Thursday, February 2, 2012

re-read Review - HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE

Howl's Moving Castle is one of those strange books that I love, without knowing why exactly I love it. Even after I finished my second reading, I still can't quite put my finger on what it is that Howl has that is so memorable, but it's something all right.

I originally read this book back in the fall of 2009. I liked it, thought it was pretty cute, but it wasn't my favorite read of the year or anything. Flash-forward to this year: quite by accident I happened across Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki's Academy-Award winning film version...  The film version, to say the least, is WEIRD. Like, blotches of brilliance mixed with the incoherent. At least, that was my interpretation.
I will go out on a limb and confess that anime has never done much for me. My early formative years took place during the early part of the Disney Renaissance, so when I think of animation as art, I think of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Anime, thus, always seems to fall short for me. BUT even Miyazaki's version was dynamic enough to make me watch it twice. Anyway, watching that adaptation prompted me to reread the book, and I'm glad I did. Although Miyazaki's version has little in common with the original source material. Moving on...

So...what exactly is it about Howl's Moving Castle that resonates with me? I'm not exactly sure. I can't say it's the characters - no one (Sophie, Michael, Calcifer, or the eponymous Howl) seemed very fleshed out or well-rounded, yet they were still shockingly memorable. I can't really say it was the plot - mostly I felt like I was just along for the ride, observing things from the sidelines rather than being down in the trenches, with the characters, where the action was. It wasn't the writing style, which wasn't very descriptive, but wasn't overly bland, either. I...I don't know. But there is something about this book that is completely unique and memorable.

Specifically, there's something about Howl that has stayed with me. He is an incredibly dynamic character, but I'm not exactly sure why. As I was reading the second time around, I noticed that he doesn't really have that many scenes, as readers spend more time following Sophie around as she cleans and whatnot. I found myself searching and searching for clues to his inner nature or motivations. I'm still a bit underwhelmed by his relationship with Sophie - the few times they were actually together in a scene, they were bickering. Doesn't say 'I heartily love you' (no pun intended). But still...all these things said, Howl's Moving Castle and its characters are among the most memorable. It's been a day since I finished my reread, and I've found myself still thinking about the characters. That's definitely power, right there.
 Howl's Moving Castle was originally published in 1986, making it an example of older, "classic" YA lit. It's definitely written differently than many/most YA novels now that are heavy on exposition and are mostly character-driven. But it's a fun read, it's a quick read, and like I said, there's just something downright memorable about the story.

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