Especially considering that I found the movie bloody confusing the first time around because I worked on something else while I watched it, so did not pick up on the nuances of the story, I thought it’d be worth a second viewing.
I wasn’t disappointed. This movie is excellent. It tells the story of Sophie, a shy, timid, humble girl who gets mixed up in the romantic troubles of the wizard Howl and is transformed into an old hag by the Witch of the Waste, a former rejected lover of Howl’s. She travels to the Waste to find a way to break the spell on her and ends up in Howl’s castle, a giant industrial-looking clunker of a walking castle powered from steam created by Calcifer, the fire demon who lives in the hearth of the castle. Sophie strikes a deal with Calcifer: if she can find out a way to break the pact that ties Calcifer to Howl, then he’ll help her break her old age spell. She agrees and takes up residence in the castle, becoming Howl’s cleaning woman. A series of events ensue in which the immaturity and cowardice of Howl, especially in running away from his troubles and avoiding responsibility, are demonstrated in the backdrop of a total war between two of the kingdoms.
The war that becomes one of the major conflicts of the movie (no pun intended) and introduces the viewer to many fantastic machines, especially huge flying battleships and smaller planes for the quick transportation of a person or two. In the streets of the fictional cities of Kingsbury and Porthaven are steam-powered automobiles, omnibuses and trains. Howl’s castle emits steam whenever it has to move as well from its operation, walking on what appears to be chicken legs.
The storyline is terrific. There are memorable characters, magic, beautiful scenes and animation throughout, and an unlikely heroine who is neither particularly attractive, brave or witty, but she's intelligent and is able to kindle the affections of the characters around her as she is, as well as the viewer.
The buildings in the cities look like Alsatian buildings. Wikipedia says that the French /German border town of Colmar provided the inspiration for the buildings. That excites me because I’ve actually been to Colmar, about 4 years ago.
Compare a movie still from Twenty-Sided to one of my photos of Colmar:
Next time you’re looking for a story with a rather complicated plot, memorable characters and wonderful animation, check this film out.