Howl’s Moving Castle might not be on everyone’s list of favourite Hayao Miyazaki films, but it sits on the top of mine. The mystical and whimsical world in this film centres around one of my favourite female protagonists of all time, Sophie Hatter. Because among the magic and reverie of it all, Sophie comes across as the most human and relatable character. She grew from a simple but insecure girl to a powerful and confident woman.
After her first encounter with Howl, Sophie was targeted by the Wicked Witch of the Waste who transformed her into an old woman. Instead of isolating herself or giving into her negative emotions, she sets off on a journey to find a solution. Through her encounters with witches, demons and even getting caught in a war, she manages to keep her wits.
She begins to embrace, accept and care for herself and others, even those who have wronged her. Even in moments of weakness, she recovers and perseveres. Sophie did not let her curse stop her from helping others. In fact, it seems as though she finds it quite liberating, and uses it to her advantage. By doing so, her true personality is slowly revealed. And each time she feels confident and happy, she turns back to her beautiful younger self. This doesn’t go unnoticed by the people around her. Howl sees through her appearance and sees her for who she truly is.
I’ve re-watched the film many times at different points in my life, and Sophie’s character still continues to inspire me. Through her love for herself and others, she finally breaks the curse. Her journey in finding herself makes her strong, compassionate and human.
Girl Museum Inc.