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Following the resounding success of the 2001 animated classic Spirited Away, director Hayao Miyazaki continued to release a Japanese animated fantasy Howl’s moving castle. The film was inspired by the 1986 novel of the same name by British author Diana Wynne Jones.

Most Studio Ghibli fans turn to the book after watching the movie. This caused a little disappointment, a bit of “disillusionment” for the ladies who put too many dreams into the handsome wizard Howl in the movie. Although both the novel and the movie revolve around the two main characters – Sophie and Howl, there are huge differences in the storyline and character construction that cause both the novel and the film to turn in two directions.

Stay tuned with ASK KPOP until the end of the video to see what made “romantic fiction” fans disillusioned with the difference between novels and movies Howl’s moving castle.


Sophie Hatter, a girl born into a family of hat makers, does not believe that luck will come to her and she will do something great in her life. She decided she would spend the rest of her life looking after the hat shop her father left. But her life changes after being cursed by the Witch of the Waste, turning her into an old woman, and worse yet, she can’t tell anyone about it. Fearing that her family would no longer recognize her, Sophie set out to find a way to cure the curse, and then arrived at Wizard Howl’s castle. Since then there is a big difference between books and movies, especially the plot and character lines.

  1. The difference in the story between the novel and the movie

Because the novel Howl’s moving castle was written for children by writer Diana Wynne Jones, these factors such as : magic ,humor, fantasy come first. The content of the novel mainly tells about Sophie’s journey to break the curse. In that journey, Sophie has discovered the true strength of herself and the good qualities of those around her. However, when it was adapted to the big screen, director Hayao Miyazaki incorporated many lofty messages about love, peace, and anti-war.

Throughout the movie, we see a fight break out between Ingary (the land of Howl and Sophie is in) and the neighboring country, whereas there is no fierce battle in the original novel.

The whole movie revolves around the theme of anti-war, and its true villain is the pointless war and cause the loss. However, the original story directs the reader towards Sophie’s journey to find herself, how Sophie realizes her worth, which is partly through the movie. Coming to the movie, you will experience the brutal combat scene, the dark battleships .As for the book, Howl has to confront the Witch of the Waste and her powerful fire demon. The two missions of the movie and the novel have different message stories with different audiences, both great stories with their own merits.

  1. The difference in the character’s personality between the novel and the movie

The second most highlighted difference between the novel and the movie is the characters. The characters in the book and in the movie are transformed from the original. Some minor characters have been removed or merged together with other characters. Characters with significant changes include:


Howl in the movie is a perfect version, a “Prince Charming” with many advantages in personality: courteous, gentle, and also the hero of fighting to protect Sophie.If you are familiar with this Howl image then Please be mentally prepared before reading the novel of the same name. Real name’s Howl  is Howell Jenkins, from Wales. It is mentioned in the book that the castle door leads to different places according to the color on the door, and the blackness opens into a dark night. However, the side when that black curtain was Wales in the 1980s, with modern equipment such as cars and computers . This is not mentioned in the movie.

In terms of personality, Howl in the novel is actually a “lady-killer” who flirts with so many beautiful ladies and any girl will not escape by him, until they fall in love with him, he leaves without leaving a trace. This was also the source of his trouble with the Witch of the Waste Throughout the novel, Howl spends most of his time dressing and grooming in order to win the hearts of beautiful girls, including her sister Sophie. The rest of the time, Howl sulked and acted like a child beside Sophie. Howl in the novel does not want to tie and always tries to avoid responsibility. But the more we read, the more we like Howl in the novel, because his personality is especially funny and witty. “I’m a coward. Only way I can do something this frightening is to tell myself I’m not doing it.”  Throughout the novel, we see only a Howl chasing the girls, his words in the last chapter confuse readers and other characters: Howl is still searching and saving people from being lost from the Witch. Meanwhile, he tells himself “I’m not doing it”.

