Fairy tales tend to be parables. They teach us to look beneath the surface (Beauty and the Beast), to exercise patience and to work to overcome obstacles (Sleeping Beauty), to avoid easy gratification and hold out for the real prizes in life (Pinocchio). In the fairy-tale films of the great Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, the meanings are often layered.
It’s not hard to see the antiwar message in Howl’s Moving Castle. It’s set in an unnamed western European kingdom where a harebrained monarch wages a pointless war. The main plot, however, focuses on the relationship between a young woman named Sophie, who works at her mother’s millinery shop until the Witch of the Waste turns her into an old woman, and a handsome wizard, half man, half bird, named Howl.