Though I haven’t seen the anime in years, this has been one of my favorites from the director since the first time I saw the movie. I’ve always known, sort of in the back of my head, that it was drawn from a novel, but when I came across the eBook recently, it was time to see that side of the picture.
The novel in no ways disappoints. The movie successfully recreated the feel of the book, which is one of the reasons I liked it so much. I need to rewatch the anime now to figure out what was different, but the sad, if only in her perspective, tale of Sophie Hatter, the oldest of three in a fairytale world, unfolds beautifully.
Sophie believes her role in life is predetermined by the common themes of the fairytale, so much so that she’s blind to her own reality. Her two younger sisters are both self-absorbed and worried about her in their own ways, while the truth behind her stepmother doesn’t come clear until much later in the story.
There are a lot of seeds that lack enough information to give me answers and yet draw me in with the possibilities and keep me guessing. As I go through my notes, I see for one character several suggestions of who he might be that are later proven false and yet turn out to be true in a weird way. Calcifer, the fire demon Sophie meets in Howl’s castle, is handing Sophie hints she’s slow to see, but which start to paint a very different picture of the story she’s joined than she expected.
Howl, on the other hand, is the opposite of what Sophie believed him to be, and yet, the more she knows him, the more she sees how the stories are true. Where her enchantment both matured her and freed Sophie from her own fears, Howl is immature to a fault and everyone around him engages in the process of helping him navigate the world despite his nature.
It’s a silly little story with a silly ending, but at the same time, it’s a moving tale of fears and relationships, and of laying claim to your place in the world instead of accepting what you believe is true.
I very much enjoyed the time I spent in this world and with these characters. Even better, the edition I have has an interview with the author at the back that reveals there are more tales available in the fairytale world with these characters. I found the interview a delight as her engagement with the characters is very true to the feel of the world as a whole.