Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Howl my Moving Castle Lost its Legs:The Platypus Reads part CXXVII

We're finishing out the summer here with a trek back through the films of Hayao Miyazaki and with that a little look at some of his source material.  In this case, that means a read through Diana Wynne Jones' "Howl's Moving Castle."  The film adaptation of this book is one of my favorite Studio Ghibli films and I've watched it numerous times over the past several years.  This is the first time, however, that I've turned to pick up the novel.

Stepping into Diana Wynne Jones's world of whiny wizards has been a treat.  There's a quirky fractured-fairy tale feel to the whole book that's actually subtle enough not to overwhelm the story with irony; what Tolkien calls "the author's wink at the other adults in the room."  The characters and settings function well both as archetypes and as individuals so that the fairy tale feel is preserved right along with all the trappings of a modern psychological novel.  For those who were introduced to the story with the film, it is pleasant to find that Miyazaki preserved enough of the original story to make it familiar and intelligible when turning to the novel and yet provided enough changes and omissions to keep the book fresh and interesting in its own right.  So far, my appreciation for neither the film nor the book has been diminished, and that's quite a rare thing.

We're only half-way through the book right now, so I'll have to stop there.  If the story continues the way it's going currently, however, they'll be nothing but good news to report once its finished.  Good luck in the meantime! 


Josh Kenfield said...

Good to know. I was wondering how the novel compared.

vespreardens said...

I'll try not to say too much, since you haven't finished the book yet, but after reading the book I had mixed feelings on the movie. There are some similar themes, characters, and bits of the world that run very parallel in Miyazaki's version and in Jones's version, but in the end, they are very different works. It's almost like Miyazaki is writing Howl's Moving Castle fanfiction. However, if one makes that comparison, one must point out that it would be the height of fanfiction.

I enjoy both of them, but not in tandem. Miyazaki's film is a beautiful story and a wonderful world, and is probably my second favorite movie by him, sandwiched right in between Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. That said, it's a terrible adaptation. It loses a lot of what Jones seemed to be going for in her book in order to make way for certain themes Miyazaki has a tendency to latch onto.

I'll be interested to see what you think of the book once you've finished. I've read a few things by Jones now, and I have some theories on her writing. :)