Heen and Turnip have pretty much no lines in the whole movie). Howl is also another loveable character as well. The characters have such different personalities that you will probably like at least one character or more.
Enjoyment: Obviously I enjoy this film a lot. I’ve watched it so many times! Each time I sit there in awe of the animation and empathize with the characters. It’s one of those movies that I love to watch and I have not gotten bored of it yet. I do have to say that towards the end I get slightly bored with the stressed focus on the war, but that only lasts at most 15 minutes.
This movie is defenitely worth watching, and even if you watched it and didn’t like it, you only spent two hours watching it since it’s a movie. I think it’s defenitely one of Miyazaki’s better works. If you have time or interest, I think it’s worth checking out the book, since it’s a completely different take on the story. It’s got a lot less romance between Sophie and Howl in it, but it brings a lot more character development to Markl and Sophie’s sisters (she has more than one in the novel). But if not, just watch the movie!!
STORY – This movie was apparently based off a book, but as I haven’t read the book, I’m judging this movie as a work all on its own, for better or worse. So I suppose this was, in a way, a story about courage and facing one’s fears, but it was approached in such a roundabout way that I’m really not sure, even now. The premise of the movie — Sophie getting bewitched into an old woman — seemed almost completely random, and I was left wondering why? and what was the point of that? Those questions were, for me, repeated a ridiculous number of times throughout the course of the movie. Indeed, most of the scenes seemed haphazardly spliced together with little rhyme or reason connecting them. Eventually, the focus of the movie fell onto Howl and his troubles, which was fine, except that we seemed to forget entirely about Sophie’s initial dilemma because of it.
In some ways, Howl’s reminded me of Spirited Away, what with its eclectic assemblage of characters, all with their own problems and goals. But while Spirited Away maintained and remembered its initial story and theme, Howl’s Moving Castle was seriously all over the place. The further we progressed into the movie, the more it seemed like Sophie’s problems were taking a backseat to Howl’s, and even her position as a member of his castle and one of his helpers didn’t seem very important. One of the things that annoyed me the most was also the fact that the spell placed on Sophie was never explained the depth — all you knew was that she couldn’t tell anyone about it (which was pretty useless since most characters seemed to be able to tell anyway). Nothing was explained as the spell seemed to gradually fade; when Sophie randomly appeared to be her old self, you were never sure whether it was for real or a dream. Eventually, you sort of accepted that she was slowly regaining her old self, but even then, you weren’t sure why.
There’s also the matter of the war. Throughout the entire movie, it seemed like more of a background element more than anything else. We were never told why the war was going on or against whom they were fighting; thus, it didn’t seem like all too important of a thing, even when leaders were requesting the aid of magical folk. In a way, I find this impression interesting as there seems to be a distinct separation between the affairs of our characters and the world around them. Despite the war, they’re in their own little world, even with airships attacking every so often and Howl’s subsequent injuries. I’m not sure why that is or whether it’s a positive or negative element, but it’s there all the same…
CHARACTER – I wasn’t really all that impressed by any of the characters in this movie. Most of them seemed to be typical of Miyazaki both in personality and goals and were consequently predictable. Sophie is an all around "good" character who only wants the best for her family and friends. Howl is the mysterious one with great power and internal insecurities. Calcifer is the sharp-tongued, sarcastic one who just wants to be free, despite a seemingly good relationship with his master. And Markl is just a good kid, more or less in the same vein as Sophie except younger, and the Scarecrow was a similar personality as well. The Witch of the Waste is a completely stereotypical semi-villain, as is Suliman.
Though there are certainly attempts at expanding on some of the characters’ very flat personalities, I don’t really feel as if any of them are successful. Sophie’s fascination and eventual love for Howl was a little interesting, but the feelings could be attributed very easily to the typical goodness of her personality, and it didn’t seem like Howl was very special to have her affections. Similarly, Howl’s feelings for Sophie seemed generic, or perhaps he (and all the other characters) could not help but be attracted to her goodness, as there didn’t seem to be very many flaws in that purity at all.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION – This is easily what contributes the most to the entire movie. As we have come to expect from Studio Ghibli, Howl’s Moving Castle was an exceptionally beautiful film. The highly detailed background renders were superb and featured all sorts of fantastical elements, giving the environment a wonderful personality. The streets and storefronts were inviting and cheerful, and the darker alleyways held a mystery of their own. The characters were all wonderfully animated, especially Howl, who transformed slickly between his human and harpy-like form.
The design for the castle was especially fun. As more or less a gigantic heap of metal parts, its lack of uniformity gave the viewer a lot to look at, and all of it was interesting. It was also great to see rooms and halls within the castle shift, contract, and expand as Howl magicked them around.
MUSIC – I don’t remember anything especially extraordinary, but I think it’s safe enough to say that most of the music was satisfying and fitting for their scenes.
VOICE ACTING – I’ve only seen the movie subbed. The voices were about average, but I would say that’s more because of the characters’ flatness more than lack of talent on the part of the actors. Calcifer is the only one that had a particularly memorable voice — it was a little whiny and a little scratchy: absolutely perfect for his grumbling character.
