Overview: When an unconfident hatter’s daughter is cursed by a witch, her only hope for reversing the spell lies in the hands of a womanizing wizard, an apprentice, a fire demon, and a moving castle. Studio Ghibli; 2004; Rated PG; 119 minutes.

Animation At Its Best: Studio Ghibli ranks as one of the most recognizable studio names in the animation industry, alongside Pixar and Dreamworks. And it’s no wonder why. In Howl’s Moving Castle, there is a fluidity. No jarring frame progressions. No obscure angles. No unnecessary panoramic shots. This fluidity carries out in the progression of the film itself. The pace is fitting. Scenes that make your heart flutter a little faster are supplemented by the music and rather than bursts of action.

Pretty As A Picture: To say that Howl’s Moving Castle has pretty pictures would be an understatement. Landscapes: breathtaking. Cities: Superb. Towns: Darling. Flora: Rich. Food: Mouth-watering. This film is not stingy with details. In every way possible, you can feel the realness of the setting. From the expansiveness of the meadow to the security of a warm home. Upon every viewing, I always find some detail, regardless of its minuteness, that I have not seen before.

Language Has No Bounds: As far as foreign movies go, I have the tendency to view a film in its original language before watching a dubbed version. Without hesitation, both the Japanese and English variations can stand alone. The curious thing about animation is that the voice-acting is completed first and many times, the mannerisms and likenesses of the actors are represented in the animated characters.

A Greater Message: In many of his productions, director Hayao Miyazaki incorporates an underlying message meant to prod at our minds and awaken us to the world we live in. For instance, in Spirited Away, the cleansing of the river god in the bath house is indicative of pollution, bringing awareness to environmental responsibility. In this film, we see the devastation caused by warring countries, and we are enlightened to find even those with the most honorable intentions can turn into monsters.

Overall: True to his other films, Miyazaki revives the artistry in filmmaking through enchanting characters, frame-worthy landscapes, and emotion that even live action movies fail to capture. In Howl’s Moving Castle specifically, we are gracefully reminded that things are not as they appear to be.

Grade: A