7 + 1 Studio Ghibli Movies to Watch This Summer

Hullo, world!  

I’ve been waiting for this week to come because…

  1. Ghibli is my life
  2. It’s almost my blogiversary!!!

Yes, this is actually happening. I still can’t believe it’s going to be two years since I began blogging here at SJ Barnard and I’ve loved it all the way, albeit the earlier days when I was floundering. I’ve met so many fellow bloggers who share a passion for reading, writing, and screaming about fandoms, I can’t quite fathom what I’ll do without it. 

I’m thinking of doing a Q & A, so shoot me your questions in the comments section at the end. 🙂

Now that the introductions are underway, let’s dive straight into today’s post! 

1. The Wind Rises (2013)

Rating: PG, Romance, War

This is one of my absolute favourite Studio Ghibli films! It’s loosely based on the life of Horikoshi Jiro, who designed the famous Zero fighter plane during WWII. 

What I Love About This Story:

  • The Sky. Miyazaki’s love for planes are displayed at its best here
  • Taisho~Showa era vibes. Esp. the fusion between the western and Japanese culture
  • Undertone wars. The way it slowly encroaches upon every aspect of the story is haunting

2. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Rating: PG, Romance, War, Magic

This is the famous (or infamous) movie loosely inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’ book of the same title. I know there’s a lot of opinions out there, but can we just all agree on Howl’s supremacy??? 

What I Love About This Story:

  • Howl & Sophie. I don’t care if it’s book Sowl or movie Sowl. Or is it Hophie??
  • The Moving Castle. I mean, come on, it’s pretty cool you get to see it cranking and puffing along!
  • The world & soundtrack. HWC’s OST is one of my favourites!!!

3. From Up On Poppy Hill (2011)

Rating: PG, Romance, Thematic Elements?

Set a year before the  1964 Tokyo Olympics in port city Yokohama, FUOPH follows Mel and fellow classmates trying to save a wartime relic clubhouse from destruction. 

What I Love About This Story:

  • Mid-Showa vibes. I know, I’m kind of obsessed with the 20th century. 
  • Retro-Vintage Academia vibes. The “Latin Quarter” is absolutely the best club house in the world. I want to live there!!
  • Yokohama. I just love that city. I miss it. 😭

4. Ponyo (2008)

Rating: G, Thematic Elements, Magic

Okay, before anything, this was my childhood movie along with My Neighbour Totoro. I was a kid when it came out in the theatres, and I still remember we sang this for our sports meet in elementary!!

Ahem.

Anyhow, it’s a super cute story about a goldfish princess who wants to become human meeting a boy named Sousuke, very loosely inspired by the Little Mermaid and Japanese legends, IDK.

What I Love About This Story:

  • The Ocean. Hands down, the ocean town is the best thing in this movie
  • Sousuke & Ponyo. They’re just so cute together!! I mean, they’re probably going to be the best childhood sweethearts. Like, ever. 
  • Ramen. Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Every time I watch this movie, I want to eat Nisshin’s Chicken Ramen. Shockingly expensive here…

5. When Marnie Was There (2014)

Rating: G, Thematic Elements

Also based on a book (that I love as well!!) WMWT chronicles the otherworldly summer of Anna, who is always on the “Outside” but meets a mysterious girl–Marnie, who changes everything. 

What I Love About This Story:

  • The Swamp House. There’s no other way to put it. 
  • Marnie. She’s just such a strange character I can’t really categorise her, but I would want to be friends with her!
  • Anna’s drawings, They’re so alive and a nice touch only the movie has. 

6. Princess Mononoke (1997)

Rating: 14A, Thematic Elements, Violence

Set in the late Muromachi period (14th century), Ashitaka, who was on his way to find a cure for a Tatarigami’s curse, finds himself in the middle of a war between the forest gods and the mining colony, Tatara…

What I Love About This Story:

  • Historical Fantasy! I like how I can’t really place the story in an exact historical period, it’s like it’s a step removed from there.
  • Ashitaka. We all wish modern guys were like him…
  • Tatara. I guess now that I think about it, it’s steam-punk! (Also, the forest. It’s purely magical–or mythical, I should say.)

7. Ocean Waves (1993)

Rating: PG, Romance, Thematic Elements

This is an older movie also based on a book that even my Mum watched when she was younger. It’s not directed by Miyazaki or Takahata, but the toned down vibes and simple storyline is still captivating. 

