Fans of Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki are likely already familiar with his frequent use of nature as theme, and his woven-in messages of preservation and peace. While all his films are excellent, a fan favorite tends to be Howl’s Moving Castle, the tale of a tortured wizard and the young woman who saves him in the midst of war and environmental destruction.
In Howl’s Moving Castle (available on DVD), misunderstanding triggers conflict. Throughout the film, Miyazaki manipulates the animation to show how both people and the land become corrupted and destroyed as war progresses. Images of rolling greenery and giggling girls at the beginning fade slowly into darkness and fear. By the end, even the titular wizard is becoming a monster. Blazing orange and red visuals illustrate the shift as land and people suffer. After a massive battle, ashen landscapes show what happens to the earth at the hands of humans.
When the war ends, however, there is hope. Pain remains, but with clarity and understanding comes new growth; the land and air become clean again.
Miyazaki’s animation proves to be an unexpected medium by which to portray the age-old theme of how wasteful war can be. Viewers recognize that a sudden return to normalcy is not possible after battle, making the film's ending more fantasy than reality. Still, the story sticks with you — not just because it's an enjoyable love tale, but because it resonates with the issues of our time. It reminds us that we are the stewards of this earth, and that when we drop bombs, we don’t just destroy a supposed enemy. We also destroy our own home.