My verdict: If you've seen anything else by Hayao Miyazaki you know to expect some weird sequences and some disgusting-looking characters. This film is no different. In general, though, the animation is lush and exquisitely detailed. There are a lot of unusual aspects to the story, but they all come together, eventually, and make sense. I can't say that I ever really like Howl as a character, but he's still intriguing. Sophie, Calcifer, Markl, the Witch of the Waste, and Turnip Head are a lot more enjoyable. If you've never experienced Japanese animation, I would recommend you try starting with this one.
 It's possible, though, that at the time only the English-dubbed version was available. Dubbing the film into English was overseen by Pixar's Peter Doctor (director of Monster's, Inc. and Up). The film was subsequently distributed in North America by Disney.
 If you find it a little confusing, read the synopsis over at Wikipedia, which is pretty good.
Bodiam Castle is by Antony McCallum, available at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bodiam-castle-10My8-1197.jpg.