The Relationship Between Diana Wynne Jonses’ and Miyazaki’s Versions of ‘Howls Moving Castle’

March 15, 2019 by Essay Writer

Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle has inspired many audiences with its witty, creative characters yet deep set storyline and messages. Through Miyazaki’s adaption of Howl’s Moving Castle, a new, equally valuable story has been composed. It is evident of the roles that identity, values, and beliefs play through the two compositions. Both Jones’ and Miyazaki’s work hold distinctive, individualised themes while simultaneously providing their audiences with familiar, recurring morals and content. It could be considered that these differences and similarities are what makes the stories themselves and give significance to both composers’ works respectively.

Personal ideals play a considerable part in creating Jones’ novel, Miyazaki’s adaptation similarly incorporates his own distinctive ethics and beliefs into his work, creating a uniqueness to his piece. Growing up as an ardent pacifist, Miyazaki has embodied major themes of war, machinery and military destruction as a distinctive theme throughout his animation. He explains that his own morals essentially influenced the adaptation, “I do not make films to send out messages of ecology, but because it is part of my values, the problem comes up in my films”. Unlike Jones’ original novel, military destruction and war act as the principle evil of his film, with Howl, rather than journeying to kill the witch of the waste, attempts to ultimately avoid military conscription. Many critics state that it is likely that Miyazaki’s narrative has been Influenced by his opposition to the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003, which was occurring during the time of creation with many of the scenes displaying destructive and volatile war visuals as seen when bombs are dropped through Sophie’s once undisturbed town.

While the appropriation pays considerable attention to the conflict caused by military demolition and industrialised machinery, Jones’ novel acts in accordance with what could be regarded as the classical western fairytale scheme, while also subverting fairytale conventions. Even with this western, idealistic storytelling, Jones embodies many of her own values into her text, explaining, “About ten years ago, boys started being prepared to read books with a female hero. I [found] everything had gone much easier without, then, being able to say how or why. Females weren’t expected to behave like wimps and you could make them the centre of the story. By that time anyway, I [found] the tactile sense of being female stopped bothering me – which may have been a part of the same revolution – and it was a release.” (Jones, Reflections on the Magic of Writing, p142). Jones’ text, while holding comedic value between characters, invites us to consider the ways in which our judgments of heroes are shaped through gender conventions and cultural influence. Jones establishes her protagonist, Sophie, as an adolescent girl managing feelings of inadequacy as well as belittling self-esteem issues. Jones has created a character that does not necessarily go against feminine stereotypes, but rather teaches female readers to embrace them if desired, as they do not make a woman any less resilient, powerful or brave. Through Sophie’s transformation in becoming an empowered motherly figure of the castle and embracing her own qualities, Jones’ explores the ideals and standards of feminism.

Another theme that is common between both compositions is the incorporation of cultural attitudes. Both Miyazaki and Jones, while overall following the basic scheme of classic western literature, have incorporated their respective cultural values. Miyazaki by no means holds his films in cultural isolation. The western, Japanese and European ideologies are prominent throughout his films. Miyazaki stated in an interview with OutNow that his integration of multi-cultural landscapes, themes and ideals were inspired by his interest in westernised concepts, stating, “We probably read more European than Japanese literature growing up. We read so much from different countries, Russia, France, Great Britain. So all these influences got mixed up… We were influenced by art, music, and films from Europe. Because of all these influences, I do not want to stick my films just to Japan.’ Miyazaki’s involvement in and exposure to international media is evident through his awe-inspiring landscapes, having travelled to Colmar and Riquewihr in France to study the architecture to gain inspiration for the composition. Within his victorian, steampunk world, many Japanese cultural concepts can be located. Miyazaki’s use of Japan classic style of artwork, anime, is established through many characters exaggerated physical features, as well as his implementation of techniques such as metamorphosis and plasticity through characters, settings, and objects.

