Howl's Moving Castle: Special Edition (Hauru No Ugoku Shiro) (Studio Ghibli (2004)

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Released 12-Oct-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio
Multiple Angles-Storyboards
Interviews-Crew-Diana Wynne Jones (Author Of Howl's Moving Castle)
Interviews-Crew-Pete Docter (Monsters Inc.)
Featurette-Hello, Mr. Lasseter(Pixar)
Featurette-Explanation of CG
Theatrical Trailer-Japanese
TV Spots-Japanese
Trailer-Pom Pokko, Whisper Of The Heart, Princess Mononoke,
Trailer-Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind, Castle In The Sky
Trailer-My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Porco Rosso
Trailer-My Neighbours The Yamadas, Spirited Away, The Cat Returns
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 114:17
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
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 Amaray-Opaque-Dual-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Joe Hisaishi
Youmi Kimura

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English 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 a Hayao Miyazaki film, based on Diana Wynne Jones' fantasy novel of the same name. It is the most recent film from Studio Ghibli and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

    Set in a fantastical Miyazaki world, Howl's Moving Castle tells the story of a young teenage girl called Sophie. After a chance meeting with a wizard called Howl, Sophie is turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste. Seeking to lift the curse, Sophie sets out to find Howl and enlist his assistance. Sophie soon becomes a valued member of the household in the Moving Castle and strives to help Howl bring peace to the war torn nation.

    As Studio Ghibli fans have come to expect, the film is beautifully rendered and the animation is first class. Traditionalists who yearn for hand drawn animation will not be disappointed. American studios have been too quick to ditch traditional animation in favor of CG fests with little thought for story or substance. Studio Ghibli has consistently demonstrated that hand drawn animation is still relevant to audiences around the world.

    Whilst an enjoyable film, the movie tends to feel a little padded out towards the end and seems like it is 12-15 minutes too long. It will probably not be an esteemed family classic as Tonari no Tottoro or Spirited Away are currently regarded, but Howl's Moving Castle is an extremely satisfying and enjoyable film that young and old can enjoy together.

    Interestingly, this Special Edition seems to be virtually identical to the previously released Limited Edition. The Limited Edition has been reviewed on this site and the review can be found here.

    As far as I can tell, the transfers, audio and special features are the same. The only difference is the cover. As such, owners of the Limited Edition would have no benefit in purchasing this release (unless hardcore anime fans wanted it for the different cover.).

    However, if you missed out on the previous release this Special Edition comes highly recommended.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and the disc is 16x9 enhanced.

    The credits are in English, so this appears to be the English language release.

    Overall, the transfer was very solid and according to Madman is an HD to PAL transfer.

    The transfer is quite sharp, but there are a few instances of noticeable edge enhancement.

    Colours are great, with no issues.

    There are no film artefacts to report.

    Some readers have noticed a "juddery stepped" picture when the camera pans. I have to admit I did notice this a few times myself.

    Subtitles are easy to read and seem to match the original Japanese dialogue reasonably well.

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


    There are two main tracks available; an English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) and the original Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s). I recommend the Japanese track for the film makers original vision, but the English one is exceptionally well done. There is actually little difference between the audio tracks.

    Dialogue is clear and easy to hear on both tracks.

    There are no audio clicks, pops or drop outs.

    The score by Joe Hisaishi is fantastic and sounds great throughout the film.

    There is a lot of action in this film and the surrounds are kept busy throughout.

    The sub-woofer also gets a solid work out.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Introduction & Main Menu Audio


Multiple Angles-Storyboards

    Ability to watch the entire film through the original storyboards and you have the choice of Japanese or English soundtracks.

Interviews-Crew-Diana Wynne Jones (Author Of Howl's Moving Castle)(7:34)

    An interesting but brief interview with the author of the original novel.

Interviews-Crew-Pete Docter (Director Of The English Dub)(7:22)

    Speaks about the process of translating script into English, directing voice talent etc.

Featurette-Hello, Mr. Lasseter (16:36)

    Miyazaki visits Pixar's office.

Featurette-Explanation of CG (19:45)

    Fantastic featurette on how CG was used in developing the animation. Shows different examples from the film. Japanese audio with English subtitles.

Theatrical Trailer (1:39)

TV Spots and Trailers (12:08)

Trailer-Studio Ghibli Collection (11:47)

R4 vs R1

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

    There doesn't appear to be 'new' Special Editions in R1 or the UK. So the comparison below is relevant from the Limited Edition.

    The Region 4 appears to be identical in content and transfer quality to the UK Region 2 release.

    The US Region 1 has all of the extras present on the Region 4 plus a short featurette on the making of the English-language dub. From screen caps available on the internet it looks to have a marginally less sharp, less detailed video transfer than the Region 4, and also appears to be slightly stretched vertically (though that could be a result of the screen capture, not reflective of the actual transfer).

    The four-disc Japanese Region 2 Special Edition release is noticeably windowboxed on all sides and the video transfer seems to be markedly inferior to the Region 4. Each of the first two discs has the film complete. Disc one has Japanese soundtracks with DTS ES Matrix and Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks but does not have English subtitles. The second disc has a choice of various language soundtracks in stereo only and English subtitles. Discs three and four have a variety of extras, including all of the extras on the Region 4 but without English subtitles.


    Overall, a wonderful family film.

    The video is very good, but not perfect.

    The audio is excellent.

    The special features are good, even if they are identical to the previous release.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ben Smith (boku no bio)
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDMarantz DV4300, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL HS10 projector on 100 inch 16x9 screen + Palsonic 76WSHD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-DE685. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
SpeakersDB Dynamics VEGA series floor standers + centre, DB bipole rears, 10" 100W DB Dynamics sub

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