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YMMV / Howl's Moving Castle

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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?
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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.
  • Rewatch Bonus: A lot of past scenes are put in a different light once you find out in the last chapters Calcifer saw Sophie's curse and her magic power immediately, told Howl about it, and they were both hoping she could break Calcifer's contract; that Howl's flirtations with Lettie and Miss Angorian were both put-on for strategy; and that Howl is conducting a complicated, deceptive plan over not only the Witch of the Waste and Miss Angorian - who both have their own conflicting gambits - but over Sophie, the entire kingdom, and himself. Almost the only action of Sophie's he didn't predict was her being decent to Miss Angorian.

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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.
  • 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?
  • 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 Oscar.
  • Awesome Music: The movie's theme, "The Merry-Go-Round of Life".
  • 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.
  • Canon Fodder: How did Prince Justin get cursed, 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.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Christian Bale's infamous Batman voice from the The Dark Knight Saga 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.
    • 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.
  • Hollywood Homely: Young Sophie. She seems to pretty much be the only one who considers herself homely. It's more of a self-esteem problem. It seems she turns old and ugly when she thinks of herself as ugly.
  • Memetic Mutation: "May all your bacon burn!"
  • 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.
  • 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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