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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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11/13/2005 Archived Entry: "Ani-manga review: Howl's Moving Castle"

Howl’s Moving Castle
From the Novel by Diana Wynne Jones
Screenplay written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki
English language version produced by VIZ Media

Review by Kelly S. Taylor

The first thing I feel I must tell you about this manga is that it's not really a manga. It's the picture book version of a movie by the same people who created "Kiki's Delivery Service," "Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind," "Princess Mononoke," and "My Neighbor Totoro." I call it a picture book instead of a manga because the illustrations are fairly uniform sized stills from the movie with dialogue balloons inserted. The arrangement of the pictures displays none of the artfully varied compositional style typical of manga art. However, that being said, it is a lovely little book.

It's interesting to contrast the richly creative narratives typical of Miyazaki films to the largely calorie-free confections served up to the same target audience by the Disney corporation. To begin with, our heroine, Sophie, is a young woman, not a child. She is the plain older sister, not the vivacious younger one (who looks like she's just waiting to become a Disney princess). At the beginning of this story, Sophie is hassled by soldiers -- another thing that never happens in American children's films. In order to avoid them, she runs afoul of the Witch of the Waste. (I think I've actually met the Witch of the Waist before...) This temperamental conjurer turns Sophie into an old woman. Embarrassed to face her friends and family in this condition, Sophie takes shelter in the moving castle of Howl, a wizard who is rumored to eat the hearts of young women. She hires herself as his housekeeper and sets off for adventure in the company of this morally suspect creature.

The artwork is much in the same style as "Kiki's Delivery Service." To me, it looks like a children's book from the 1930's brought to life. Scenes are colorful and fantastically detailed. Character design is bold and attractive without being too cutesy. As it's own publicity proclaims, this little book is "a generous collection of stunning visuals." It looks as though each key frame of this portion of motion picture is represented. This thick volume is only number one of what looks to be a four-volume set. The creators are so generous, in fact, that they even include a glossary that translates the sound effects frame by frame.

This picture book gives a tantalizing taste of what promises to be a marvelously engaging children's film. Although I doubt the conservative parents' groups will ever allow it to be released in theatres in this country, I do look forward to eventually seeing this enchanting film when it reaches my local Blockbuster.

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