OW follows Taku Morisaki’s recollection of his high school days as he travels back to his hometown from Tokyo. 

What I Love About This Story:

  • Showa vibes. Okay, I should stop, but Showa is the thing for us Heisei kids. Just wait until the Reiwa gen. grows up and starts talking about Heisei like a big novelty. 
  • Obviously, the ocean. Unlike the other movies on the list, I love how faded it feels because it’s a memory of bygone days. 

8. Grave of the Firefly (1988)

Rating: PG, War, Violence, Thematic Elements

The very last one on the list is probably the most gut-wrenching one partly because it takes place during WWII head on and partly because the main charcters are children. Every summer of my elementary years, schools and after school care would show this movie as a reminder of the great Tokyo air raid, and I have not forgotten it since. 

What I Love About This Story:

  • Realism. They really went all in with this movie, and it tends to get scary for younger audiences because of it, but I think it was necessary.
  • Sakuma drops. Literally every kid in Japan will buy one can at one point in their lives and keep it for eternity. Plus, it’s really good!
  • Fireflies. The way they wove it into the story is just… I can’t even. 

And that’s about it for now!

Thank you for reading! Have you watched any of these movies? Do you like Studio Ghibli? (It’s a loaded question, lol.) Tell me your thoughts & questions you’d like to ask me about my upcoming blogiversary below! I’d love to chat with you!!

Finding God in Anime & Capsule Review

Hullo, world! 

I’m so excited for today, not simply because I get an excuse to ramble on about my favourite things, but also because I get to share with you some of the awesome things I’ve been able to be a part of. 

The first of those is…*inserts drumroll*

THE FINDING GOD IN ANIME DEVOTIONAL!!!

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Yes, you heard it right. There’s a brand new devotional feat. manga & anime and it’s the one thing you didn’t know was missing from your life ™. 

About Finding God in Anime

Being a Christian can be tough. Being an otaku can be tough. But being both at once?

Sometimes it seems easier to become Hokage rather than explaining your faith and passions to others. That is why we otaku have united in this devotional: To encourage otaku like you spiritually and through a medium we all cherish.

In this devotional, you will find God in the animes you know and love. Each devotional presents spiritual lessons found in animes ranging from the world-famous Attack on Titan to fan-favorite Haikyu!! to beloved classics like Cowboy Bebop. Each piece will feature a different theme such as:

  • Human Will vs. The Holy Spirit in Yona of the Dawn
  • Choosing to be Free in Free! Swim Club
  • Not by My Might in My Hero Academia

…and many others! We believe that God can be seen throughout His creation—even in places where people might not intend! So pull out your cosplay and snuggle close with your plushies as you join us in Finding God in Anime.

About the Organizers

Laura and Moriah’s life consists of giving each other manga recommendations until they see whose TBR pile will fall on them first. Rest assured they’re both still safe…until another manga releases. In the meantime, they enjoy sharing beautiful pictures of Japan and trying to make each other laugh with anime memes. They both have an appreciation for cute stickers, samurai, and pins. If they’re not chatting about all things otaku, you can find them trying to write their next story or surviving on ramen and pocky after their latest manga order. 

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MY REVIEW:

First off, how cool is it that you get your devotions done and spend time reminiscing about your favourite manga & anime?? I spent this week and the last reading from FGiA, and it has been a blast…and let me explain why you should be using this devotional as well. 

Reason #1: My mum and I have recently reached the conclusion that it’s impossible not to see biblical themes reciprocated in certain manga/anime, starting from Ghibli and extending to AoT, TPN, &c. We often spend time discussing aspects of our favourite manga & anime and tying it into our personal devotions. So, if you don’t have someone like my Mum, you can still have this discussion with FGiA!

Reason #2: As an anthology, FGiA consists of short devotional entries that’s easy to follow and enjoy even if you don’t know the specific story. It’s a great pick-me-up first thing in the morning (even if you slept in) or the go-to for those small snippets of time you might have on hand

Reason #3: All of the stories featured in FGiA are certified to be clean and God-honouring, even if some of them are darker than the others. It’s a great way to find out more about other manga & anime you were interested in but weren’t sure. I for one was reminded I was really into Yona of the Dawn a few years back and am thinking of giving Naruto Shippuden another read. 

