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!!


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!!

Author Health: Life…(I’m back from hitouts + Major Announcements)

Well, I’m back.

I do so apologise that I dropped off the blog-sphere with but a few lines of an ominous message saying I’ll be “on a hitout”. 

As I explained in that post, the end of July had been where everything seemed to have caught up with me. 

So in today’s post, I’ll be reflecting on life for the past month, what happened, and what’s going to happen moving forward. Oh, and there’s an exciting contest opportunity at the end, too!

Life. (What Happened): 

First of all, something major happened earlier in May this year with my family dynamic. It wasn’t as drastic or major at first, but the situation worsened, and my “normal world” as a functioning homeschooling family shattered. It was sort of like the snowball situation where a tiny ball packs up more snow and picks up more speed until the thing was enormous. 

To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for it at all, and my faith was tested in a way it hadn’t been before.

This situation also led to a meltdown for all of my college plans in fall (although you could also kind of blame COVID19 for it too) and suddenly I found myself hanging loose. Everything that had been definite a few months ago came crashing down. I didn’t know where I was going, or even what happened. I was completely side-blinded by the situation. 

This, as you could kind of tell, resulted in me taking a break. 

During that time, I tried to spend more time in Canada’s gorgeous nature, stayed home and read stacks after stacks of books, re-worked my WIP storylines, house-cleaned, & c. I also spent a lot of my time with my family and what they were going through, trying to be more present with the situation at hand. 

And most of all, I spent time with God. I revamped my devotion routine by trying out different plans, reading Ecclesiastes in detail (which is one of my favourite books of the Bible), and taking an hour and a half each day for Bible studies with my family. For the first time in three years, I had a chance to get a summer vacation. I hadn’t felt more at peace in the last five years than now. 

I’d been so focused on my life plans, goals and milestones to hit that I missed the most important mark of all: Without God, everything is meaningless. 

Moving On:

So what does this mean to you, dear SJ Barnard readers? 

Well, for one thing, you can throw a toast, since I’ve recovered significantly more than the last time I saw you guys. Yes, you can’t get rid of me yet. 

On a more serious note, thank you. Thank you, dear readers, for sticking around and supporting me. This blog would not have been possible without you, and I’m thankful for the kindness of your readership. I’ve met so many wonderful people on this blog who were genuinely interested and thoughtful. I’ve grown a lot over the course of the year with this blog. 

So from September, I’ll be back with blog posts on Saturdays. I’ll be clarifying the designs of SJ Barnard (only a few last tweaks to do), and I won’t be blogging on Wednesdays. Yup, that’s right. I think we established that I function much better with a once-a-week routine. I have a few ideas in the air (collabs, events, & c.) but we’ll see how it goes. I still have some trouble with anxiety and slight depression, so I’ll be taking things in a more leisurely fashion. 

In the meantime, however, I’ll be blogging and writing and scheming. *inserts maniacal laughter*

After all, that’s what I do best. 

The QueryLetter.com Writing Contest

Lastly but not least, I was contacted by QueryLetter.com about a very exciting writing contest! 

The Contest:

Can you write a blurb for a hypothetical book?

This writing contest is all about book blurbs. The twist? We want blurbs about completely made-up, nonexistent books. Get creative!

Write and submit a back cover blurb of 100 words or fewer that sets the

stage for a novel, establishes the characters, and raises the stakes in a way

that makes readers want to find out more.

Let your imagination go wild—and who knows? You may be inspired to turn your blurb into a novel of your own one day.

The award

We will award one prize of $500 to the best blurb.

The submitted blurbs will be judged by our team of query letter writers based on how effectively they hook readers, taking into account the writing style and the overall impression.


  • Your blurb must be original. Any submissions found to contain plagiarism will be disqualified.
  • Submissions must be 100 words or fewer. Please run a spellcheck and proofread carefully.
  • You may submit multiple entries provided each entry is a completely unique blurb.
  • You can apply from anywhere in the world. No purchase is necessary to enter this contest.
  • In applying, you grant us permission to publish your blurb entry on the QueryLetter.com blog.
  • Please apply by noon (US Eastern time) on September 15, 2020.

Are you excited yet? 

If there’s one thing I love more than reading, it’s reading blurbs. Blurbs (and covers) are basically how I would decide to read a book, and one excellently written gets me excited about the book before I even read it. 

So if this sounds like your cup of tea (and I know it is) go sharpen your blurbing skills. Who knows, it might spark a brand-new story, and you might even win! *drools over the prospect*

Anyhow. It sounds fun, so I’ll have to start weeding through my blurbs. 

Well, this has been a rather information-jammed post. I hope that you’re all doing well, even with the sudden turn life can take. Before I go, I’ll leave you with my verse for the day:

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

(Proverbs 3:5-6)

Until next week!

How are you? How was your summer? Are you struggling with life, or are you sort of okay? Whatever you’re going through, I’d love to talk with you!