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The book

  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Although it is indisputable that Fanny loves all three girls and chose good professions for all of them (even taking their ages into account), Sophie notes that the most advantageous profession would be Martha's, Fanny's biological daughter. As a witch, she would not only be very well-off, but she would also meet numerous rich and powerful people. Was that pure coincidence or did she really want the best for her biological child? Another possibility. Fanny believes that as the youngest of three Martha is destined for greatness and the others are not. So she pushes Martha towards greatness while she looks for stability for the older siblings.
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    • Did the Witch of the Waste become like that because she was twisted to begin with and let the fire demon's power corrupt her, or was the gradual destruction of her humanity a natural consequence of using the fire demon's power for decades?
  • Angst? What Angst?:
    • Sophie is extremely blasé about being turned old, it's not until someone reminds her that her life expectancy has been severely shortened that she starts to think it would be good to lift the curse. Though it's hinted that her initial lack of reaction is due to shock.
    • Same for when she finds out she's a witch and has been using magic throughout the book. Again, she's rather blasé and accepting. It's not until she thinks about all the random spells she cast that she starts to worry.
  • Moe: Martha Hatter.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • It's not a book that drips with it, but that very determined scarecrow stalking Sophie, absorbing a skull into its turnip-head so it can talk, "in a mushy voice", and taking apart Percival, makes for a surprisingly potent example. Even if he turns out to be a Soul Jar for Wizard Suliman .
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    • Also, just about everything having to do with the Witch of the Waste and her master plan.