And lastly, just a personal side note: I was super hyped Renée Le Vine included Precure. I basically grew up watching Precure since it started and it has a special place in my heart! I also love Nausicaa (esp. the manga), so I was pleasantly surprised it was featured on more than one occasion. 🙂

So, if you’re an avid manga-reader or anime-lover and would love to explore biblical themes within them, this devotional is absolutely for you!

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 31st

–       Laura A. Grace | Blog Tour Kick-Off

–       C.O. Bonham | Special Feature

–       Author E.E. Rawls | Book Spotlight

Tuesday, June 1st

–       Angela R. Watts | Special Feature

–       Jenna Terese | Book Spotlight

Wednesday, June 2nd

–       The Clean Fiction Blog | Book Spotlight

Thursday, June 3rd

–       Author Hannah Carter | Book Spotlight

Friday, June 4th

–       Deeply Shallow | Book Spotlight

Saturday, June 5th

–       SJ Barnard | Book Review

Monday, June 7th

–       The Artist Librarian | Book Review

–       K.A. Cummins, Exploring Possibilities | Behind-the-Scenes Interview

Tuesday, June 8th

–       Tabitha Caplinger | Book Spotlight

Wednesday, June 9th

–       Piper Bee Blog | Book Review

Thursday, June 10th

–       Erudessa Gentian Blog | Book Review

Friday, June 11th

–       Bigger on the Inside | Special Feature & Review

Saturday, June 12th–       Laura A. Grace | Blog Tour Wrap-Up


I also got to be a part of the Capsule ARC team! Mel Torrefranca’s first novel, Leaving Wishville, has been one of my highlight reads of 2021 and I’m super excited for her second book to come out on July 10th! 

Capsule

Rating: 4.5/5 stars, PG13

Contents: Thematic elements, mild romance, crime, accident, some swearing (no f-words)

Two students from Brookwood High School mysteriously go missing on the same night.

The first is Peter Moon, a heartless pescatarian who bashes students from Brookwood on his blog, turning everyone against him. The second is the adored Kat Pike, an audacious girl desperate to boost her adrenaline. Three days pass. No leads.

Indifferent to the disappearances, sixteen-year-old Jackie Mendoza remains immersed in her virtual world of video games and online friends.

When a menacing app by the name of Capsule downloads itself onto Jackie’s phone, she enters a game interlaced with reality. A game threatening to erase Peter and Kat forever. Only Jackie can save them now—but Capsule is the most ruthless game she’s ever played.

Mel Torrefranca delivers a heart-wrenching thriller about unlikely friendships, bittersweet memories, and a never-ending search for answers best left forgotten.

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MY REVIEW:

I was super excited to be able to ARC read this book as I enjoyed Mel Torrefranca’s first book, and needless to say, I was not disappointed!!!

Note: I received an eARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

1. Theme–It’s honestly refreshing how Capsule visits the themes of family, siblings, friendships, and being present in your life. I just loved how streamlined the themes were in the sense it was completely natural. I also loved the way it subtly made me think of my online presence and IRL friends.

2. Prose–Again, I’m super picky about prose, but with Mel’s books I never have to worry about it. 😉 It’s vivid and imaginative, setting a clear tone to the story as well as offering an insightful narrative.

3. Characters–I usually like “unlikeable” characters, and I found I was really drawn to all three of the main cast–Jackie, Peter, and Kat. Jackie is into online games, something I’m not interested in, but I could feel her seclusion. (Not to mention I adored the brother-sister relationship between Jay and Jackie.) Also, her character arch was really encouraging. Peter was probably my favourite character because…(trying to think of all the good things about him)…he’s human? IRL, I think he would be the type of person I’d avoid, but it made me reconsider people who might look one way but are really another. Also, I shouldn’t be laughing, but some of his comebacks and remarks about other characters were funny. I initially thought I wouldn’t like Kat, but I think three chapters in about her made me reconsider everything and she also became another character I rooted for. Or not. But I did love the way the characters all blossomed!

