The Studio Ghibli Fantasy Adventure Anime Better Than The Book

By Nina Phillips | Published

Howl’s Moving Castle started as a book series before the first one was adapted into an animated movie. Like many adaptations, the two stories have some stark differences. While I generally find books to be better than movie adaptations, there is one reason why Howl’s Moving Castles movie has a better premise than the books. 

Howl’s Moving Castle Is Based On A Book

Howl’s Moving Castle was originally the first book in a three-book series by Dianne Wynn Jones. However, those who don’t know this author or who prefer movies to books know about something else by the same name. Howl’s Moving Castle is also a movie by Studio Ghibli’s director Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away). 

There’s A Lot Of Differences Between The Two

Miyazaki’s animated movie is based on the novel, which is why it shares the same name. However, the movie is very loosely based on Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle, which means there are some pretty significant differences between the two. 

In fact, the differences are so numerous that it’s hard to compare the two. From where Howl originates to the relationship between Sophie (Jean Simmons, Emily Mortimer) and Howl (Christian Bale), it’s easier to say that the movie is loosely inspired by the book rather than an adaptation. 

Sophie Is Far More Interesting

Each version obviously has its own pros and cons, and both are enjoyable. However, there is one area where Howl’s Moving Castle the movie comes out the winner, and that’s the characters, especially Howl. 

Sophie’s character in Dianne Wynn Jones’ version of Howl’s Moving Castle is a lot more interesting and has much more depth. Instead of being a fairly passive character, Sophie is argumentative and always ready to fight and stand up for herself. Since the story is focused on her and her emotions, the romance is much slower and more subtle, as she denies it for a long time. 

Howl Experiences More Growth

However, Howl goes to the extreme. Though in Miyazaki’s version of Howl’s Moving Castle, he starts off as fairly annoying, he grows to be a much more likable and enjoyable character, protecting Sophie and having a boyish charm about him. In comparison, Jones’ version is just chaotic and annoying. 

In the book, he’s much more dramatic, vain, and cowardly. He ran away from the world he grew up in and continued to hide from any responsibilities in this more magical land. Even when the two fall in love and have a child together, Howl’s personality barely changes. 

Love Still Blossoms

In some parts, I enjoy this because it shows that you can grow to love someone for who they are without requiring them to change their entire personality. But throughout most of the second and third books, it’s just annoying. To escape any responsibilities, Howl often turns into a young boy, which then confuses and traumatizes his own kid, who can’t decide between having his friend or his dad around. 

Available To Stream On Max


Hayao Miyazaki’s version of Howl’s Moving Castle has its own problems. There’s not enough content to make the story feel detailed and the characters feel real. However, the romance between Sophie and Howl and the subtle character growth is much better. Overall, the movie gives the story a more whimsical and emotional feeling, which is why I think it stands out from the books and is the better of the two.

If you want to watch, or rewatch, Howl’s Moving Castle, and maybe compare it to the book, it’s available to watch on Max.