I have always been a fan of Studio Ghibli (see its extensive fansite here). Howl’s Moving Castle, which came out in 2004 and featured Japanese actor Takuya Kimura (whom I dream of capturing and keeping in my closet as a pet someday) as Howl, was nothing short of amazing.
What is also amazing is this acoustic version of the theme song from the movie, by acoustic genius Sungha Jung. His timing is perfect! Below it, the original version of the theme song and some information about the movie. You can easily get the DVD of this movie from Speedy Video or Video Ezy near you. For the full experience I suggest you watch the DVD in Japanese and use subtitles instead of using the English dub.
You can see more videos by Sungha Jung by going to his YouTube channel. Look for his version of the Pirates of Caribbean and cry, he is THAT good.
Eighteen-year-old Sophie, who runs her late father’s hat shop, has a chance encounter with the mysterious wizard Howl who takes a liking to her. The meeting attracts the attention of the Witch of the Waste, who has been seeking Howl’s love for her own, and the Witch places a curse on Sophie, turning her into a 90-year-old woman with the inability to tell anyone about the curse. Sophie decides to seek out Howl in the Wastes, encountering and befriending an animated scarecrow she names Turnip Head. They eventually come across Howl’s moving castle; inside, Sophie is greeted by the fire demon Calcifer that powers the castle and recognizes that Sophie has been cursed. Calcifer offers to break the curse in exchange if Sophie can break the bond between Howl and Calcifer. When Howl arrives, Calcifer covers for Sophie, claiming she is a housekeeper to keep the castle clean. As Sophie adjusts to life in the castle, she discovers that the front door is a magic portal that leads to several destinations. She also comes to learn that Howl is vain and immature, and that the Witch of the Waste’s vengeful behavior was due to how Howl treated her in the past once he discovered her ugly appearance.
One day, Howl receives summons from two feuding nations, Porthaven and Kingsbury, each seeking his help under different aliases to fight in their war caused by the disappearance of Crown Prince Justin. Howl refuses to fight and suspects a trap by Kingsbury’s Madame Suliman, his old mentor, and instead sends Sophie acting as his mother to respond to the summons. Along the way, Sophie encounters the Witch of the Wastes, and both are taken to the Madame. Madame Suliman is able to see through the ruse, and to show her power to Sophie, transforms the Witch into a helpless old lady, promising that Howl will meet a similar fate if he does not contribute to the war cause. When Sophie tells Madame Suliman that Howl isn’t cowardly she briefly turns back into her old self ,but is turned back into a old woman again by some of Madame Suliman’s words. Howl manages to rescue Sophie along with the Witch and Suliman’s asthmatic errand dog Heen, but not before Suliman is able to determine Sophie’s true identity and begins to track her down, knowing she can get to Howl that way.
Sophie learns from seeing Howl’s dreams and from Calcifer that Howl transforms into a bird-like creature to escape his pursuers but each transformation makes it more difficult for him to return to his human form. However, Sophie’s love and caring for Howl and the others in the castle have helped her to partially revert the curse that the Witch placed on her, and Howl has returned the favor by transforming the castle into a more beautiful version, including adding Sophie’s hat shop as an exit from the front door. Sophie’s mother Honey visits her one day, but Sophie discovers that Honey was blackmailed by Suliman, leaving a spy bag behind in the castle that has allowed Suliman to find its location and send her troops to capture Howl. As Howl transforms to draw the guards away, Sophie and Calcifer bring the castle to the Wastes though Calcifer’s power is rapidly diminishing. The Witch of the Waste, seeing Howl’s heart underneath Calcifer, attempts to grab it and burns herself; Sophie is forced to douse her with water but catches Calcifer in her motions, causing him to be reduced to a small flame and unable to retain control of the castle. Sophie and the others are thrown over a cliff as the castle falls to pieces around them.
Sophie recovers to find the remains of the front door in the castle’s wreckage, and walks through it, finding herself in the past. She learns that Calcifer was really a falling star found by Howl, and to save Calcifer’s life, Howl gave his heart to the spirit, causing him to lose the ability to love. Sophie returns to the present and finds Howl unconscious with the others. She takes Howl’s heart from the Witch and puts it back in his chest, causing the bond between Howl and Calcifer to be broken; Calcifer returns to his original form and shoots off into the stars, however, this causes the remains of the castle to fall onto them. Turnip Head manages to stop the wreckage from harming anyone, and Sophie gives him a kiss, causing him to transform into his original form, the missing Prince Justin. The Prince thanks Sophie for breaking a curse that could only be broken by his true love, but Sophie reveals that she truly is in love with Howl, and kisses him. This causes Sophie’s own curse to be broken, returning her to her youthful self. Prince Justin accepts Sophie’s choice, and makes way to report his presence and put an end to the war. Madame Suliman, who has watched the events through the eyes of Heen, recognizes that the Prince has returned and calls a cease-fire. Howl constructs another flying magical castle for Sophie and their friends, powered by Calcifer who has returned under his own will to help Howl, and Sophie and Howl begin a romantic relationship.
Taken from Howl’s Moving Castle official website. Please click on the individual image for the large version (1024 x 768).
In case you wonder who is Takuya Kimura, he’s the one who appears in the hilariously campy Gatsby Moving Rubber hair wax commercial (cm) in Malaysian TV, which makes me laugh every time I see it. But commercial that airs here is an old one, the 2008 version of the cm is the one below it. Takuya was made famous all across SEA in his Levi’s Enginereed Jeans commercial back in 2000, the same year he acted in the hit dorama Beautiful Life.