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The Character of Narrative in Howl's Moving Castle

Page history last edited by Ian Stephens 13 years, 11 months ago


Hayao Miyazaki's films are often characterized by a particular brand of detail-oriented attention, and 2004's Howl's Moving Castle is no exception.  Working from minute to majestic, he places importance on the seemingly everyday and mundane in the midst of his extraordinary cinema realities. This style acts to inform his narrative structure, which operates in a similar capacity.  What makes this direction so compelling, ultimately, is how it regards the individual characters and beings that inhabit the spaces of the film, and how, for Miyazaki, this gives meaning and weight to fantasy.


Howl's Moving Castle opens, appropriately, with a shot of, the castle moving through a pastoral farmland.  This immediately leads into his protagonist Sophie, who is meticulously sewing a hat in her workspace (which is, in comparison to a walking building, decidedly un-magical). From the opening moments of his film, Miyazaki is just as interested in the spaces that are marked as everyday, lived-in, and non-magical, as he is with the spectacularly supernatural ones.  He pays generously careful attention to mapping out the hat-shop and Sophie's work-room, and constructs his film on the sustained importance he places on individual experience.  We are introduced to the reality of the film (and both its familiar and magical components) through how they are lived and experienced, informing the viewer through the dialogue created by individual and environment.  As Miyazaki's film is clearly and constantly filled with spectacular images and manifestations of the fantastic, it might be tempting (or even understandable) to place narrative weight on describing the world independent of its characters, placing the importance on the exceptional qualities of the space itself.  Miyazaki, however, considers the spectacle most meaningful when contextualized by the responses and reactions of those invested in the environment.  Miyazaki strings together his narrative by moving with the characters through his meticulously crafted spaces, using the viewer's emotional investment in Sophie and Howl's collection of characters as a conduit for associative meaning.   This, in turn, gives meaning to the nuanced and complex world of Howl's Moving Castle by allowing the small spaces of importance to lend weight to their larger context.   This becomes important in no small part because of the fluid way in which Miyazaki paints his characters.  As Anita Burkam notes, the appearances of many of the film's main characters are constantly in flux, making for a world in which nothing is essentially static (556).  The rather static element becomes (or traditional, rather than static) is the narrative structure, which allows the characters interesting and subjective identities and interactions to occupy a position of essential importance.    



Works Cited

Burkham, Anita. "Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle." Horn Book Magazine Sept. & oct. 2005: 553-57.

"Howl's Moving Castle." Wikipedia. 14 Dec. 2009.

Comments (1)

Sean Desilets said

at 5:29 pm on Dec 10, 2009

* This reads a bit more like an analysis of mise-en-scene in HMC, not really a discussion of the narrative (possible it should just be retitled)
* Obviously a little sparse now--many other spaces could be analyzed if mise-en-scene is really the topic, and the narrative events can be mapped if the page is actually about narrative

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