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Howl’s Moving Castle Blu-ray Review

Howls-Moving-Castle-Blu-ray-CoverU.S. Release

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: Japanese & English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit), French Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: G
  • Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
  • Digital Copies: N/A
  • Run Time: 119 Mins.
  • Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 21, 2013
  • List Price: $39.99

Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(The below TheaterByte screen captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray Discs and losslessly compressed in the PNG format. There should be no loss of picture quality with this format. All screen captures should be regarded only as an approximation of the full capabilities of the Blu-ray format.

The Film

[Rating:5/5]

 Howls-Moving-Castle-BD_01

A magnificent fantasy adventure from director Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli based on the book by Diana Wynne Jones of the same name, Howl’s Moving Castle is truly a triumph of inspired storytelling and artful animation work coming together in the perfect storm of genius.

Set in a world full of wizards, magicians and witches that is on the brink of war, 18-year-old hat maker Sophie is rescued from the clutches of two ruffian soldiers by the notorious wizard Howl who whisks her away into the sky just as strange blob-men begin to chase them. Angered by what she perceives as a budding friendship between the dashing young wizard and the retiring young Sophie, the jealous Witch of the Waste casts a spell on Sophie turning her into a 90-year-old woman instantly; it’s a spell Sophie can neither break nor tell anyone about. Horrified, Sophie sets out, eventually taking shelter in Howl’s “castle,” a moving mechanical structure powered by a demon-flame named Calcifer. It’s the beginning of an adventure that will open up Sophie’s world, eventually freeing her from her timidity and self-doubt, and even allowing her to find true happiness and love.

Howl’s Moving Castle is, it goes without saying, a splendid example of animation work, arguably one of the strongest to come out of Ghibli. The intricate details of Howl’s castle combined with the gradually shifting character design for Sophie (she seems to slowly age backwards) is stupendous.

(Editor’s note: Portions of this review not specific to this release were previously published as our Howl’s Moving Castle [UK] Blu-ray Review. All screen captures were taken from their respective releases.)

Video Quality

[Rating:5/5]

Howls-Moving-Castle-BD_02

In comparison to the previously reviewed UK Blu-ray release from StudioCanal, this Disney release of Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle once again show’s better textural information and more vibrant color reproduction, but the difference is a little more subtle than is usually the case concerning most Ghibli releases from StudioCanal. Whatever the case may be, this Disney Blu-ray definitely squeaks out an advantage and is pure reference quality visuals with stunning detail and no problems whatsoever concerning aliasing, noise, or compression issues.

Audio Quality

[Rating:5/5]

Howls-Moving-Castle-BD_03

Original Japanese-language and English dub soundtracks are provided in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) as well as a French dub in Dolby Digital 5.1. The lossless 5.1 mixes in English and Japanese are superbly done, finely balanced, and atmospheric, with clear dialogue, and a mixture of in-your-face discrete sounds and more subtle sound effects evenly spaced around the room. The score is airy and dynamic with crystalline high frequencies that are never grating and just enough lows for a solid foundation.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

Howls-Moving-Castle-BD_04

Howl’s Moving Castle gets most of the same supplements in this Disney release as the UK release from StudioCanal, but a few are dropped, such as an interview with the original author and a featurette on the CG work. What remains is still worth watching, but I prefer the picture-in-picture versions of the storyboards that StudioCanal provides over the full screen versions from Disney.

The supplements:

  • Storyboards – Watch Howl’s Moving Castle in storyboard form.
  • Hello Mr. Lasseter: Hayao Miyazaki Visits Pixar (1.33:1; 720p/60; 00:16:29) – The legendary animators meet with each other in the headquarters of Pixar.
  • Interview with Pete Docter (Director of the English Dub) (1.33:1; 720p/24; 00:07:23) – Pete Docter speaks about his work bringing the Japanese film to the English-speaking market.
  • Behind the Microphone (1.33:1; 720p/60; 00:09:02) – A look behind-the-scenes at the English voice cast at work.
  • TV Spots and Trailers (1.85:1; 1080p/24; 00:08:15)
  • DVD — Standard DVD is included.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

Howls-Moving-Castle-BD_05

Howl’s Moving Castle is a joyous and inspirational film for the entire family, a magical journey of the mind and spirit, one that only could have come from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. The Blu-ray release from Disney is truly magnificent and worthy of any animation fan’s collection.

Additional Screen Captures

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Howls-Moving-Castle-BD_06

Howls-Moving-Castle-BD_07

Howls-Moving-Castle-BD_08

Howls-Moving-Castle-BD_09

Howls-Moving-Castle-BD_10

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Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

 

 

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