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Why Hayao Miyazaki Thought Howl's Moving Castle Would Be Unpopular In The United States

Why Hayao Miyazaki Thought Howl's Moving Castle Would Be Unpopular In The United States Image
  • Posted on 08th Apr, 2022 15:55 PM

Howl's Moving Castle is a beloved film, but Hayao Miyazaki had doubts that it would be popular in the United State due to political reasons.

p>Howl's Moving Castle is a Studio Ghibli movie, one of many Hayao Miyazaki's critically acclaimed anime films, and came out in the United States in 2005. The movie was based on a book of the same name by Diana Jones. The Studio Ghibli movie's plot revolves around Sophie, who is cursed by a witch to become an old woman. So she seeks out the wizard Howl to break her curse.

The movie has a lot of similar themes to other Studio Ghibli films such as compassion, pacifism, and critique of modernity. However, it was revealed in a book about the famous director, Hayao Miyazaki's World Picture, that Miyazaki actually did not expect the movie to be a hit in the United States. In fact, he thought it would make American audiences uneasy. Despite his thoughts, the film was a major success in the United States. As to why Miyazaki thought the movie would be unpopular in the United States, it actually has a lot to do with his politics and the 2003 Iraq War.

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Miyazaki's Stance On The Iraq War In Howl's Moving Castle

In 2003, Miyazaki was invited to accept an Oscar for Spirited Away in the United States, however, he did not come. He later told the LA Times that he did not come because he did not want to visit a country that was bombing Iraq. This information did not come forward until years later, as Miyazaki explained that his producer did not allow him to share his sentiments publicly at the time.

Miyazaki is a pacifist and was influenced by growing up during World War 2, so it comes as no surprise that he would dislike the Iraq War. What is a little more surprising to fans is how the Iraq War specifically influenced how Miyazaki framed the war in Howl's Moving Castle. In the movie, the war is fueled by the desires of people in power rather than any form of logic or justice. He shows through Howl's curse how humanity can be lost through all this fighting and that there is a looming point of no return for the heart of man.

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War is everywhere in Howl's Moving Castle, despite the plot mostly taking place outside it. Soldiers are seen in the background of nearly every city. There are tanks on the streets, warships coming home on fire, and a ton of warplanes. Everyone is knocking on Howl's doors, hoping he can use his magic for the war effort. Witches and wizards that do not dedicate themselves to fighting in the war are seen as enemies and traitors to their country.

Why Howl's Moving Castle Was Still A Major Success In The United States

There are three big reasons that the anime film was still a success in the United States, despite Miyazaki's sentiments. The first reason was that just a lot of Americans did not connect the war in Howl's Moving Castle with the war in Iraq. This is because the film does not go deep into the war. It does not cover much of the nations or their reasons for fighting outside a missing prince. Miyazaki's connection to the Iraq war was incredibly subtle. To fans, Howl's Moving Castle could be related to any war. In fact, it is about any war but at the time Miyazaki did reflect on the United States and Iraq when making the film.

Another reason is that just because the United States was at war, it did not mean that its people were pro-war. People are not their government, and there was plenty of backlash for going to war with Iraq among the American people. Many actually agree with Miyazaki in that the war was wrong, and thus find the movie all the more enjoyable.

Last but not least, Miyazaki does not make movies that try to shove lessons down its audience's throats. His villains are never pure evil, but complex people who are always capable of changing. He does not portray soldiers or even their leaders as clear-cut bad people. This fact is one of the greatest natural beauties of his films. In Howl's Moving Castle, even the Witch of the Wastes, who cursed Sophie in the first place and tries to steal Howl's heart, becomes like family. Madame Suliman, who tried to force Howl into fighting in the war eventually admits that the war is stupid. These complexities make the film wonderful for all, even if it subtly is critiquing a country's real-world war.

Howl's Moving Castle was internationally beloved. In the United States, it even won a Nebula Award for Best Script and almost won Miyazaki yet another Academy Award. It appeared on many American top ten lists of best films in 2005 in publications like LA Weekly, Los Angelos Times, The Charlotte Observer, The Chicago Tribune, and The Baltimore Sun. About 17 years later, the movie is still a favorite of many American anime fans.

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