The anime

  • Adaptation Displacement: Some fans of the movie have never heard of Diana Wynne Jones, or think she wrote a book adaptation. Diane Wynne Jones actually liked Miyazaki's movie, although she was well aware that it was going to be different.
  • Adorkable:
    • Sophie. In the beginning, where she's frequently nervous and flustered. This decreases as she gains more confidence, but is still present to an extent throughout the film.
    • Markl tries to be dutiful and professional, but is still just a kid so he ends up more like this.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Madame Suliman. Is she a Well-Intentioned Extremist who honestly wants to save Howl and end the war? Or is she a manipulative Chess Master who uses the puppet king and the war to get her pupil Howl back for her own ends?
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  • Anvilicious: The anti-war message is hammered in from the first scene of warfare showcasing how horrible it is, and continues from there.
  • Award Snub: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit beat it to the Best Animated Feature Academy Award.
  • Awesome Music: Given it's a Miyazaki film composed by Joe Hisaishi, of course the entire soundtrack qualifies as this. Special note though goes to the movie's main theme and leitmotif, "Merry-Go-Round of Life", a lovely waltz that feels incredibly dreamy and near otherworldly in its essence.
    • Flower Garden is a slower variant of the main theme that can only be described as being beautiful.
  • Broken Base
    • The fans of the original book, in regards to the movie. Some enjoy the movie as well as the book, while others are not a fan of its admittedly extreme liberties with the source material. Some fans have found a compromise between the two, combining elements of the original book (such as the John Donne poem that serves as a focal point in the book) with the movie's designs in their fan-works.
    • Counts as this for Miyazaki/Ghibli fans in general. About half think of it as a brilliant piece of art just like every other movie Miyazaki made, while the other half sees it as a convoluted, messy, dramatically cryptic failure. Critical opinion is less divided (apart from Roger Ebert's disappointment with it), and Howl has a solid 87% "Fresh" approval at Rotten Tomatoes. Miyazaki himself considers it his favorite of his films.
    • Whether or not Christian Bale was a good choice for Howl in the English dub is hotly debated. Half think Bale's voice fits wonderfully for Howl's mysterious and powerful nature, while the other half think his voice is too deep and invokes Vocal Dissonance.
  • Canon Fodder: Why did Prince Justin get cursed by the Witch of the Wastes, anyway?
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: The curses on Sophie, Howl and Turnip Head are lifted, Calcifer is freed, the Witch of the Waste pulls a Heel–Face Turn and the war seems to be about to end. Seems like a perfectly happy ending, yet one must remember this all happened shortly after an air raid devastated Sophie's hometown, likely killing all her relatives and friends there. Then again, there were clear evacuations happening before the air raids started, so it's very likely that said relatives and friends managed to escape before the worst hit (her mother at least is already on her way out when she reappears).
  • Estrogen Brigade: Howl is probably the strongest contender for this out of all of Miyazaki's male heroes, due to his good looks as well as his eccentric and likable personality. That combined with a compelling female lead who spends a large chunk of the movie as an unconventionally adorable old woman (a condition that in no way invalidates her importance to the story, in fact only strengthens it), it's easy to see how this movie would attract women of all ages.
  • Fanon: Among fans of both the book and movie, it's common to interpret both as the perspectives of Howl and Sophie. The movie is unanimously considered to be how Howl saw their relationship, while the book is considered to be how Sophie saw it.
  • Fans Prefer the New Her: Howl freaks out in the middle of the movie when he accidentally dyes his hair red. It's not a bad look on him at all.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Christian Bale's infamous Batman voice from the The Dark Knight Trilogy movies originally appeared in this film.
    • Speaking of Dark Knight, Christian Bale would go on to encounter another Scarecrow. Though that one is decidedly less friendly or helpful. Or sane.
    • Howl's vanity is especially funny when one considers that it's not the first time Bale has played such a character, though thankfully this one grows out of it.
    • A minor meme has developed on Tumblr with regards to the startling resemblance Madame Suliman's page boys bear to Attack on Titan's Armin Arlert.
    • Christian Bale's not the only actor to play both Batman and a Birdman, and be contending with a mystical curse in a Studio Ghibli film.
  • Hype Backlash: The film is one of the most popular Ghibli movies, however, it still has some detractors, with many saying it’s not nearly as good as others make it out to be, while others say it’s alright, but not as great as other Ghibli/Miyazaki films like Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke. Even in Roger Ebert’s review of the film, he called it a disappointment compared to his previous films.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: Predictably, Howl is the main attraction for the movie, especially in the more recent years.
  • LGBT Fanbase: The film experienced a resurgence in popularity starting in late 2020, and since then, Howl has become extremely popular with non-binary fans online, especially those who admire his appearance and/or wish they looked similar.
  • Magnificent Bitch: Madame Suliman is a court wizard and the eccentric Howl's former mentor. Knowing of Howl's cowardly and self-destructive path, Suliman utilizes a war to ensure he comes to her castle to speak to her, using her magic to turn the evil Witch of the Waste to her true age and immediately ending her threat. Upon meeting Sophie, Suliman effortlessly deduces that she and Howl are in love, before showing that she had already prepared for Howl's arrival and nearly trapping him then and there. When Howl escapes, Suliman launches a pursuit upon him. Even after Sophie and Howl's narrow escape, Suliman continues to put plans into action to catch the two, hoping to turn Howl back to a good path. Coercing Sophie's mother into delivering a Peeping Bug to the house, Suliman sends her minions after the group. When Sophie saves Howl and he changes his ways, Suliman decides to end the war, content that Howl's learned his lesson.
  • Memetic Mutation: "May all your bacon burn!"
  • Moe: Even if he is an Adorably Precocious Child, Markl is still just the cutest little boy. Especially when he is hugging Sophie and telling her he doesn't want her to go.
  • One True Pairing: Howl and Sophie. You’ll rarely see them paired with anyone else from the movie. Not that Sophie had much competition, anyway.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Markl is Josh Hutcherson's first voiceover role.
  • Signature Scene: Howl and Sophie walking on air above the city during their first encounter is likely the most well-known scene in the film, to the point that it's often been parodied in fanart using characters from various different series.
  • Ugly Cute:
    • The Witch of the Waste post-depowering. Despite how hideously obese and aged she looks, her sweet, somewhat oblivious demeanor is endearing.
    • Heen the Dog. He's short, scruffy, wheezes constantly, and has what look like bird legs, but he's still a loyal, lovable old doggie.
  • Unnecessary Make Over: While it's not hated, the short, black hairstyle that Howl ends up with at the end of the film is less liked than the various hairstyles he takes on over the course of the movie. Blonde haired Howl is not only the most preferred by fans, but it's also the most recognizable of his various looks (combined with the pink, diamond patterened jacket and green jewel accessories) and makes up the bulk of his fan-art, followed by the Howl with shoulder length black hair.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The titular moving castle itself is truly an sight to behold and it’s clear Ghibli put in a light of time and effort into making it look as mechanically detailed as possible both visually and how it moves. It’s especially impressive given that while the castle is CGI, it blends in so well with the traditional animation, that one may not even realize that it is computer animated.
  • The Woobie: Sophie, particularly when she's first cursed and constantly tells herself not to overreact, when it's clear she's overwhelmed. Then she leaves home because she doesn't want to be a burden. Then her mother sells her out without Sophie even knowing. Life is rough for Sophie.

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