4. Plot–The plot is straightforward, and I was expecting it to be more sci-fi but Capsule reads like a contemporary. (I know, sorry I keep saying *insert book title* reads like contemporary. It just does!) Where Leaving Wishville had a decided dystopian/sci-fi undertone vibe, Capsule was lighter on the genre expectation which I think was refreshing because TBH, I wouldn’t have connected to the story as much as I did if it was all about gaming. #sorrynotsorry I personally love countdowns since they give a clear visual of the story. I think that although the story is simple, the ending gives it a nice twist and sharpens the focus. (Open-endings are the way to go!!)

5. Execution–Overall, Mel Torrefranca did an excellent job with Capsule’s composition. I think I would have liked one more thing, but it’s really emotionally gutting and thrilling.

If you like:

a) Contemporary with soft sci-fi elements

b) Strong relationship between characters

c) An alternate look at life vibes

This book is for you! 

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And that’s it for today! 

Thank you for reading! What did you think? Are you a manga and/or anime lover? What are some of your favourite manga/anime? Are you excited for Capsule to come out? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

4 + 1 Favourite Writing Podcasts I Listen To

Hullo, world!

It’s that time of the week again where I get to share another snippet of my writing-reading inspired life. (Btw, don’t let all the sparkly aspects fool you. I was stuck in a reading slump for the past three weeks and it has just been really…Oof!)

I don’t know why, but I’m craving Mister Donut, and I told Mum about it who also has the same craving. It’s a sad fact they’re literally across the sea. 

Well, for today, I thought I’ll share some of my favourite podcasts! I started listening to podcasts while I was taking a bath, and I’ve compiled 4 + 1 of writing-bookish podcasts among them. 

So, without further ado, let me introduce to you…4 + 1 Favourite Writing Podcasts I Listen To!

1: The Kate and Abby Show 

This is probably my absolute favourite podcast about writing. Like, ever. It’s one of the first writing podcasts I met and it’s always extremely inspiring, especially when I’m feeling down in my writing. Kate and Abby’s books are also amazing as well as their sister-writer relationship with each other!

Favourite Episodes: #23 How to Believe in Yourself As A Writer (When Nobody Else Does), #52 How to Start Writing The Book of Your Dreams

2: The Happy Writer with Marissa Meyer 

Marissa Meyer should officially be called “the Happiest Writer”. I just love listening to her podcast, partly because her voice is so cute (!!) and partly because her podcast is filled to the brim with positive vibes. If there’s something tough going on, this is the go-to podcast. She interviews YA and MG authors about their latest books and chat about what their writing/reading life looks like. Also, I love the Happy Writer lightning round at the end. 🙂

Favourite Episodes: Leigh Bardugo, Ally Carter, V. E. Schwab, Mary Weber, Abigail Hing Wen, Marie Lu

3: Story Embers Podcast 

The SE Podcast was the first podcast I listened to, as well as the first writing podcast I’ve discovered. SE also means a lot to me because it was the starting point in my writing journey. My favourite thing about their podcast is how they tackle tough themes of being an authentic Christian writer, combining theological discussion with the nitty-gritty details of authorship. If you’re a writer, a Christian, and passionate about combining the two, this podcast is for you!

Favourite Episodes: #1 The State of Christian Fiction Today, #14-15 Balancing Creativity and Orthodoxy as a Christian Storyteller, #9 Interview with Nadine Brandes about Fawkes

4: The Hope Prose Podcast 

I don’t listen to this podcast as much as the other ones, but when there’s a topic/author spotlight I’m curious about, I listen to this one! It’s also by a Canadian and faith-based with a decidedly warm writer community feel, so it’s one I’m hoping to listen to more. 😉

Favourite Episodes: #44 The Marvels of Japan and A Dream Becomes Reality, #42 I Can & I Will

5: The B&N YA Podcast

Listen to it on Apple

I discovered this podcast a few weeks ago and have been listening to it since! This show is hosted by Barnes and Noble, so it  focuses more on books than writing, per se, but it’s really fun to tune into author interviews–how they came up with their book, their writing journey, and random fun facts about themselves! It’s been a great encouragement to me listening to various authors I look up to and how they came to be who they are now. 

Favourite Episodes: Cassandra Clare, Margaret Rogerson, Emily A. Duncan, Christine Riccio

And that’s it for now! 

Thanks for reading! Do you listen to podcasts? If so, what are some of your favourite shows? Are you a podcast person, or would like to become one? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!