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Hauru no ugoku shiro (2004)
They tried to save each other ...
I saw this twice, because there was no way I could understand the plot (especially in the second half) after only seeing it once. The first time around I got too carried away watching the animation, but the second viewing helped me understand the story a lot better, as I managed to pay more attention to all the dialogues.
Honestly though I still don't know exactly what happened in the last half an hour or so. I'm going to read the book, and I'm sure I will enjoy it but don't know how useful it's going to be. The film's said to be wildly different from the original setting.
It really doesn't matter, because I don't seem to mind seeing the film once again (& again). The animation is so beautiful & I find the characters cute gorgeous, funny & very heart-warming.
I figure that the face of the old Sophie changes & she instantly looks younger when she feels excited / happy / alive, even as a very old woman (she looks young when asleep, but I wonder if it's only in Howl's vision).
It breaks my heart that she looks sad & immediately turns back into the old Sophie when Howl tries to tell her sincerely "you are beautiful". But then both Howl & Sophie must fight the war to save each other & the rest of their newly-formed family incl. their old enemy & the dog. The curse is already gone by the time Sophie comes back to present from the past through the door, finds the wounded Bird Howl & kisses him. She won't look old any more.
Still, I also like the fact that earlier in the film, after the initial shock, Sophie was clearly able to enjoy herself being old. Think she was already in love with Howl when he came back to the Castle & found her, but she didn't have to be nervous or anything because she knew she was no longer a shy 18-year-old.
And Sophie's first encounter with Howl in the back street ... did he say "There you are, SWEETHEART"? Has he actually been looking for Sophie ever since he (as a still very young boy) saw her & heard her cry FIND ME IN THE FUTURE. That's clever, and most romantic.