OVERALL – Howl’s Moving Castle was a very fun movie to look at. The visuals were gorgeous and everything smoothly animated. Unfortunately, the story and characters definitely left a lot to be desired; there was so little substance that I might have gotten about the same impression if I’d seen the whole thing on mute (or without subtitles). I’ve been told that the original novel is better, and I wonder if Miyazaki’s downfall is only in that he was trying to adapt someone else’s work, because certainly I know the man’s capable of telling a story better than this.
NOVEL, ANIME: Howl’s Moving Castle was originally a young-adult fantasy novel written by Diana Wynne Jones in 1986. It won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award in 1987, and was also was designated an ALA Notable Book for children and young adults.
Howl’s Moving Castle was produced by Studio Ghibli (Ponyo on the Cliff, Spirited Away), and directed by Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind). Howl was released in theatres in Japan on November 20th, 2004, and showed dubbed in theatres Stateside starting on June 10th, 2005, courtesy of Disney, and is available both subbed and dubbed on DVD.
STORY: Sophie Hatter is a young, self-conscious young woman who, after a chance encounter with the wizard Howl, is cursed with the body of a ninety-year-old by the spiteful Witch of the Waste, and is unable to tell anyone about the curse. She ends up going into the Waste, and, with the help of an animated turnip-headed scarecrow that she helps, ends up finding Howl’s home; a legged, walking, amalgamation of a castle. In order to break her spell, she makes a deal with the fire demon who powers the castle, Calcifer; if she can break the spell on him and Howl – which he also can’t tell anyone about – he will break hers.
Howl’s Moving Castle isn’t necessarily one of Ghibli’s strongest movies, story-telling wise. There are a lot of disparate plot elements floating about, with not a lot of explanation given, or even development, for that matter; the movie kind of just drifts from scene to scene, as if it can’t decide what plot element it wants to focus on. Probably the biggest example of this is Sophie’s curse. There are times in the movie where she’ll appear younger or older; it’s hinted that this difference in physical appearance is tied to her self-confidence, but it’s never explained, it just happens. The ending is kind of unsatisfying, as everything’s quickly wrapped up in a neat package with even little to no explanation of sudden plot elements that end up popping up.
The characters themselves are all fairly well fleshed out, though, and are at least intriguing to watch; the moments in this movie that center around the characters alone are where it really shines, such as Sophie going through and cleaning the house, Markl going to market with Sophie, or Calcifer and Howl talking by the fire.
Taken in terms of the original novel, Howl is a nice retelling. The basic plot elements from the novel are mostly intact, though a great deal of the actual plot has been changed around. If you don’t mind a looser retelling of the novel, then you should be fine with this; however, if you’re looking for the novel translated exactly onto the screen, then you may not want to see this.
ART: As always with Studio Ghibli, the art for this is beyond beautiful, that goes without saying. There are three big things that stood out for me with the art, though:
-The castle. I can’t say enough about how intricately this was done; just the design itself is amazingly thought out, and the animation of the movement and all the little parts moving and operating on their own and as a part of the larger whole is incredibly steampunk.
-Anything to do with magic being used. Incredibly created, especially in how it manifests from character to character, and with beautifully intricate detail.
-The war sequences. Incredibly realistic and devastating, though it should be noted that production on this was happening while the Iraq War and the bombings were just beginning.
MUSIC: Joe Hisaishi does the composing work on this, as he always does. While his music has most of the normal chords and progressions it normally does, the music here tends to be variations on several instruments of the main theme song, which, while not my favorite ever, is passable. Not the greatest soundtrack he’s ever done, but still fairly solid.
SEIYUU: The cast for this is fairly new to voice work, but it doesn’t show; there are some excellent performances in this, especially the voice actor for Calcifer. I actually like the sub and dub about equally, so I can’t state preference here for any one cast. I do like that there is a single seiyuu for Sophie, whether she’s young or old, as it just shows you the range of the seiyuu.
VOICE ACTORS: The English dub for this has some fairly big names for the performances; Christian Bale does a pretty good job (and even utilizes the Batman!growl) as Howl, Jean Simmons does an amazing job as the older version of Sophie (even though I don’t really understand why there needs to be two separate voice actors here), Billie Crystal does a good job of being the comedic relief in Calcifer, Lauren Bacall is an amazing Witch of the Waste, and Crispin Freeman even shows up for a few lines. Overall, a solid performance.
DUB: I have absolutely no criticism whatsoever for the dubwork on this. Translations are done accurately, there’s no intentional flubbing of the original meaning, and it’s fairly well done.
LENGTH: The movie does tend to drag at times, especially with how the movie tends to float from scene to scene. The whole thing feels kinda dreamy, though, and you tend to not notice where the time’s gone at the end of it.
OVERALL: Not Ghibli’s best story or score, but still has wonderful characters, amazing animation, and a fairly solid dub, and cast in both languages. A dreamy sort of film, good for a rainy afternoon.
VOICE ACTORS: 8/10
OVERALL: 55/70; 79% (C+)
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Howl no Ugoku Shiro
2. InuYasha Movie 4: Guren no Houraijima
3. Kumo no Mukou, Yakusoku no Basho
5. Naruto Movie 1: Dai Katsugeki!! Yuki Hime Shinobu Houjou Dattebayo!