Howls Moving Castle
This was Miyazaki’s follow up to the hugely successful Spirited Away, so it had a lot to live up to. This one blends a lot of what he does, by Ghibli standards it’s a darker world but still with a lot more lightness than some. I think a major flaw in the film was how the character was Howl was introduced, from the way characters spoke of him it almost seemed like he was going to be an antagonist. Now the film does a lot of good things with some ambiguous characters, but it just seemed to me he was introduced poorly. There’s very much a fairy-tale vibe amongst this one. The film concerns a girl whom acts much older than her age, being transformed into an old woman, so she has to break the curse. There’s quite a lot going of story going on alongside this with a war going on. It does at times feel like it meshes a lot of elements from previous Ghibli efforts, but it does just enough unique things to distinguish itself. And the various elements manage to weave together and make for a very moving climax.
One of the darker more adult stories from Miyazaki, this is certainly one of his epics. Themes he would revisit of a war going on while one of the main characters is cursed. Quite unusually for Ghibli the main character is a young adult male. It certainly gets quite dark and gritty at times. But certainly one of its great successes is having no truly evil characters. Even with some of the terrible goals the antagonists have, they’re not show to be truly evil people; they’re just misguided and have some of their own interests that they need to protect. It’s also very much a tale of man vs. nature that’s one of the strongest recurring themes among Ghibli films. This is one of their longest as well, so it certainly has a lot to say on the subject. The version I saw certainly suffered a bit with the translation, I don’t know of may have just been a synch issue with the file I had, but the dub was a little mistimed, and it seemed less had been spent on it than there sometimes be. I kept recognizing John Di Maggio’s voice for some of the incidental characters. It’s a certainly a large cast, so they may have needed to cut down a bit, but it doesn’t seem to be one of the dubs available. Anyway I’ve generally not been as keen on the longer epics that ghibli produce, and while this isn’t an exception, it’s one of the strongest.
Unusual for a Ghibli film in that it’s set during a specific time in history. Set during the interwar period, it concerns an ex World War 1 fighter pilot turned bounty hunter. Although in a more Ghibli spin, the titular character is someone who has been turned into a sort of hybrid pig-man. An idea sort of used again in Spirited Away. This does seem to be a reoccurring trope inspired by Japanese folklore. Although the reasons for him being cursed aren’t really explained and aren't really relevant. Through the film he teams up with Fio, his mechanics’ granddaughter who turns out to be a more than capable mechanic and assistant. And of course she inspires Porco to become more of a hero and have less jaded world view. It feels quite different for a Ghibli film as it’s a hybrid of having a real world setting, but it’s still an action-adventure story with some mild fantasy elements. It’s a little shorter and lighter than the average with some of the goofy humour that doesn’t usually seem to translate very well. It’s like a light-hearted Sunday afternoon film. It’s not Miyazaki’s most ambitious work, but it does what it does well.