Book Recs Based on Studio Ghibli Movies

Hullo, world! 

It’s not a pleasant day here in the Pacific Northwest, but it is now officially reading break so I am immensely relieved & happy. This week, I am excited to announce that I will be sharing with you my first-ever attempt at creating a book recommendation list based on Studio Ghibli Movies!! *inserts cheers and fanfares and confetti*

Yes, you’ve come to the right place if you are: 

  1. A devout Ghibli fan
  2. A budding Ghibli fan
  3. A wannabe Ghibli fan

It’s no secret that I am a self-declared Japanophile (given I’m Japanese, which I talk about more in this post) and an avid Ghibli fan. I’ve probably watched most of the major works and have known Miyazaki-sensei since the time before Ghibli, where he was working as an artist in the World Classics Animation series. (Pls let me know if anyone knows of the amazing works like Heidi, Girl on the Alps, A Dog of Flanders, or 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother!!) Sidenote: I’m very sceptical of the recent “Ghibli” movie by his son, but that’s beside the point. 

Anyhow. 

I’ve done my best to stick to books that have English translations; some of them are not books but another manga/anime that I think is right down the genre. It’s not an exhaustive list, so I might do part two in the future, IDK. 

But, without further ado, let me present to you, Book Recs Based on Studio Ghibli Movies!!

A: Castle-recs (Howl’s Moving Castle & Castle in the Sky)

  • Howl’s Moving Castle (very obviously) 
  • A Winter’s Promise 
  • Mortal Engines 
  • Sorcery of Thorns 

MY THOUGHTS:

This was the easiest list to come up with for apparent reasons. These two films are one of my absolute favourites in Studio Ghibli, not to mention I absolutely adore these books as well! (You can also read my review on A Winter’s Promise if you’re curious.)

B: War-recs (The Wind Rises, Grave of the Fireflies, Porco Rosso)

  • The Eternal Zero 
  • Catch-22 
  • The Glass Rabbit 

MY THOUGHTS:

This list came to me quickly, but I debated over whether or not to include Catch-22 (also because I DNFed it halfway through…). As all these books are about the war, it’s kind of hard reading about them. At the same time, they offer perspectives from Japan (and Italy) which isn’t featured often here, so I would greatly recommend them if that sort of thing is your cup of tea. 

C: Epic-recs (Princess Mononoke & Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind)

  • Children of the Whales 
  • Attack on Titan 
  • Future Boy Conan (prob. His earliest work!!) 

MY THOUGHTS:

It was surprisingly tough to find books that might fit this list, probably because i) both of these movies are the “unprecedented” genres and ii) not many English epics are based on Asian legendary backgrounds. So, all of them are manga or anime…but don’t run away just yet! I promise they are totally worth watching/reading if you love Princess Mononoke and Nausicaä. (esp. Future Boy Conan contains a lot of elements that will come out in later Miyazaki works)

D: Marnie-recs (When Marnie Was There)

  • When Marnie Was There 
  • I Had That Same Dream Again 

MY THOUGHTS:

When Marnie Was There came out about a year before I left Japan. It was also thought to be the last Ghibli work there ever will be, so I can’t forget the impression it left on me. Robinson’s book is just as breathtaking as the movie (if not even more so) that I couldn’t help but recommend it. Also, Yoru Sumino’s I Had That Same Dream Again has the same sort of translucent, dream-like quality that I love. 

E: Earthsea-recs (Tales from Earthsea)

  • Earthsea Cycle
  • Till We Have Faces

MY THOUGHTS:

Again, the Earthsea books expand Ghibli’s rendition of it. (I know some people hate the movie if they’ve read the book but I like the movie well enough!! Please don’t be too mad.)

And once I thought about it, C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces sort of reminds me of Earthsea (not to mention I have a strong compulsion to include any Lewis book in a given book list) so here we are. 

F: Heian-recs (The Tale of Princess Kaguya)

  • Land of the Lustrous
  • Heike Monogatari & The Heike Story

MY THOUGHTS:

This is a traditional Japanese story that’s read to kindergarteners. I remember being distinctly terrified of the messengers from the moon and just the overall storyline. (Most old Japanese classics are kind of scary, now that I think about it.) Princess Kaguya reminds me of the Land of the Lustrous, which has a similar connection to Buddism and the moon. Heike Monogatari is a Japanese classic that’s read in schools and recently, it’s been adapted into a beautiful anime so I greatly recommend that as well! 

Overall, it was much harder to come up with book recommendations than I thought. But it was fun, so I might do it again! 

What did you think? Do you agree with the books I recommended? What are some books you’d put on the list? What’s your favourite Studio Ghibli movie? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you below!

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!!