Howl

Jun. 30th, 2005 06:31 pm
amari_z: (fall red trees)
No, not the poem--maybe some other time.

I recently watched Howl's Moving Castle. How cool was that? I have loved DWJ since I was actually the age of her intended audience, and Howl is one of my favorites of her books (along with Power of Three, Archer's Goon and Homeward Bounders--though she's so good, it's hard to pick). I had been waiting and waiting for this to come out in the U.S. Miyazaki animating DWJ--almost too cool to be real.

Okay, so the movie took a lot of liberties--adding in typical Miyazaki themes that weren't in the book and, so they wouldn't break anime law, making sure that there was a cute child character even where no child character existed--and I ordinarily might not have not been pleased about the changes (and some of it, on a very little reflection, didn't make sense)--but I didn't care. It was too beautiful. I can't wait until it comes out on DVD and I can watch it again and hear the Japanese voices--although (shocking for me to say) I didn't mind the English dub.

I loved that, despite making Howl a little more, er, a better of a person than in the book, they included the sliming scene. Best scene ever.
amari_z: (ran)
I watched this in one barely interrupted marathon, a bad habit of mine and one of the reasons I tend to accumulate more and more anime without watching it--I like to watch a whole series in a row (I once watched Prince of Tennis 1-seventy-ish in the course of roughly a week, my excuse being that I was home sick), which makes it difficult to find time to sit down and watch things even once I've acquired the entire series. I think this preference arises from my poor memory--watching 3 eps of something every 2-3 months is really annoying to me, since it takes me a while to remember what's going on and what sort of emotional responses have been built up by the previous episodes. I never like shows as much when I watch them broken up over a long period. It's probably a carryover from the way I read books (fiction, anyway)--if it's not worth reading in one big gulp, is it worth reading at all?

I was surprised by how much I liked this series given that I hadn't really heard anything about it. There was nothing very original about it, but in a quiet rather understated way it was really well done. I really liked how the main character generally avoided any of the usually anime girl annoying traits--she wasn't sickening cute, she wasn't ridiculously good at something, her traits and weakness weren't exaggerated. She was pretty much just an ordinary girl, with abilities that weren't unbelievable in the world of this series. That's another thing-- I was pretty intrigued by the slightly AU world that this series was set in. I thought the writer(s) did at least a plausible, and intriguing, job of speculating what place magic abilities might have in the world if they did indeed exist (complete with bureaucracy), and what sort of dilemmas people who had them might actually face.

I liked all the characters; no one annoyed me, probably because, like the main character, they were done fairly realistically. Yes, they filled certain stereotypical (or perhaps archetypical) roles--the handsome teacher with the tragic past, the loud outgoing party girl, the cheerful sidekick type, the cute kid with an attitude, the cold girl with a superior attitude to match superior abilities. All of it fairly typical, but nevertheless, each of the characters was more than a flat piece of cardboard, and each was treated generously by the writers so as to make each of them a "real" character.

I also really liked the animation and the overall atmosphere. It was understated enough that it wasn't until I was over half way through the episodes that it hit me that it was "magical girl" anime. That the main character had a catchphrase a la Sakura and her ilk, didn't register until that point, even though I usually find such things off-putting. It didn't irritate me at all in this show, perhaps because the catch was quite short, there was no transformation, and even the actions of her magical symbol varied based on what magic she was performing.

I've read comments that complained that the series was slow or boring, but I didn't think so. There were no fights, no broad comedy, no bad guys, but it told an actual story from start to finish that I found interesting and actually quite compelling. The question of how or whether to wield abilities we have (magical or non magical) is, to me, always going to be an interesting one. Each of us in our life faces the issue of having to act (or to not act) and facing the consequences of seeing even the actions we take with the best of intentions in our hearts turn out otherwise than we wish.

Like any realistic story, the anime didn't explain everything--there were certain things you could figure out on your own, but weren't spelled out for you, and certain things were never explained. This wasn't the usual anime problem of the story being cut short so that it could fit into the budgeted number of episodes, but rather done purposefully. The story was tied up completely and satisfyingly. It left you wanting more, but not needing more.

In some ways, it rather reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones' books--normalish world with slight difference--although it lacked the unforeseen plot twist that the best of Jones' books have (I don't think the revelation of the teacher's past tragedy was supposed to be a surprise), but it shared a similar atmosphere. Since I Love DWJ, this is pretty high praise.

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