Sure it’s probably a shock to some that I fell so hard and fast for this wizard story while I had to be nagged to finish Harry Potter. There is no logic.
Sophie is the eldest of three girls and (because everyone knows the youngest have the adventures) is doomed to sit in the back of the shop talking to the hats she makes for minimal pay for the rest of her life. Then a series of incidents force her out of her rut; she meets Howl, is mistaken for one of her sisters and is cursed (now that might’ve been half a spoiler there, I’m not sure), and moves to a castle. A very special castle. A moving castle controlled by the mighty fire demon Calcifer, and Howl (the wizard).
Coming to this after so many years of binge watching the film is a little strange. I thought I knew the story and the characters so well. Totally wrong. In the studio Ghilbi production, a lot was cut from the story and the characters were remodelled to make them softer and a hell of a lot sweeter than they were originally. In the film; Sophie isn’t that strong (which helps her grow), Howl isn’t as self-centred (he’s more appealing in the anime), the witch isn’t that evil, and Michael is a little kid (he was fifteen in the book and in love with… one of the sisters, I think it was Martha). I love the film.
But now I see the real characters with all of their flaws and how they develop them so they’re not so… well, to be honest, they’re still flawed at the end.
Howl and Sophie fight; a lot. They’re both extremely grumpy with each other and it’s nice to watch them take pot shots at each other. With their flaws, it’s better; Howl is unpredictable (and annoying) and Sophie is so bitter and causes more problems than she fixes. This makes them falling in love over a long period of time feel realistic.
What doesn’t feel realistic (in a book about magic and fire demons) was the *SPOILER*-ish place Howl comes from. Nope. A tad childish it was, and not needed. It just made the rest of the world seem cheap and fake, instead of grounding it for the audience (at least I hope that’s what the author was intending to do).
The overall tone of the story is perfect. A great balance between showing and telling the story, giving it a fairy-tale appeal. Lots of talking and action. Great fun.
Still love Sophie and Howl. They will have a very eventful happy ever after… well, I think that might’ve been a spoiler for those who hadn’t seen the anime at least. But now you know not to worry when you see Howl trying to be “bachelor of the year” and seduce anything cute in a skirt. And Sophie isn’t shy in telling him off for his wicked ways.
Read the book. Trust me.