Howl in the movie gets rid of Howl’s flaws of the novel. Because the movie’s message is hind-minded about peace protection and anti-war, a heroic character is needed to be able to send the message to the audience. The hero in the movie is Howl, he is idealized in the film, becomes a hero fighting for peace, denouncing the destructive power of war. When the court asked Howl to go to war, Howl refused ,not for his cowardness. He knew from which side the war was coming from, then the end was like that for everyone, just bring pain only. However, at night, Howl quietly turns into a monster out to fight alone, fighting against planes and monsters that both sides release to tear each other up. It is an ideal, incredibly romantic image of a hero fighting evil, fighting for peace, and fighting for the things he loves. In the end, Howl in both the novel and movie has to face Howl’s problems and settle it.


Sophie in the novel has red hair, stubborn, straightforward, and always seems angry after being cursed. She sees cleaning as a way to forget about the problem she is facing. She often talks to hats, clothes, objects around and this brings miracles, even life to them. Meanwhile, Sophie in the movie has brown hair and is much softer. She also knows how to control her emotions better, and she cleans out of order. However, Sophie in the movie has no magical powers. This is most noticeable in the part where Sophie meets Turnip-Head. Turnip-Head in the story is an inanimate scarecrow, but gets up and follows Sophie after hearing her talk. In the movie, Turnip-Head had life when Sophie met him. While the-story Sophie was very scared of Turnip Head and wanted to chase him many times, the Sophie-movie was friendly, even grateful to the Turnip-Head.

Sophie in the story has sent a message: “When we are young, let us go out and explore ourselves, we will find our power hidden and know what our strength is. and where is our limit. ” That is a very precious meaning that Sophie’s journey to find herself brings back.



Author Diana Wynne Jones observed that Howl and Sophie on-screen seemed “softer and more noble than their characters in my book.” In the movie, we really liked how Howl became “lost” as he transformed into a giant crow in battles and gradually “couldn’t return.” Meanwhile, Sophie’s curse fades more and more as she becomes stronger to save Howl and to heal herself. These details are not included in the book. However, I also want to say that Howl and Sophie in the book seem more real and that the quarrel between the two is what makes me appreciate their feelings more; love each other and learn to accept each other’s imperfections.


She was once a charming, powerful woman. Howl in the novel once chased and abandoned her. Both the story and the movie show Howl once captured a shooting meteor and gave it his heart in exchange for power, which is Calcifer. However, the sorceress in the novel cursed Howl to complete a list of things to do and they slowly led Howl back to her hand. In the movie, the witch tries to cast a curse on Howl, but he easily removes it. In the end, she lost her magic and became a pitiful, harmless old woman.


There are also some minor differences in the side characters. Sophie in the novel has two younger sisters, Lettie and Martha. Lettie is the younger sister sent to learn magic, and Martha is the assistant at the bakery. These two sisters exchanged looks and names in the beginning. Lettie is a huge support character in the series, even part 2 is present. However, the film only mentions Lettie – the sister at the bakery, and she can only say a sentence or two to Sophie and finish. Howl has an apprentice. In the book, he names Michael Fisher , a teenager. And, in the movie he names Markl , a boy. In the story, Suliman is the Royal Mage, male and missing. On screen, Suliman is a female magician who taught Howl before, and she is a bit mean.



“Howl’s Moving Castle” is a film with a stunning image and a beautiful European context, but it does not lose the Japanese culture, oriental styles of Ghibli. The good soundtrack both “The Promise With The World” and “Merry Go Round of Life” are great tunes but for us  “Merry Go Round of Life” is still more beautiful, the scene of Howl holding Sophie’s hand , two people walking in the air together forever is a very beautiful, very romantic scene that is hard to describe in words.

Howl’s Moving Castle is not just a love story, a magical adventure and heart-fluttering romance, but also a story of growth and a journey to find oneself. Whether it’s a novel or a movie, the film’s meaningful message is expressed in tolerance, forgiveness after struggles, hatred, and curse. In addition, the extraordinary life energy of the people who have suffered many injuries in the film overcoming all the difficulties to achieve a happy destination is also the message that the filmmakers send to the audience.

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