Furthermore, through extensive use of Japanese indigenous religion, Shinto, a theme frequently displayed in Japanese popular culture, Miyazaki has exhibited significant relevance to modern life in Japan amongst the new generations. Although the adaption reflects a multicultural appreciation, Jones provides an almost exclusively westernised novel that explores modern fairytale conventions in depth. By disregarding the characteristics of customary fairytale heroines, Jones creates challenging yet enticing characters and allows her personas to overlook the formulaic expectations of western fairytales. Jones discusses the stereotypes of modern female heroes and furthermore creates a disruption of the culture of Western literature by venturing beyond constraints and placing her protagonist in the body of a 90-year-old woman. Jones persists; having Sophie respond controversially, telling her image in the mirror, ‘Don’t worry old thing . . . this is much more like you really are’ (Jones 2000, p.33) and ventures out of Ingary. Cultural themes are both challenged and adhered to through both composers works of Howl’s Moving Castle, producing a fusion of the traditional and modern roles of cultural representation.

Although Miyazaki and Jones’ composition hold their own values and influences, both the textual and cinematic compositions present their audience with similar morals and themes relating to harmony between one’s self and surroundings. A radical change in the social roles is prevalent in both compositions. It is through Miyazaki’s adaption that we see Sophie undertake stages of emotional and physical metamorphosis as she develops and evolves. Beginning with Sophie’s alteration from an eighteen-year-old to a ninety-year-old, Miyazaki unveils Sophie’s first emotional stage of self-doubt. As the story progresses, we see Sophie’s outward appearance transform from time to time as a young girl with brown hair as well as a 50-60-year-old woman. It is during the last portion of the film that Sophie regains her original features, yet looks almost younger and more confident than previously. This metamorphosis of character displays a parallel to her emotional growth through the film, with Miyazaki stating he hopes Sophie’s transformation would act as a lesson on growth for herself and the audience, “I didn’t want is make it seem that turning old was such a bad thing, the idea was that maybe shell have learned a little while being old for a while.” As Sophie develops a bond with the remaining characters and expands her sense of bravery, she grows into her own skin, emotionally and physically. Miyazaki, while presenting a heartwarming story, uses his characters to explore the ideas of internal and external growth. Jones similarly explores Sophie’s journey towards contentment within herself, by beginning the novel stating that,

“In the land of Ingary where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.” This pretext to Sophie’s fantasy realm gives Jones’ audience a clear indicator of the misfortune that Sophie is bound to encounter. Her meek and discouraged persona furthermore indicates Sophie’s knowledge of her inevitable failure, yet through her premature ageing, she becomes forced to begin her journey. Sophie, throughout the course of the novel, eventually begins to understand her power and influence on her surroundings and begins to appreciate her new, confident outlook. Even with her young body returned, her self-assured attitude and assertiveness remains, with Sophie expressing at the end of the novel,

“I think we ought to live happily ever after,” and she thought he meant it. Sophie knew that living happily ever after with Howl would be a good deal more hair-raising than any storybook made it sound, though she was determined to try. “It should be hair-raising,” added Howl.

“And you’ll exploit me,” Sophie said.

“And then you’ll cut up all my suits to teach me.”’

Jones has created a novel that has charmed and enthralled readers since 1986. Jones’ witty and inspiring characters, along with provocative writing continues to inspire her audience and has challenged many fantasy tropes. It is due to the timelessness and relevance of Howl’s Moving Castle that it has remained a popular choice among many. Studio Ghibli’s adaption of Jones’ novel holds equal amounts of meaning and value to many. Miyazaki’s dream-like animations paired with his personal touches evoke new, powerful messages. Due to his exquisite composition, the film Howl’s Moving Castle has achieved international popularity. Both are fine examples of how composers imbue their personal and cultural values and ideals into their texts.

Bibliography – Howls Moving Castle Interview With Miyazaki H. 2005/09/08. October 18, 2012 by Henry Karlson, 2014, Jackie C

Cavallaro, Dani (2015). Hayao Miyazaki’s World Picture. McFarland

Smith, Lindsay (1 April 2011). “War, Wizards, and Words: Transformative Adaptation and Transformed Meanings in Howl’s Moving Castle”. The rolling stones and Media Journal. 11

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