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Howl’s Moving Castle [UK] Blu-ray Review

  • 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/16-bit)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: B (Region-Locked)
  • Certification: U
  • Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
  • Run time: 119 Mins.
  • Studio: StudioCanal
  • Blu-ray Release Date: June 25, 2012
  • RRP: £24.99

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

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:5/5]

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.

Video Quality

[Rating:5/5]

StudioCanal’s release of Howl’s Moving Castle will please the majority of people who view it due to its clean image and vivid rendering of colors in this AVC/MPEG-4 1080p/24 transfer, just as one would expect from a completely digital animated film. There is little video noise to be detected, no appearance of aliasing, and the line art is crisp.

Audio Quality

[Rating:5/5]

Howl’s Moving Castle has always sounded magnificent and this Blu-ray release with its Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) and literal English subtitles and English dub in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) is no exception. From the way Joe Hisaishi’s beautiful score fills the channels to the directional panning across the front and surrounds and lavish use of atmospheric effects, this dynamic mix is a winner, whether you choose to listen in the native Japanese or English.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4.5/5]

There’s a strong selection of production featurettes offered with this release although much of the material is up-scaled to high definition in the odd 1280×720 resolution at both 60Hz and 24Hz.

The supplements:

  • Storyboards – Watch Howl’s Moving Castle and see the storyboards for the entire film in picture-in-picture mode.
  • Hello Mr. Lasseter: Hayao Miyazaki Visits Pixar (1.33:1; 720p/60; 00:16:27) – The legendary animators meet with each other in the headquarters of Pixar.
  • Interview with Diana Wynne Jones (Author of Howl’s Moving Castle) (1.33:1; 720p/24; 00:07:54) – The author discusses how she enjoyed the adaptation of her book.
  • Interview with Pete Docter (Director of the English Dub) (1.33:1; 720p/24; 00:07:48) – Pete Docter speaks about his work bringing the Japanese film to the English-speaking market.
  • Explanation of CG (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:19:37) – A look at the use of CG work used on the film and how it was blended seamlessly into the rest if the animation.
  • The Sounds of Howl’s Moving Castle (1.33:1; 720p/60; 00:27;49) – A discussion of the importance of the soundscape and music to the overall production of Howl’s Moving Castle.
  • Behind the Microphone (1.33:1; 720p/60; 00:09:00) – A look behind-the-scenes at the English voice cast at work.
  • TV Spots (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:03:36)
  • Original Japanese Theatrical Trailers (1.85:1; 1080p/24; 00:07:51)
  • Studio Ghibli Collection Trailers (1080p/24)
  • DVD — Standard DVD is included.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:5/5]

Howl’s Moving Castle is a joyous and inspirational film for the entire family, one that only could have come from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. StudioCanal’s Blu-ray release is equally impressive and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Additional Screen Captures

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

 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Three movies in one; Miyazaki took Diana Wynne Jones’s novel, ramped up the antiwar message (as his reaction to George W Bush and the overthrow of the Iraqi government) and added his own meditations on getting old (he was in his sixties when this was created). A lot of meaning packed into one gorgeous gift-box. Arguably Miyazaki’s most mature work, and a voice cast for the English dub that works perfectly, especially the legendary Lauren Bacall as the Witch of the Waste.

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