Vassar College Digital Library
As evidenced by the opening sequences of both films, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle can be read both narratively and visually. Jonathan Ellis asserts that Miyazaki can be understood not only as a master storyteller, but also as a “cinematic painter.” While Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle have been extensively studied through narrative, environmental, and psychological lenses, little scholarship directly addresses the visual landscapes of the films. Nevertheless, the visual nature of the films is central in rendering such evocative and tangible stories. Though Miyazaki does not outright state the locations portrayed in the films, they are not unfounded. Miyazaki selects of motifs from historic European architecture to create urban landscapes that are simultaneously recognizable and fictional. In this essay, I examine how and why Miyazaki chose to evoke specific European cities - namely Stockholm and Visby in Sweden, Colmar in the Alsace region of France, and Amsterdam, Netherlands - in Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle. Miyazaki constructs cities hat are paradoxically picturesque and tactile, familiar and unreal. In doing so, he constructs fantasy sites that embody the intangible loss and change caused by modernization and World War II. The imaginary landscapes of Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle allow the viewer to explore memory, nostalgia, and the loss of actual landscapes.
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