Howl's Moving Castle (Hauru no ugoku shiro) (Blu-ray) (2004)

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Released 23-May-2012

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Featurette-Storyboards
Featurette-Hello, Mr. Lasseter
Interviews-Crew-Pete Docter (Director Of The English Dub)
Interviews-Crew-Dianna Wynne-Jones
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Explanation of CG
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Sounds of Howl's Moving Castle
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Behind the Microphone
TV Spots
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Studio Ghibli Trailers
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 119:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Hayao Miyazaki

Madman Entertainment
Starring Chieko Baisho
Takuya Kimura
Akihiro Miwa
Tatsuya Gashuin
Ryunosuke Kamiki
Mitsunori Isaki
Yo Oizumi
Akio Ôtsuka
Daijiro Harada
Haruko Kato
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $24.95 Music Joe Hisaishi
Youmi Kimura

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Japanese DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Howl's Moving Castle is the second most recent animated film from Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki. It has previously been released twice on DVD in an inexplicably identical Limited Edition and Special Edition, both appearing within the same 12 month period. Both Editions were reviewed by this site. The reviews can be found here:

     It is a little difficult to understand the logic behind some of the Studio Ghibli high-definition releases. Whilst each one is greatly appreciated it is still not clear why arguably the most famous film, Spirited Away, the winner of the Best Animated Feature Oscar, does not have a release date. Other great films such as Princess Mononoke and the iconic My Neighbour Totoro are also strangely absent at the same time as slighter efforts such as Whisper of the Heart and My Neighbours the Yamadas have had Blu-ray releases. It is not a Region B gripe. All of the world has to complain as there are no decent Blu-ray releases of these films in any region.

     Howl's Moving Castle was also nominated for an Oscar but lost out to Wallace and Gromit. It is a marvellous film from beginning to end. While Studio Ghibli always represents quality in animation there is something special about the films of Miyazaki. They go deep into the soul of a young person and provide complex and rewarding experiences. With its blend of love, witchcraft and the horrors of war this is a film for those slightly older than Totoro or Spirited Away

     As said, Howl's Moving Castle has already had a decent DVD release. As with the release of other catalogue titles on Blu-ray the question is whether this is an essential purchase. Of course, for true Miyazaki fans there is no question. They will buy the film. For the other, more casual fans, the question has three parts will:

  1. is the video transfer an improvement over the DVD;
  2. is the sound transfer an improvement over the DVD;
  3. are there sufficient new extras to improve the package?

    For the answers to these questions see below…

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Transfer Quality


     As with the previous releases Howl's Moving Castle comes to Blu-ray in the correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

     The previous DVD releases were already good-looking animated films. Could the Blu-ray be any better? The answer is - yes. This is a superb Blu-ray transfer that goes very quickly from the sublime to the exhilarating. The painted cells are gorgeous in their pastoral glory and the computer generated work, particularly the moving castle, is breathtaking.

     The detail level is excellent throughout with the animated lines clean and sharp.

     The colours are gorgeous to behold and there are no technical defects whatsoever. The mild aliasing and edge enhancement from the DVD editions is gone.

     Perhaps it is not as spectacular as Hollywood computer animation however each of these cells could be hung on a wall as a work of art.

    The subtitles are in English.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     As with the DVD releases this film comes with two soundtracks. Both are identically appointed as DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks. There is the original Japanese language version and the English dub. The Japanese track features the same actress playing Sophie as a young girl and a 90-year-old woman whereas in English dub that is split between Emily Mortimer and Jean Simmons. Otherwise both tracks are superb

     The greatest quality of the tracks is the aural soundscape created. It would have to be one of the best Blu-rays I have heard in creating a feeling of depth and clarity to the sounds. It really comes alive in the living room helped by the wonderful score of Joe Hasaishi. The surround effects are well placed and the sub-woofer gets a good workout from time to time.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     The Blu-ray comes with a series of extras. However some fans will be disappointed to find that none of them are really new. Most of them are featured on the previous DVD release. Nevertheless for those who do not have that release they provide an interesting series of extras.

     There are two "new" items. I am unsure of their provenance as both emanate from the same era as the previous extras and are similarly appointed - 1.33:1 and 720P.

The Sounds of Howl’s Moving Castle (27;49)

     A lengthy and interesting look at the work that went into creating the soundscape for the film.

Behind the Microphone (9:00)

     Interviews and on-set footage of the English dub cast working away. The laugh out loud moment - seeing Josh Hutcherson way before his Hunger Games days.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   Region B is currently the only Region where this can be purchased. The Japanese release doesn't appear to be available and there is no Region A.


     After the brilliance of Spirited Away I was initially disappointed seeing Howl's Moving Castle in the cinema, feeling that it was a slight step down. Seeing it again has proved me wrong. It is an exceptional, moving piece of animated cinema. It belongs in any collection of animation.

     The Blu-ray quality is superb in sound and vision terms.

     There are heaps of extras but they are looking a bit long in the tooth.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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